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OP-ED: Light up the darkness

  • Published at 08:11 pm April 10th, 2021
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New ICU beds to tackle greater demand MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU

If we are to learn something from this pandemic, it should be empathy and humanity

It seems like yesterday that a new virus had been found in China. It seems like yesterday we were all looking forward to a much-deserved break from our hectic schedules. While there were some early casualties, people didn’t seem to be much concerned about it. 

“It is just like the common flu, it will go away” or “the swine flu caused the same panic, and we’re alive, aren’t we?” were some of the things that crossed our minds during that time. But after thousands of deaths and millions of losses, I think it is safe to say that we were horridly wrong. Then again, when has the human race ever been spot on about anything? When has the human race ever made decisions ahead of time? All that we realize, we realize in retrospect. And when it comes to retrospect, well, it is already too late.

It seems like yesterday that a new virus had been found in China. Just as it seems like yesterday that we graduated from high school, all happy and cheerful and optimistic, running towards a tomorrow that none of us were ready for. Both of these incidents -- the one with the graduation and the one with the virus -- seemed very insignificant back then. But it is only in retrospect that we realize what those things truly meant.

We live on this Earth for ages, but we are stuck doing the same thing, trapped inside the same routine. And as such, things begin to lose their magic. Getting published doesn’t feel like anything anymore. Your comfort food seems like a gunshot wound to your bank account. The videogames you play feel like a lesser version of your everyday life. The books you buy end up as nothing but glorified dust collectors. Hell, it’s worse for other generations. Aside from forcing themselves through jobs in order to maintain a sense of duty, most of the time, they have nothing in their lives. However trite, at least we have our distractions. 

This is why the beginning of March of 2020 will always be remembered as a red-letter day. It has put an end to our routine, and has showed everyone how horrible and trite life can be. But is that all there is to it? Would I really want to end on such a downer note? Not necessarily. First: We have all been subjected to the same doom and gloom for a year now, and regurgitating the same narrative without putting it under a critical perspective would be horribly hackneyed. 

And if anything, I hate being hackneyed. Second: While I do have a proclivity for pessimism, I don’t think that the world is ultimately a doomed place. I have my own reasons to believe this, of course, but still, the fact remains that I have long forsaken the belief in an ultimate doom. And what I don’t believe in, in good conscience, I can’t write as well (unless I’m being paid a handsome sum of money, of course. A man’s gotta eat, after all).

While corona has magnified the mundanity of our existence, it magnified the beautiful parts as well. People defied basic economics and came together. Families came together after years, and fixed which was broken. Lovers resorted to the old days, when the only thing they could do was talk to each other on the phone. The roofs of Dhaka were opened for the first time in a long time, just so people could find some solace. 

Don’t get me wrong. Corona is the enemy here, and it has taken so much. And the good I’m talking about mainly applies for the privileged. For the working class, things have been business as usual. They went out, they did their work, and they fell indifferently to sleep as they dreamt about another meal. 

Regardless, writing is such an act that we can only talk about the things we know. And since I am a part of the privileged class, that’s what I’m going to have to focus on here. Not that I don’t write about the working class, or think that we have no right to write about them. But even when I write about them, all it results in is a couple of more shares. The poor still fight our battles, and the poor still die in the streets. The world goes on turning the same way it always has. As the saying goes: “There is no right or wrong, just the morals of nature.”

But since corona has captured life in such a controlled and miniscule stage, it has showed us all the joys of life, as well as the sorrows. Finding a soul-mate you lost 15 years ago when you were on the verge of giving up, bonding with that parent who crushed your dreams all those years ago, slowly building yourself up from the ashes after a long break, learning empathy and humanity as you realize what’s what, corona has shown what we humans are capable of as well. 

And if we were to learn something from this, this is what we should learn. If we were to take something from all of this, this is what it should be. And since we recognize that this is something we are getting because of our privilege and luck, then there’s no harm in extending that luck to the less fortunate as well, as we have done oh so many times during the course of the pandemic.

As the poem goes:  

“Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

The universe was created in a vacuum, and once there was only darkness. But if you look up now, you can see the remnants of a million-star systems; gone -- but nevertheless -- keeping up the fight against the void. That is what we must do. With our dying breath, that is what we should hope to achieve.

We are all made of stardust. And in this one instance, I say we make our ancestors proud. 

Do not go gentle into that good night. 

Rage, rage against the dying of the light. 

Set your bones aflame,

And through that, set a fire to your soul. 

A fire that only you can ignite.

And a fire that only you can maintain. 

Do not go gentle into that good night. 

Light up the darkness.

Nafis Shahriar is a student of business and an intern at the Dhaka Tribune.

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