By Basilius Alawad, 11 July 2020
As a survivor of a recent severe war, I never thought I would face another harsh challenge in less than a decade, this time however on a global scale, constricting what remained of interactive social life for a number of days to come. I started hearing about COVID-19 a few months before it hit Berlin, the city of my current residency. Yet I somehow deeply believed that the whole thing is a bit of an exaggeration, since nowadays, social media, which was the source of my information on the topic back then, plays an essential role in spreading fake news. It was not false news as I expected, and with the World Health Organization declaring the Corona virus as an epidemic, I panicked, as everybody else I knew. My first reaction was, inspired by the only self-protection strategy I had in Syria: to stay home... long before it became an official advice by the authorities or even a hashtag on twitter. In the first days of the quarantine, the shock was dominating, I felt the latency of my perception facing the speed at which the epidemic was spreading. I kept imagining endless scenarios of how, on one hand, the epidemic will affect humanity, social life and the daily human to human contact, and on the other hand the catastrophic economic crises that will start popping up slowly.
For a capitalist system, as I learned, is one that cannot take the damage of stopping the wheel for an undesignated period of time. Nevertheless, as someone who has been through a more horrifying home residency, I convinced myself to maintain the spirits and stay focused on the semester that I had no idea how it will work out under such circumstances. The aim I had in mind, or better said, the only aim I thought I could have, was to remain productive and keep practicing the cello and focusing on the different lectures that I would have this semester. I do also write music for my instrument, and had planned earlier to publish the first album with my own compositions this year. It however was not easily manageable, surrounded by absolute negativity and all the terrible news of everyday life. Reading reports of death numbers in different countries made the situation worse, day by day and week by week. I could not adapt to the fact that the situation could go on for as long as it takes to develop a vaccine. I had recently known that it could take a year to be tested under certain medical measurements before it could be given to humanity. It is true that I learned a lot during this long period, the conditions however were not healthy for someone to learn.
I kept feeling somehow unsettled, waiting for a suspended social dissonance to be finally resolved. When the opening started to take place due the somewhat diminished number of infected people, it felt not right and there must be consequences, since the opening only serves economical purposes. A lot of countries, especially in the Middle East, followed European authorities’ tendency to open the market, without considering local statistics or giving value to the lives being threatened. They use these European standards to justify their decisions and save their economies respectively. The only positive vibe I personally felt during this dark period, was reflected in the cooperation between people to fight this disease, and the fact that air pollution was limited to some extent. It felt as if earth were taking a break by punishing us humans, who tend to understand its problems only when it is too late.