COVID-19, customs and new behaviors

Por José Antonio Michelena


Abruptly, the coronavirus is beginning to change our customs, our lightheartedness, the way we act in the public sphere; how we communicate, exchange, dialogue, on a social level, even in confined spaces, in the circle of friends.

This morning, as I was walking to an agricultural market, I ran into the queue of a shop. Asked. Chicken had arrived and people were dialing. I did too. I needed it. pretty much. As well as the hundred people in front of me.

But once I knew what one should know in a queue: who is before the one who gave us the last one, what traits identify the people in front of it, as well as the identity of the one behind it, I began to suffer a strange process of strangeness, of social remoteness, as an autistic.

I happened to have turned away from the tail, retreated into a shady space, and tried to keep distance from at least a metre around me. In the ten-minute interval I did two actions that I don’t take pride in: a gentleman told me about other stores where they had also taken chicken and I didn’t answer. I avoided dialogue, and I even stole the body.

Another lady, the one who preceded me in line, went as far as I was to warn myself, because she thought I was disoriented. I thanked him, but I was disturbed by his closeness, for some schooner that might jump out of his mouth. About fifteen minutes later, as the queue kept growing in all directions, I left my post and left. What would happen when I had moved on, I was about to enter, and I would be surrounded by a crowd, at the entrance of the store? Result: I ran out of chicken.

I’ve thought a lot about those actions. Will I be overcome by paranoia, is that the way one should behave right now, how many in the city will be changing their usual social customs, their conduct on public roads?

We are experiencing an unlished global situation. We’re not ready for something like that. No one is. But We Cubans face a different reality. I’m not going to refer to the drug shortages and the condition of many hospitals. The island has a proven, experienced structure in its free health system. And very good professionals.

I am concerned about the lack of basic food in the markets for several months, as well as the deficiencies in toiletries. Just a few weeks ago, before the alarms sounded about the coronavirus, the queues in the shops were the usual landscape of the city, a situation that continues, increased. And precisely, one of the recommendations that are made, to protect us from the contagion of the virus, is to avoid agglomerations.

So how do we Cubans acquire the products we need if we don’t do those long, distressing queues for several hours, how do we protect ourselves in the midst of those crowds, what behavior do we take among so many people talking and even coughing next to you?

Those of us who are attentive to social media have observed, among many personal behaviors, those in other countries, who claim to be in a retreat of readings and films, in a comfort zone, away from the worldly noise of the coronavirus.

But the vast majority of Cubans can’t do it. We have to keep fighting “our daily bread”, exposed on public roads, addressing guaguas, quening everywhere, “resolving”, managing.

It is time, zero hour, to help us, to practice solidarity in a real way and not as a propaganda and folk cliché. A solidarity that must have a different face and become evident in many ways.

A solidarity that can empower the state, helping the most vulnerable people not to face the ordeal of the queues. We have known that in other countries they are providing purchasing facilities to older adults at certain times.

It is clear that solidarity is not a wild flower that is born by magic. Less in crisis. It is a plant that grows in the midst of love, friendship, fraternity; grown from philanthropy, generosity and altruism; that thrives in human warmth, in a climate of affection; which is strange to selfishness, ambition, greed, usury, interest.

Synonyms of the word solidarity include the term support, which in turn is a simile of protection. It is the obligation of governments and states to provide protection to their citizens. In this hour of humanity, mistakes in health and protection strategies cost human lives.

At this crossroads of history, states must set aside ideological differences, criticism of countries with incorrect policies about the epidemic, and take an example of those doing well, those who are taking the right steps to stop the spread and protect their country, and, by extension, the rest of the orb.

May the coronavirus pandemic allow countries to take distance from wars of all kinds, from differences that take us away from each other, to focus on what can bring us closer, for the sake of humanity.

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