This is indeed a very weird time for humanity. I’m sure I don’t need to sum up what’s going on as you’re probably (and hopefully) aware of it yourself.

I’m often wondering what would aliens think if they were to arrive on our planet today. How would they respond to the madness that seems to have taken over 2020? And actually, would they realise it started before, very slowly, and this year is merely the result of what has been discreetly growing in our society in the past few years, in the past few decades?

One of the things I find at the moment particularly interesting – and sad, is how a lot of us respond to the pandemic and the authorities’ attempts at managing it.

I’ve observed two types of reactions – as I’m sure, so have you. Even though there is a spectrum on how people feel about the pandemic and its official management, there seems to be two different sides: the ones who are pro-restrictions, willing to wear masks etc and accept social interactions’s limitations – and the side who is against all those restrictions, fighting or disapproving the current measures and global restrictions of our freedom.

It’s understandable. We all have different views, but more importantly, I think this polarity simply reflects our different values. At the risk of simplifying the issue, I’d like to report my understanding of what I’ve observed around from that specific angle.

What I’ve noticed is that the “pro-restrictions” operate from a place of fear. They are scared by this invisible “enemy” and their anxiety is exacerbated by the media’s fear campaign as well as people’s reactions to it. They think that the governments’ measures all over the world are so strong that “surely it means the threat is real”. Given this virus is new and there is still so much uncertainty and contradictory messages given everywhere – from “masks are not helping” back in April to “masks save lives” now (because let’s face it, there’s no longer a mask shortage, so naturally, the message changes…) it is impossible to know what’s true and what’s not true. The lack of trust in authorities only adds to the existing fear and that leads people from “this side” to retreat behind a “better safe than sorry” approach.

On another hand, I observe the other side, the one “against restrictions”. Where the distrust in governments’ contradictory messages, the obvious disrespect in following their own rules and the consistent failure in offering consistent and science-based advice has led in a clear opposition to the entire process ; where things don’t make sense anymore and the price to pay is so high that we end up disagreeing all together with how this entire pandemic is being handled ; where the health concerns are milder and the trust that we will make it as a society helps to embrace the risks, whereas the restriction on our freedom is simply not acceptable – especially when those rules are bent to accommodate the ones at the top and the richest. One rule for them…

Hopefully that summarises the position people seem to be in. I’m sure I’m missing some subtleties in this description but this is so far the most common arguments I’ve heard on both sides.

What I also hear is that the “pro-restrictions” seem to have safety, security and protection as one of their top values. Whereas people who are “against-restrictions” seem to have freedom as one of their top values. Does that resonate for you? there is of course more to it than that, but it appears quite consistent in my observations – at least.

But what there is in common is fear. On one hand, fear of becoming ill, fear of losing people we love, fear of the invisible danger, fear of the consequences. And some health anxiety.

On another hand, there is fear to lose freedom and autonomy, fear of being controlled and losing control, fear of our lives changing for the worst. Fear of not being autonomous or empowered anymore to make the choices we want. And the catastrophic consequences that could stem from this at a global level.

And what saddens me is that those fears drives us to lose compassion for each other. I’ve witnessed so much judgment about “the other side” and “the others”. So much aggressiveness and distrust. So much mean looks to “the ones who do it differently“. I hear so much complains and see so much polarity.  How did we manage to split into such opposite camps? There’s not much unity and solidarity anymore, there’s too much judgment, not enough compassion, not enough understanding and empathy.  And all this comes from fear and our different value systems.

So perhaps we can rise above our fears. Perhaps we can simply respect “the others”‘s positions. Perhaps we can simply remember they are scared to, and that their values are not less important than ours. They are just different. And as such, they deserve respect as much as ours deserve respect too. I know it’s hard because in those moments, our instinctive protection mechanisms kick in because we are scared. But we need to at least try, or where will we end up all together?

What would it look like if people gave each other compassionate glances when they see someone deal with the pandemic differently, rather than those mistrust glares that are so common nowadays? How about we stop feeling threatened by each other and offer each other compassion? Wouldn’t it help us all in those already very difficult times? So many people feel isolated and scared, wouldn’t it be better to offer a smile rather than a nasty look?

Let’s not let this issue divide us, humanity, even more than we already are. Enough of this polarity that split the planet. Let’s help each other instead.

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