Loss in the time of a Pandemic

As a flurry of statistics pour in from every corner of the world and the numbers rise every second, you keep trying to consume all of the information, trying to keep the people and things around you sane. Classes and grades burden you but the inevitability of the pandemic has yet to hit the rest of you – the you that had planned to go to your dream summer school or the you that has had to suddenly lose their independence as you move back home.

Loss in such times represents an interesting conundrum. We are losing- money, time, people, resources; the list is endless. We are all losing in some way or the other but the arguably the biggest ‘loss’ is the one that the society is inevitably going to face is the structural changes that are bound to happen. To understand this, we need to understand why the idea of loss has suddenly become this important given the current context. The idea is not only that the lives that are being given up are factored into the ‘loss’, the process has become manifold. There has been a general realisation- and in this sense the generality of this becomes extremely important because it represents a whole. The general realisation that the culmination of everyone coming together and fighting a common enemy is possible, only one has to lose the boundaries that were created and cultivated for several centuries. You have to lose the hierarchy and power you were born into because as much as we want to believe in these structures, the fact boils down to one simple aspect- you are also a statistical number in the end. This is not a philosophical argument trying to portray the inevitability of death or that you don’t matter- I am in no position to make those arguments. The only argument that seems sound enough to me is one that ties the loss of structure to an identity of sorts. What do you do when your conversations revolved around complaining about classes? What do you do about the comraderies’ that were built around hating the same mess food? What do you do when a certain routine is disrupted without an end date? There are innumerable questions all with personal contexts. Especially questions that are centred around the creation of identity with the place that you occupy in the economy. When suddenly your party planning ventures blow up because people cannot physically interact with each other? Or the Airline lays you off? What do you do then, you have lost that aspect of identity which was essential to you. You spend years and years studying but the exam gets postponed. It is a loss, a loss so large in magnitude that it pushes you to change lanes, or maybe buy a new car.

In this abstraction of understanding loss, we can pretend that things would go back to normal. That the summer we envisioned would still be there, that we may no longer have to worry about this temporary hiccup- brushing the loss as something which is tangibly altering you but only for the time being. Invariably, the pandemic at hand has the power and capacity to change existing structures yet the loss of that structure itself is what is scary. As economies around the world turn towards socialism to explain the loopholes in the hierarchal power structures that have prevailed for the longest time, you can just about imagine a world out of the ‘normative’. It is this loss, the loss of power, that makes this pandemic so different from the emergencies that the world has faced before. Never before has the world come together without the usual diplomatic interventions and held hands(figuratively) against a single force. No single entity holds the answer to this crisis, and this powerlessness in the powerful, the elite is probably the start of the revolution that Marx predicted long ago. Since economies fell and people have managed to survive, have managed to thrive. I may sound idealistic but this loss of capitalistic systems and power structures maybe the class consciousness that we were waiting since such a long time.

Prerna Vij is a second year student pursuing political science and literature in Ashoka University. 

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