Invincible Human beings thought that 21st century is their time to conquer other planets after establishing their supremacy on mother Earth.Least they knew, that invincibility is just a state of mind and it doesn’t give them a free ticket to do whatever they want to do. 21st century world has been governed by the maxim of materialism and hedonism.Man can eat any thing, drink anything and exploit anything.The Man simply knew no boundaries and he kept on pushing the limits. However, 2020 has changed it all.The limits are being redrawn.The obvious before 2020 is no more obvious now.The world which was always on the move has stopped to fight a battle against Virus.
Corona-virus is not our actual enemy, in fact it is a signal that human’s materialistic pursuits have peaked out.The ‘sensate culture’ which we have pursued over last 150 years may be coming to an end and it is time to move towards ‘ideational culture’ and balance the pendulum of human society. Famous Sociologist Sorokin had long back predicted that the societies have traditionally moved ‘to’ and ‘fro’ between ‘sensate culture’ and ‘ideational culture’. The ‘sensate culture’ is characterized by excessive pursuit of power , wealth and sensual pleasures whereas ‘ideational culture’ signifies the importance of morality and restraint over pursuit of sensory pleasure. Perhaps, its the time for societies to take a swing from sensate culture towards ideational culture to strike a balance between two.
Intellectuals would have rarely thought that a virus will become an agent of social change.But the virus is not ready to stop until and unless we are ready to change our culture.The humans are changing their food preferences and for the first time trying to assess what is required and what is not.The indiscriminate slaughtering of other living beings will now be accompanied by the fear that consuming them may not be safe anymore.The ‘outgoing’ human does not want to go out anymore. He wants be in his home and be with his family.The excitement of meeting with strangers has been replaced by suspicion of contracting corona-virus.The physical distance which was bridged by faster modes of transportation has resurfaced again. Parents are separated from their children and the distance now seems to be real.
Another major development is that Western world which was leader of materialistic culture is the worst affected by the virus. It clearly shows that sensate culture cannot defeat virus. Modern technology is necessary but not a sufficient condition for defeating the corona-virus.Technology alone cannot ensure the survival of humans. Cultural habits play a role in sustenance of humans and they can be ignored at one’s own peril. Never the world has come so close to God which it has come now. The institutions which were symbolic of God’s presence on earth are closed whereas each human is knocking on the door of God more frequently than he was earlier, when those institutions were open.
While cultural changes are the most evident aspect of corona-virus, another important aspect of corona-virus is that it questions the very foundation of public policies towards climate change, pollution and other environment-related challenges. The economic solutions to environment related problems have been in place for years. Carbon credits and green bonds were launched with much fanfare but they could not yield the results in three decades which lock down has achieved in three weeks. The air pollution has decreased in Delhi dramatically and Holy Ganges has rejuvenated itself. It reflects that predominance of economic solutions to non-economic challenges are fundamentally flawed and need a course correction.Policy-makers can no more ignore the importance of ‘cultural change’ and ‘restraint’ in the successful implementation of environment related policies.
The world is undergoing a deep cultural change and it is important we must embrace it with open arms. A new cultural normal will emerge in societies over a period of time but what is important is we must not resist it and try to adapt to it as soon as possible. Cultural change is always happening but the change this time is different from what we have experienced earlier as it is reversing the direction of earlier change. The reversal does not mean that we will become materially poorer but it definitely means that we will be cautious of our limits before going for ruthless pursuit of our sensory pleasures.