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When does it take end a pandemic?

A reflection (hopefully not inconclusive) on what is happening in this crazy 2020

By Francesca Parravicini

It is Halloween night, the sky is illuminated by the light of the blue moon, full and perfect. It would be a night like any other if it wasn't 10.45 pm and I was running home for curfew. On the street we see groups of boys and girls hurrying up, some in costume, all with masks, a familiar yet strange vision, as if we were in one of those realistic dreams, which contain something bizarre.

It is a surreal feeling to walk in a world that always looks the same but at the same time is drastically different, yet here we are, in this incomprehensible jumble that is 2020. How many of us would have said, last January, that the year would be evolved in this way?

We are immersed in an era like ours, of extreme technological evolution, in which every piece is perfectly fitted and every anomaly seems to be erased with a click: a sparkling surface without stains. But we must not forget that history is a cyclical process and is studded with wars, famines and pandemics: without wanting to go back to the Black Death, in the mid-fourteenth century, about a hundred years ago, the world, already ravaged by the First World War, was hit by the Spanish flu, which caused the death of a very high number of people, between 20 and 50 million.

Undoubtedly, nowadays medicine has made great strides and we can count on better living conditions, but what is all this worth in the face of an unknown who cannot be controlled? The world is moving very fast, climate change is sadly changing the appearance of our planet, viruses are evolving and the frenetic movement of people makes them move. Everything is fast, everything is connected, but can we do without this connection? It is our strength, but at the same time our weakness.

And so we found ourselves last February in a setting worthy of a film, to live a traumatic experience, which our generation had never experienced. As I have already said, we are used to living in a relatively quiet age, where everything seems solvable and where everything negative seems to happen far from us. But now we are on the front line: we are literally doing and going through history. It may seem like a simplistic and trivial thought and maybe it is, because history does not cease to exist during great events, but at the same time I find the thought of this year's events dizzying, which will one day be reported in the history books, and we will say I was there, I have personally experienced these events, I can tell them verbally, we are going through history. And there is something incredibly powerful about going through an event of this magnitude as a normal person, trying to combine the banality of everyday life with an event of global reach.

Because our lives have undoubtedly been turned upside down, we don't know if forever, but certainly for a long time. Last February we found ourselves fighting a new kind of war, completely passive, where the enemy is essentially defeated by staying at home and waiting. Those who work in sectors such as medical or food have found themselves on the front line, in conditions of extreme danger and precariousness and have seen their professions, often mistreated, covered with praise, when perhaps it would be necessary to always respect every form of work, especially when operates in sectors that respond to primary needs. Those who study or work from home have found themselves having to redefine their rhythms of life, sometimes with difficulty, sometimes with the need to reconcile commitments with home and family life (which often, not always fortunately, weighs even more on women).

More generally, we citizens of the world, used to being free, independent, traveling, socializing, have found ourselves living in a totally opposite situation, where banal acts such as hugging, kissing, going out with a person for a coffee, taking a train to take a trip, they have become something rare and desired. We felt distant and isolated, but at the same time close, with video calls and zoom calls that have become part of our daily life, we have rediscovered a slower life, where small things but give moments of joy, have filled our days. We have experienced emotional rollercoasters, we have experienced a new sense of community, a closeness in tragedy, in being the same, in fighting together a force that does not look at anyone. The mask has become the indispensable, hated, sought after, indispensable object, now worn almost as if it were another item of clothing.

Now, after the golden parenthesis of apparent calm this summer, the situation appears more uncertain than ever, divided between restrictions, lockdowns and the fear of a dead end from which one cannot get out. We do not know what the future holds. According to the WHO, the time needed to totally eradicate the pandemic could extend up to two years and includes several unknowns, such as immunity, the rhythm of the seasons, prevention, the marketing of a more or less effective vaccine. In short, masks and sanitizing gels seem to be part of our strange normality for some time yet. We do not have certainties, but we have tools, a science in which it is more necessary than ever to believe, without giving in to denial pushes and a capacity for resilience (a word so abused, but effective) that seems to have characterized the human race since the beginning.

Because we are contradictory creatures, intelligent but at the same time blind in making the same mistakes, yet full of resources, lovers of life, of beauty, of this planet, which we adore and mistreat.

Great events bring turmoil and crisis, but they can turn into a powerful catalyst for change that leads to the rebuilding of a more equitable and kinder world.

A thought perhaps too optimistic and naive, but perhaps for this reason, more necessary than ever.