We always start the New Year with anticipation and hope and 2022 was no exception. However, the pandemic situation has caused many to have a feeling of deep uncertainty and therefore fear. Leadership guru, John Maxell recently posted on his IG account Valorie Burton asking this question “What would happen if you don’t allow fear to make your decisions for you?”

Fear plays a role in self-preservation and a healthy sense of fear helps us to avoid unnecessary risks to our loved ones and ourselves. However, the experience with the pandemic has caused people to be polarized on two sides. Few are able to look calmly at both sides of the coin and act with commonsense. 

I think I have a right to write about Wuhan (where the pandemic was first spreading) since it is a city, which I have visited more than any other in China.  A place of great natural beauty, not very cold in winter and lovely at springtime, Wuhan is truly an amazing place. During my visits, I learned that Wuhan was also a centre for higher education and people from all over the world would be there to take up study/research, especially in the biosciences. Once the pandemic started to spread at Wuhan, the Chinese Government enforced a strict lockdown. We saw pictures of authorities with hazmat suits and the serious impact of the virus on people including hospitalizations and death. 

After initially not making much of the virus, the US Federal Government began to take notice and the CDC (Center for disease control) started to advise the states to take lock lockdown measures following the lead of the Chinese Government. President Trump must be credited with mobilizing his national medical team led by VP Pence to get vaccines prepared quickly to combat the virus. Having said that half the US was polarized by the way Trump spoke and acted, especially his open attacks on the press and vice-versa caused people to not trust their leadership. 

Looking back, however, Dr. Drew Pinsky when interviewed by Megan Kelly in 2021 talks about the hysteria that followed in the press and how lockdowns were demanded by even publications like The NY Times. They wanted to follow the lead of the Chinese Government and states like California did so promptly. 

According to Dr. Drew, the medical idea is to always quarantine sick people, not those who are well. 

He also talks about the permanent effects of isolation or lockdowns on children and the mental health issues associated with lack of social contact. 

Even in October 2020, three scientists and epidemiologists Dr. Jay Battacharya (Stanford), Dr. Sunetra Gupta (Oxford) and Dr. Martin Kuldorff (Harvard) came forward with the Great Barrington Declaration (https://gbdeclaration.org/) proposing an alternative to lockdowns and the “ Zero Covid” policy to deal with the disease.

They proposed focused protections for the vulnerable (above 60) while children and the younger population would go about their lives while vaccines were being produced to counter the disease. This proposal was immediately shut down by the mainstream media in the US and UK calling these scientists radical and fringe. Please check out the link below where Dr. Jay goes into details of what happened.

,He also talks about the permanent effects of isolation or lockdowns on children and the mental health issues associated with lack of social contact. A more recent case was that of Novak Djokovic, the world number one tennis player from Serbia. He was granted a visa and exemption (being unvaccinated) by the Australian authorities to play in the Australian Open but was arrested upon arrival and later sent back home. I was surprised that Serbia, once under strict socialist rule, has, in subsequent years, become more of a free society. 

Serbia had allowed Djokovic to remain unvaccinated while Australia, supposed to be one of the champions of individual freedom and choice, enforced their vaccination laws. This was in spite of the fact that Djokovic may have had natural immunity as he tested positive for Covid in Dec 2021.

As I write this in 2022, the world is now agreeing with much of what the Great Barrington declaration proposes and countries like the UK and France are choosing to do away with restrictions like lockdowns and school closures. My point in all this is fear or perceived danger could cause anyone to think and act in a way that defies common sense. I believe the answer is to listen to others with empathy.

Steven Covey in his book the seven habits of highly effective people relates a story in the Subway, which I quote here: 

“I was riding the subway on Sunday morning in New York. People were sitting quietly, reading papers, or resting with eyes closed. It was a peaceful scene. Then a man and his children entered the subway car. The man sat next to me and closed his eyes, apparently oblivious to his children, who were yelling, throwing things, even grabbing people’s papers.

I couldn’t believe he could be so insensitive. Eventually, with what I felt was unusual patience, I turned and said, “Sir, your children are disturbing people. I wonder if you couldn’t control them a little more?”

The man lifted his gaze as if he saw the situation for the first time. “Oh, you’re right,” he said softly, “I guess I should do something about it. We just came from the hospital where their mother died about an hour ago. I don’t know what to think, and I guess they don’t know how to handle it either.”

Suddenly, I saw things differently. And because I saw differently, I felt differently. I behaved differently. My irritation vanished. I didn’t have to worry about controlling my attitude or my behavior. My heart filled with compassion. “Your wife just died? Oh, I’m so sorry. Can you tell me about it? What can I do to help?” Everything changed in an instant.”

Friends, as society is facing challenge after challenge let’s start this year by listening more to the other side. Their opinions, fears, anxieties and concerns when listened to and understood would clearly enable us not to make the same mistake, which people and even Governments have made since the beginning of the pandemic. 

Coming back to the question posed by Valorie Burton I certainly hope our decisions in 2022 will be based on empathy and common sense. Have a great year ahead.


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