Saving ourselves

Is it perhaps time to stop putting the fate of the planet in the hands of children and instead ensure they are better equipped to handle the future?

April 27, 2020 12:07 am | Updated 12:07 am IST

Close-up Portrait of Woman is Holding Global in Her Hands on gray Background. Save The Planet and Traveling Conceptual. Save The Earth and Care Environment Concept.

Close-up Portrait of Woman is Holding Global in Her Hands on gray Background. Save The Planet and Traveling Conceptual. Save The Earth and Care Environment Concept.

A few decades ago, Ronald Reagan said, “Nothing like an attack from outer space to unite all of mankind.” The deadly Covid-19 isn’t from outer space but it might just as well be!

After all the imaginary ‘enemies’ writers have conjured up to assemble chills and thrills — transformers, placid lakes, open crypts, anacondas and bird monsters — we have a real and present danger in our midst, an entity capable of impersonal mass destruction no one can spot till it is actually inside a human. Where did it come from? A bat, a fish? The truth is that it came from the activities of a small band of hairless apes who infested every part of the planet and upset ecological balances with no regard for nature or scientists who have for years been warning us about exposure to wildlife. They have also campaigned against trade in animals which do not usually have any contact with humans.

In the long run

How will it change our perspective, immediate and long term ?

While day and night sweep over the seas and mountains and the Earth turns on its axis, we suddenly see ourselves not as individuals but as a part of the huge chain of humanity. Though every generation quite unnecessarily tells the next that the future depends on them, our future does indeed depend on the next gen who, each and every one of them, has been exposed and before emotional maturity, to the primary fear of survival or death.

Every child expects its parents or grandparents to protect it from disasters and a child’s fears are probably deeper than an adult’s because they are both unspoken and fantastical. But children see that their parents are also afraid and perhaps controlling their hysteria with some difficulty. Even otherwise, school teachers will tell you that they are handling children whose early childhood and primary school years are filled with experiences their caretaker generation never had. And now this! While all of us have worried about the effects of nuclear warfare, guided missile conflicts and land-mines planted all over the world, the prospect of an untimely end has suddenly reached every single member of our race.

When millions who sold tea or green coconuts or flowers and fruit on pavements have no idea how to feed their families, people who are better off have at least temporarily, begun meditating on what we shouldn’t be doing — living only for ourselves. This is an appeal to schools to take Values Education into classrooms and help children to deal with emotions. Or else we will have to prepare for a different kind of chaos as the present trauma begins to affect students more deeply than the anxiety their academic progress might pose.

Perhaps we can remind ourselves of what Archibald MacLeish wrote 52 years ago when he saw the first photographs of the Earth taken from the Moon. “To see the Earth as it truly is, small and blue in that eternal silence where it floats, is to see ourselves as riders on the Earth together, brothers on that bright loveliness in the unending night.”

The writer is Series Editor, Living in Harmony (OUP).

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