Reflections from the Couch

Phyllis Ndlovu

It is no exaggeration that the global pandemic took every single country, government, and business by surprise. It has been a common onslaught, a common enemy if you will, but every single human being has responded differently to the commonness of it. Individual responses have largely depended on the meaning they each ascribe to the state of affairs. There might be as many responses as there are people, but my observation has been that these responses fall into three broad categories.

  1. Pandemic as a leveller

Regardless of our socio-economic standing, covid-19 infection has a fairly standard outcome. No amount of comprehensive medical aid cover has protected anyone from the effects of covid-19. Physiological responses are the same in the upper class as they are in the working class.

Another way in which the pandemic has been a leveller is that no one really knows about what tomorrow will look like. Yes, we may have futurists giving us a range of scenarios, based on their expertise and studying of past similar events, but the truth of the matter is that leaders and followers alike, are doing the best they can with what is at their disposal. The CEO and the cleaner are staring at the same blank canvass of tomorrow.

  • Re-writing human relations

It has been interesting to note that every single human being has been ground to a halt. Regardless of what corporate speed we were each running at, everyone has had to stop. Though deeply frustrating and unsettling to be confined indefinitely, the forced time-out has served as valuable reflection time for many. The sudden “empty” hours of each day have brought a renewed realisation that however long we are locked in, we need certain basic services.  Suddenly garbage removal is a valued resource, suddenly cleaning services have earned renewed respect. It is as though the renewed appreciation of services we once had little regard for, have landed us on an unfamiliar terrain of rethinking human relations generally. 

One day at a time and one step at a time, humanity is retracing its steps back towards valuing human life and human dignity, for no reason other than the fact that we are human. When all is said and done, when the superficiality of materialism has been set aside, we are made up of the same physical, psychological and spiritual material. Arguably we all come from the same source. This realisation is helping us to re-write how we relate as fellow human beings on this journey of life.  

  • The ugly face of poverty 

    The most glaring and loudly observable manifestation of the global pandemic is the socioeconomic disparity generally and in South Africa specifically. It has been common knowledge for a long while now, that South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world. Now we can to see this inequality on a magnifying glass scale. It is a disturbing mirror staring back at us. This inequality has been most evident in three areas: a) The education system – the 20% of the country that can afford private schooling, are continuing their academic pursuits uninterrupted, while the 80% of country stare at a wasted academic year in the face; b) Living conditions – those in middle class suburbia can afford social distancing and all the prescripts of government. But those in the township, in squatter camps and in squalor conditions cannot afford social distancing. I can go so far as to say social distancing is a privileged theory when several families have to share basic facilities like toilets and water taps. While the middle class can perform all manner of economic activity on line, in the comfort of their socially distanced homes, the poor must stand in long queues for protracted periods of time, for basic necessities. Here social distancing might mean finding yourself on the outside of the mall fence. How practical is this really?

  • In the final analysis

In the final analysis, none of us, can avoid seeing what is unfolding before us. Two challenges remain:

Be intentional about gratitude for where you are stationed in your life

Be intentional about finding opportunities to serve humanity, especially those less privileged than yourself. This is so that humanity’s burden will be made a little bit lighter than it would have been had you not acted