COVID-19 Op-ed

Beating Covid-19 through Social Solidarity

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Wisnu AdihartonoPh.D in
sociology (gender, migration, family, everyday life, Southeast Asian Studies)
from École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), France. He lives
in Jakarta and works as a sociologist and independent researcher. He will be
a visiting researcher at Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, National Chi Nan
University (NCNU), Taiwan in July 2020

Covid-19 has indeed changed behaviors and ways people deal
with their lives, and how they interact with each other. Governments
throughout the world have imposed different policies to curb Covid-19, such
as quarantines, movement restrictions, and physical distancing. While this
pandemic may have made us all vulnerable, the impacts are far worse for those
who are already at the margins of society.Jakarta is one of the most populous
cities in the world. Here, we can see tremendous levels of inequalities, with
huge gaps betwen the rich and the poor. Individualism is prevailing and the
spirit of mutual cooperation is missing. As the Covid-19 situation persists
in the country, the government has projected that millions of people will
fall into poverty and unemployment due to the pandemic. People from all walks
of life increasingly worry about finances. Apart from adjusting to present
conditions, they also planning ahead to manage their expenses.Even the nature
of interactions between people has drastically changed. It made us examine
the usual norms of how we construct and sustain how we think about and create
relationships with other people. We, in more ways than one, have become more
mindful of our actions that may directly impact the lives of others.
According to Wilkin (1979), Nissel and Bonnerjea (1982), Glendinning (1983),
Cecil, Offer and St. Leger (1987), and Qureshi and Simons (1987), human
relationships tend to change when an illness lingers long. It is said that if
it occurs for too long, there can be a possibility that people might start
losing empathy and sympathy for each other. On the other hand, social
solidarity can very well be the key to beat these negative effects brought
about by a wide-scale health crisis like Covid-19.Social solidarity, driven
by empathy and sympathy, is needed for us to be in touch with the diverse
experiences of people going through such health crisis. It allows us to reach
out to others even in trying times. Such solidarity inspires us to take care
not only of our ourselves or our families, but also the wider community. We
will need collective and concerted actions not only to break the spread of
disease, but also to ensure that the poorest and most marginalized are able
to cope with the impacts of business closures, mobility restrictions, and
other health or security protocols.Social solidarity is a concept already
internalized by Indonesians far before Covid-19 hit the country. The spirit
of gotong royong, or mutual cooperation, is valued in
Indonesian society. It is also the animating force behind the rising social
movements initiated by individuals, the private sector, individuals,
communities, and civil society, which aims to plug in the gaps on the side of
the government to address the impacts of the pandemic that is felt by the
society.As Covid-19 continues to worsen social inequalities, it is crucial
now, more than ever, to be more aware, and be able to recognize, and
appropriately respond to the differentiated impacts of the Covid-19 on
various populations and sectors. Failing to look at the multiple dimensions
of not just the virus, but government action (or inaction) relevant thereto,
may lead us to lose our ability to connect with each other. This, in turn,
may aggravate social, economic and political challenges we are facing. In
short, I truly hope that as a community, we continue to have faith towards
each other and appreciate the feelings of empathy and sympathy, so that when
the dust settles, we can improve not just our quality of life, but also the
lives of those made more vulnerable and marginalised by Covid-19.References:Ahmed,
Faheem, Ahmed, Na’eem, Pissarides, Christopher, and Stiglitz, Joseph. (2020).
‘Why Inequality Could Spread Covid-19?’, in Lancet Public Health 2020, published
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