I am an experienced Social Media practitioner with a strong passion for connecting with customers of brands. As part of a team, I presently work on the social media account of a leading European auto company. On this job, I have brought my vast experiences in journalism, marketing, search engine optimisation and branding to play.
by Morak Babajide-Alabi
You will agree with me that these are not the best of times to roll out drums or red carpets for celebrations. It is an odd time to invite friends, well-wishers, colleagues over for merriment. It is, instead, a time when they would prefer staying away. This is not because they loathe you, but for the love and the desire for you to stay alive.
It is an era of social distancing, which recommends staying two meters away from people who do not reside with you in your household. Imagine inviting friends and well-wishers for meals and drinks in this era of lockdown, just because you feel like. This would be the most distinguished form of stupidity and display of ignorance. People in these two categories are nevertheless in large quantity in the society as stories of celebrities throwing parties in this lockdown abound.
To be fair, it is not only celebrities that are flouting the stay at home order. Individuals you would expect to know have fallen short of the lockdown order. In the United Kingdom, the Scottish Chief Medical Officer, Dr Catherine Calderwood, resigned after it emerged that the police issued her with a warning for travelling to her family second home. She would have realised by now that the law is no respecter of individuals, even if they were part of the decision-making team. Lockdown is a lockdown.
The UK Housing Minister, Robert Jenrick, is currently under fire for travelling between his three “homes.” He is also criticised for not obeying the government’s advice that “you should not be visiting family members who do not live in your home” as he visited his parents. They live 40 miles away from his “family” home. Defiantly, the minister argued that he observed the social distancing order by only dropping medication and essentials for them. In South Africa, the Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams was suspended for two months for flouting the lockdown order. It was discovered that she had dinner with a friend when the picture surfaced on social media.
No matter the social, political or career standing, some individuals tend to cheat the system. This is why in the UK, the Police forces across the country, are working extra hard to keep citizens off the streets and parks. It is not an easy task, as the weather improved dramatically last week, and sun-starved Britons ran out on the streets. The Greater Manchester Police announced it dispersed over 600 parties in the upper weekend. These included house parties, with disc jockeys in attendance, fireworks and bouncy castles and some brazenly organised street parties. It was not everyone that felt the need to cooperate in sending the virus packing on time.
Some of the forces have been criticised for overstepping their bounds and infringing on the rights of the citizens. An “over-exuberant officer” of the Cambridgeshire Police tweeted that his colleagues have been monitoring shopping trolleys to make sure people only buy essential stuff. This tweet was later deleted while the force clarified that its officers “are not monitoring what people are buying from supermarkets.” The Home Secretary, Priti Patel on Thursday frowned at the suggestion of trolley monitoring. She said: “That is not what the police are there to do.”
The flouting of the lockdown order by some individuals prompted appeals that residents should stay indoors during this Easter bank holiday. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, deputising for the ailing Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday said: “Let’s not undo the gains we’ve made, let’s not waste the sacrifices so many people have made. We mustn’t give the coronavirus a second chance to kill more people and to hurt our country.”
To me, the lockdown was not a source of worry as I counted down to my birthday last week. It was not because it was a good excuse not to invite family friends and well-wishers over for meals and drinks. As the impact of the current lockdown situation is beginning to take its toll on human bodies, I see it as an opportunity for a unique birthday celebration. I am not a loner or a miserable individual but I always enjoy the solitude of my birthdays. It is a time to reflect on my being, look back at the various mistakes committed during the year and think ahead on how to avoid repeats.
No opportunity has ever come on a platter of gold as the current COVID-19 lockdown. The serenity of the streets offered an added benefit to this year’s celebration. I needed not to travel far to seek a solitary place for me to peep at the maddening world. Fortunately, the world has been unusually tranquil and at an uncomfortable peace with itself in the past two months. The news of wars, kidnaps, suicide missions, unprovoked attacks has receded since the lockdown started. There are, nevertheless, pockets of attacks here and there in the traditional war zones, but the Coronavirus pandemic has softened the hearts of some warlords. The lesson is that with proper understanding the world can live in peace.
On a personal level, the lockdown allowed me to cast a glance back to review how far I had come in the journey of my life. I made mental notes of the challenges encountered and how to convert them to successes for the years ahead. The reality of life is to know when to pause, restock and design strategies for things that matter most to us. I respect the fact that of all the happenings around human beings, there is none that undue worries or thoughts can amend.
“Growing old” resonated with me this year as I reflected on maturing and experience. In my journey to understand the true “art of growing,” two inseparable words popped up in my head. They are – life and time. It was no discovery, but a realisation that life is a journey but not a destination. From childhood to adulthood, it can be likened to when we pack our suitcases for a journey from point A to point B. A few methodically planned journeys work out fantastically, while some turn out to be the opposite. Divinely, some that are unplanned end up being the best undertaken.
This can be equated with the current lockdown situation. It is a journey in an experience that no one can predict the end. Data and figures may project the future, but there is no certainty on how it will play out. Do you wonder why world leaders are struggling with finding an exit strategy for the lockdown? We hear “flattening the curve,” “peak,” “positive,” “negative,” etc but no definite date to the end of the unusual times when neighbours greet from across the fences.
There are strategies for ending the days of peeping from behind drawn curtains. But they are all on papers. What is certain is we have to rely more on technology for now. It has allowed us to communicate with the world as much as we can. We are far apart, yet near each other. What these times have taught us is we can maintain relationships without being physical. Technology has been waiting for these days for a long time as this is its essence. It is overcoming the massive gap caused by the lockdown.
Imagine no internet, no telephones, or chat facilities. It would have been more ruinous than being locked up in a prison, with no communication with loved ones or colleagues. The social distancing and work from home would have been impossible. Imagine a world without the likes of Zoom, Skype, What’s App, Facebook. It is unimaginable.
Now, some prophets of doom are campaigning that technology should be paused because they are threatened by how easy the future would be.
As written for the Diaspora Matters Column, Sunday Vanguard, April 12, 2020.