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Lockdown reprogrammed human mind:

The animal instincts exposed!

Our experts expect another wave of the pandemic in India, but there is little possibility! Masks may become compulsory on and off. States may make it mandatory; some will not. Somewhere, anyhow, it will remain. Over a period we will learn to live with the enemy without fear. By that time we will acquire a natural immunity also. 

After Covid-19 broke out, the mask became compulsory. Subsequently, it became a common personal code – a dress code matching the colour of outfits. At times, the government ordered wearing double masks and N95 grade masks. So obsessed were we with the masks, there were advises of wearing masks even at home. We followed WHO dictates. The mask, nevertheless, could not stop Covid-19. The more we became cautious, the more ferocious the attack of the novel virus. 

In India, the third wave began in December. The cough and cold spread like a wildfire, but harmlessly. People were prepared to face it. The liberal treatment protocol enabled people to visit dispensaries and take home two-three days of dispensary medicines. Despite lockdown orders, people continued to live an ordinary life but with facemasks. After a couple of months, government and municipal authorities eased restrictions. Soon, the most infected States like Maharashtra and Delhi lifted all restrictions, including the mask. Wearing the mask was only advisable, not mandatory. 

Resisting every order is natural human psychology. The order becomes only ritualistic. In a social formation, there would be a portion of people who live by orders with misconceptions. I have been curious about what will happen once the government withdraws the compulsion of wearing a mask and how people react to the easing of the rule. I expected many people to continue wearing the mask, though as usual the mask hardly covered their nose. They still do it. I wonder whether they are still unaware of the ease of rule or continue to live in fear. 

For two years we spent our most precious time in a virtual world, mostly for fun. They do not know the trap of fun. Even those who know the trap struggle hard to salvage themselves from it. Strange! Maybe some are still not aware. For most of them, it is a habit, not knowing its consequences. However, they continue to wear the mask for long hours! 

Health experts had advised giving a break from the mask. They wanted people to take the matter of wearing masks lightly. Unless there is an expert advisory, people will take it lightly. What may have surprised them is that people still adhere to the advisory of washing hands with soaps. Whether the novel coronavirus is there or not, some people will continue to live with a standard, while the vast majority will return to their habits. This character typifies the bipedal animal called humans. Our habits never die. 

Humans are social animals. We make a hitch-knot around the neck of cows, buffaloes and pet dogs for a long time. These animals are used to it. Even when they are unfastened after a while, they move only within their regular track. They return to their sheds obediently. We have only a limited tolerance for abrupt change. But anything is forced upon us with no other option, we learn to live with it and copy it into our habit after initial resistance. That is what domestic animals do. If someone locks you up in a room for three-four years you may not go out. Many people, who are locked inside their homes after the pandemic induced lockdown, do not want to go out. Though they are free to move out after two years, they refuse to relinquish their post-lockdown lifestyle. Whether it is harmful or not is not a matter.

Lockdown can change human habits without impacting economic activities. That has been a laboratory test on social psychology. I am worried; whether our lawmakers would make it for their gains by reining in people through such a lockdown. As Sri Lanka has shown, an agitation can induce the government to declare lockdown since it has learned, in lockdown also, economic activities can continue. The pandemic has resulted in a new discovery of how to rein in people by altering their habits through the instrument of lockdown.

Sajikumar Nair

Sajikumar

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