Fighting Apathy in Times of COVID-19

Right now, it is a huge accomplishment to manage our daily routines – to put on our best pair of sweatpants, sit down in front of our computers and either go into home office or complete university courses. At least that is what the internet will have us believe. We receive almost hourly updates on the state of people’s Zoom meetings and the never-ending influx of childhood pictures on people’s Instagram stories.

The reality of things, however, is much grimmer. In Austria, unemployment rates are at a record high, especially in the catering and hotel industry. Italian families are struggling to feed their children. Circumstances in the overcrowded Greek refugee camps on Lesbos, Samos, Chois, Leros and Kos are disastrous, with poor hygiene, and barely-working health care, for which volunteers are working tirelessly. Somewhere between 36,000 and 42,000 people are estimated to be currently housed on these islands.

It’s Easy to Forget

Sadly, the world does not stop turning when we are not allowed to go outside. What is in front of our doors does not stop existing when we close them. Therefore, now more than ever, we need to be aware of what is happening around the world.

For example – how are you supposed to self-isolate when you do not have a home? How can you practice good hygiene and wash your hands for a full twenty seconds when you do not have running water, or a good enough soap supply? How do you self-isolate for months on end with an abusive partner? What will happen to the fight for climate justice when we are not allowed to exert any pressure on the government by protesting on Fridays for Future?

What happens to the world when we can’t see it?

How to Stay Vigilant

I know that reading the news right now is either sad, enraging or disheartening. Headlines upon headlines about coronavirus – it seems like there is nothing else that the world is talking about. Still, we need to stay vigilant. We cannot pretend that all the other problems of the world have ceased to exist to make way for the biggest one.

Luckily, we have an advantage that the generations before us did not have: the internet. It is both a blessing and a curse these days, it seems. The internet brings us both horrible news of destruction and the cat videos that cheer us up. Much more so, though, it can be useful in times of isolation.

Use the resources you have to educate yourself, in as many news outlets as you possibly can. Dedicate your time to reading quality newspapers instead of conveniently being informed of one-thing-or-another through social media and hoping that through this trickling effect, you’ll learn something important.

Take the Next Step

Many organisations are currently working to create awareness for the issues that I have mentioned above. For example, Greta Thunberg and Fridays for Future are calling for online strikes, in which you photograph yourself with a sign and post it on social media to remind everyone that we are not forgetting about the race for climate justice.

Moreover, professionals of the film, television, entertainment, music and arts world are raising their voices. They are posting pictures with the hashtag #dontletfreelancersfallthroughthecracks and #noworkerleftbehind. We need to remember that even if some of us are lucky enough to keep our jobs in this crisis, others are not, and we should consider taking action to support your favourite local creatives, musicians and small business owners. 

Of course, online petitions are also a great option to call attention to something. Organisations such as #LeaveNoOneBehind are working tirelessly to create awareness for the growing threat of a pandemic outbreak in Greek refugee camps. You should sign their petition, consider donating something to their campaign and watch out for possibilities to participate!

Use the Platforms You Have

If you have a platform, you need to use it. You do not have to watch injustice from the side lines. Shahak Shapira was a speaker at TEDxVienna 2017 conference. He gave a TEDx talk on the subject of becoming viral and earning a large following. He says that to start a viral protest campaign, you simply need an opponent. “Your opponent can be anything. It could be a certain type of behaviour, it could be a company, it could be a regime,” he says. In this case, our opponent is all three of these things together.

A tiny idea can have a great impact. Be creative, sign petitions, create petitions. Call attention to things that are important in a way that seems fit for you. Post pictures, calls to sign something, inform the people around you.

Find your passion for things again – do not let yourself fall into the apathetic pit of isolation.

In a strangely divinatory moment, Mr. Shapira ended his talk by saying that in this day and age, you can reach the whole world from your home, in your underwear. If that’s not motivating, then I don’t know what is.

Header image by Sasha Freemind on Unsplash

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About Marie Krebs

Marie is an English student with an interest in anything to do with culture. When she's not writing, she likes to read, cook and dance (preferably not all three at the same time).

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