Why 1+1 Isn’t Necessarily 2: On Cooperation During Covid-19


Hyunwook Lee

Humanity is shaken and communities are crumbling; the coronavirus is changing the earth. This microbe, invisible to the naked human eye, asserts its own sets of rules. It questions all and rearranges all prewritten rules, differently and newly.

The microbe has accomplished temporary peace and ceasefire which the western powers couldn’t do in Syria, Libya, and Yemen. The microbe has suspended the Hirak protests, something the Algerian army couldn’t put an end to. The microbe has accomplished things that corporations couldn’t do: lowering or exemption of taxes, pulling funds, and strategic decrease of raw material costs. The microbe has accomplished what unions and demonstrations couldn’t accomplish: lowering prices and improving social support services.

Fear has captivated all; from the poor to the rich and powerful, fear has moved its place, making us realize we are, in fact, human after all. It allowed humanity, that wanted to colonize Mars, clone ourselves, and live forever, realize its limits. It allowed humanity to realize the impermanence and the impertinence of our knowledge, that we dearly developed to match that of God.

The virus only needed a few days to turn certainty to uncertainty, strength to weakness, self-possessed power to cooperation. It only needed a few days to turn ideal hopes into lies. It only needed a few days to make us realize that we may just be one breath, just one speck of dust in the grand scheme of things.

In an instant, we see that gas emissions and air pollution have decreased and we have no clue how to pass the newly made time in our hands. Parents start to learn more about their children. Children start to learn about family time at home. We start to learn that work nor study is life’s priority, and that neither travelling the world nor having exciting pastime activities is the gold standard of a successful life. We start to reflect upon ourselves in silence, and start to understand the values of the words ‘weakness’ and ‘unity.’ We start to realize that we are in the same boat regardless of our socio-economic status; that we cannot buy all the goods in the market; that the hospitals are overflowing with patients; that money does not solve all the problems.
That in front of the coronavirus, we, alone, are weak, but united, we can be strong. We have come together as humanity, helping the ones in need, taking initiative, and reminding us of the humanity and goodwill inside us. In the times of conflict, while physically distant, we’ve come closer on a metaphysical level as people.

Who are we? What are our values? What can ‘we’ do, facing the coronavirus?

Let us wait patiently but reflect on ourselves and the things we have taken for granted while doing so.
Let us think and meditate about the various aspects this pandemic offers, and let us love our living selves and the community around us.
Let us unite with love and graciousness and support one another through these turbulent times; let us remember that 1 + 1, may sometimes be greater than 2.