COVID-19 is certainly not the first-time humanity as found itself in a tragedy spanning over global proportions. The viral threat itself may not loom over us for more than a couple of years, but its footprints are here to stay. As an umbrella term, ‘social distancing’ is solidifying in practice, and it is not-at-all obvious that it will leave as soon as the virus does. Indeed, for its positives, the wider public may as well desire for this lifestyle to continue.

Experts believe a pandemic of this scale is a centurion phenomenon, and as such, predictable, at least to the extent of taking precautionary measures for a margin of 10 years, more or less. It is definitely surprising how – if the current era is as advanced as we claim it to be – were we not able to anticipate a global pandemic and prepare for it in advance, despite the various conferences and expert opinions warning us of it.

In a minimalist definition, ‘culture’ is the way individuals interact with others in a community and given a community as an individual unit, how communities interact with other communities in the region. ‘Counter-culture’ then, can be defined as a framework of the interaction of the individuals and communities that are in opposition to the normative ‘culture’. Social media has played a huge role in informing, challenging, and even introducing alternatives to our normative cultures throughout the globe, but only have been able to do so at an intellectual level. COVID-19 changes this picture; if one is to look just a teeny tiny bit closer, a hitherto unsuspected phenomenon presents itself; the emergence of counterculture within our communities. Here’s how it works:

Each region has its own set of cultures, and those cultures are formed over hundreds of years, if not thousands. We grow up taking our cultures for granted and expect them to come through when all else fails. It is only under cataclysmic times of war and strife when a culture may have to be rethought and redone in order to survive, if not thrive, against the tide of time. Herein was the unexpected; COVID-19 was able to change what World Wars, Computers, and Virtual Reality could not change. The changes are remarkable in themselves too. People have started preferring staying indoors. Young couples have started marrying without the extravagance. High standards of hygiene have replaced the ever-living callous lifestyles. All of these, and more, have plenty of their own consequences.

Staying indoors means lesser commute. Lesser commute implies lesser exhaust fumes, leading to less air pollution. Result? We are at the end of June and people are still taking covers while sleeping. Lesser and lesser people require air conditioning at all, leading to lower energy costs and lots of savings. Living together with your own folks reopens the concept of family, and one revisits the idea of eating and spending time together, getting to know the family more; the people for whom we were working in the first place! Easy marriages imply a sharp drop in extravagant loans being procured by families who wouldn’t be able to give it back in the next 30 years. The easier it gets to marry, the harder it gets to put-off your significant other that you’ll “figure it out once settled”. The meagre amount of people attending means lesser complications with respect to making everyone happy. Washing hands and clothes regularly now means a better sense of hygiene, leading to a sharp decrease in all diseases other than COVID-19.

These make for some excellent hypotheses to work on for social (and other) scientists. I do not wish to take the term ‘hypothesis’ lightly. The manner in which I use this is very ‘Piercean’; the term involves incoming streak of thoughts and ideas which (i) force themselves upon us, (ii) is testable, and (iii) make predictions about the future, given the conditions around the observations do not change.

This is to be preceded by the meteorological sciences, which have to be able to make fairly reliable predictions as to when we should start taking the disaster preparations seriously. Although welcome by the youth of the country, which’ve been yearning for solutions catered to the 21st century, social and political scientists will need to assess whether or not these changes brought better well-being for the regions subject to culture change.

Having set the stage, I can now propose my hypotheses;

  1. Social Distances in Mosques has unknowingly solved the problem which we’ve been facing for centuries. After the prayers are concluded, the people can easily find their way out of the Masjid, instead of waiting for people directly at the back to finish.
  2. It has reduced traffic on the road, and hence reduced the chances of road (among other associated) accidents.
  3. Utility bills have drastically decreased. Given the closure of millions of factories around the globe, energy consumption has dropped immensely.
  4. The air pollution indexes have been on an all-time low.
  5. The Ozone layer is reforming rapidly due to the absence of substances like Chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). This is easily demonstrable during COVID-19
  6. Climatic change is very drastically apparent. In the middle of the summers, we’re enjoying the cool air, and pleasant breezes, which is unprecedented at least in the last 100 years.
  7. Noise pollution from the hustle and bustle of a range of vehicles and machines is on an all-time low.
  8. The spending habits of an average household have completely changed. The luxury items have found lesser and lesser demand as people have started bonding with each other.
  9. The interpersonal relations with the family members have skyrocketed. This, in effect, has increased the significantly increased the levels of positive emotions expressed by the whole family.
  10. Altruism is at its all-time peak. This may be attributed to the relief work in lieu of Corona Virus victims, but that is not the complete picture. As to what completes the pictures, I cannot give just one factor to consider, but a whole range of them.
  11. People around the world are experiencing much lesser fatigue, and more energetic and ready to positively contribute to society.

COVID-19 has accentuated the benefits (and the harms) of the internet. The reason I speak of these issues in a universal sense is due to the universal import of the pandemic, the internet, and the multilateral relevance of each of the issues raised in the 11 points above.

For each of my hypotheses, I have a fairly high amount of certainty that once inquired upon, the inquirers – be them sociologists, population geneticists, biologists, psychologists, or historians – will find food for further research and cultivation of more fruitful lines of inquiry than they are generally engaged in. This is also to say that we humans, as a whole, have lost the ability to ponder on life’s most apparent problems, let alone try to predict them fairly accurately and more so, to attempt an intelligent response against them.

Here’s to an era of renewed interest in life’s real problems, and fruitful (and tasty) inquiry into the genuine problems life presents us. This is not only going to save the fate of our collective inquiry and research enterprises, but also the fate of the education of the young and old among us.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy and position of Regional Rapport.

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Shahzaib Ali Syed is an expert within the field of Holistic and Relational Biology. He has been teaching various aspects of Life Sciences for more than 20 years and is currently leading a Project on the Reconstruction of Scientific Thought in Biology. Shahzaib offers 1:1 counselling sessions, solving all kinds of real-world problems through Biology. He also offers a wholistic training on engaging with the Holy Qur'an, and its message.