As a Canadian of Asian descent, it is heartbreaking to see the response and the handful of atrocities committed during times of panic, crisis and despair. At the drop of a hat, morals are overlooked, and proper precautionary measures which could have been undertaken by observing history and global responses are met with ridicule amplified by the hive mind of social media. My heart goes out to whomever is currently affected.
The Canadian government and McGill’s response to the current Coronavirus situation has been decent thus far. They have acted relatively fast in terms of school closure, academic policies, social distancing, as well as aid protocols due to the need for containment. The same can, unfortunately, not be said about all nations.
What are the social repercussions of this situation, however? Having experienced numerous cases of social disruption first hand, such as the Housing Market Crash, the Umbrella Revolution, the recent protests in Hong Kong and the coronavirus epidemic; I have witnessed seething hatred and judgement for individuals based on their backgrounds and ethnic race. I have seen my hometown turn into a cesspool of violence, desperation and anarchy. This is what happens when people are pushed to the brink of frenzy. Lines that span of multiple city blocks can be seen for surgical masks, train stations are set on literal fire, clouds of tear gas fill the city, innocents are sniped and blinded by a rain of rubber bullets, and students can be seen shooting arrows and throwing explosives at policemen from their university campuses.
In times of crisis, amoral behaviour can lead to the complete collapse of order. To prevent this, we must remain vigilant in keeping a level head and open heart. In terms of the social repercussions presented by COVID-19 caused by the coronavirus SARSCov-2, this has unfortunately led to the soaring of unemployment rates, shutdown of facilities, and unfortunately a spike in anti-Asian sentiments.
In terms of our city, Montreal; racism and bullying has been on the rise in schools ever since the start of the year on schoolchildren with Chinese origins. Montreal Chinatown has suffered vandalism on temple statues, and individuals of Asian backgrounds have been physically attacked and harassed. Numerous hate crimes have been spotted across North America, including on elderly Asians and on Asian-owned businesses. This condemnable type of harassment breeds fear based on ethnic race and further distances our communities.
The social differences number far and wide and though we can all point fingers at each other stimulating hate and disdain, whether that be towards the repression of information from the CCP or the nonchalance and lack of testing during spring break, that is by far not the most ethical or productive thing to do. Please be kind to each other, it’s the least we can do to keep our community diverse and vibrant. When fear and hate are common place, the only way we should fight back is through love and acceptance.
This pandemic is an example of what happens when our nations do not work together in a collective effort. Segregation and ridicule breeds fear, death and tragedy. This is a message that has been repeated time and time again, and yet no one seems to remember, and perhaps we won’t until it’s too late; but I am hopeful that we can use this time to gather our thoughts and think of how we want the world to be, to take initiative in setting its direction instead of swimming in the preordained dogma of the masses.
To leave you to your devices this self-quarantining period, I just want to drive home a few takeaway messages. We must learn to love and accept one another regardless of our physical features and ethnic race. This virus could have originated anywhere, and people should not suffer further for factors out of their control, whether that be in their origins, or the governments in control. We all have our own battles to face, and scars to prove them. Times of worldwide crisis allow us to rally together as one people despite our differences.
In the McGill Community and over the course of our lives, we will have the privilege of meeting a number of individuals from a variety of backgrounds, each with their own story to tell. Would it not be a shame to simply throw away these experiences due to fear-mongering and social bias? I hope everybody uses this time of quarantine whether alone, or with loved ones to focus in on what truly matters to them without distractions, whether that be in terms of hobbies, finances or personal goals.
As aspiring engineers, we all desire to see a change in the world whether that be through various means. Whether that be through social policy, technology, innovation or collaboration, we should want to make things better for the most part. It can be easy to panic sometimes (but luckily in our departments, I believe we are already very well acquainted with our good buddy, stress!). I hope we all use this time wisely. It’s not what happens to us that make us who we are, but what we make of it. ♦