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A test and an opportunity

Mar 19,2020 - Last updated at Mar 19,2020

The coronavirus, COVID 19, is a real threat both globally and nationally, but it is also a test and an opportunity.

We do not know everything yet about this nasty virus, but the little we know so far calls upon all of us to give the matter utmost seriousness, and follow governmental instructions to the letter in order to curb the virus’s spread and minimise life loss and damage.

Much needs to be done both by the government and people in the fight against COVID 19: cleanliness, minimisation of contact with others, halting greeting habits which include handshakes and kissing, maintaining distance when interacting with others, keeping trips outside home to the bare minimum, making available reliable facts and figures about the disease, spreading the right information and messages, etc.

But what is most importantly needed under the circumstances perhaps is discipline.

In normal circumstance, discipline is generally lacking in our society with respect to most of what we do on a daily basis.

And this is one of our society’s major problems.

There is a deficit of discipline in motoring, in crossing the street, in keeping the public spaces clean, in shopping, in informal sports, in breaks at schools, in between lectures on campuses, in public lectures, in talk shows, in concerts, in weddings and in many other contexts.

Now that we are being urged by the government and the health authorities to exercise the utmost degree of responsibility and discipline in our attitude, thoughts, opinions, habits and behaviour pertaining to the spread of the coronavirus, how we conduct ourselves today and in the days ahead is crucial.

If we do the right things, minimise or even eliminate violations of instructions, our chances of curbing the disease and winning the fight will be a lot more likely.

If, on the other hand, we take the advice of experts lightly or laxly, our chances of winning the battle will be a lot less likely.

This is the lesson we learn from countries battling the disease at this point.

The news from China, which is the first country to be plagued with COVID 19, is that there are less infections and less fatalities than in the days and weeks before, and that China appears to have the disease under control.

Obviously, many reasons stand behind China’s success in dealing with this incredible challenge. One of the most important reasons is discipline.

South-East Asian nations generally are characterised by discipline in both public and private life.

I have not been to China myself, but I have spent some time in Japan and South Korea, and I was extremely struck by how disciplined Japanese and Korean people are in daily life.

Could we as a society take advantage of the current unfortunate situation, could we take it as an opportunity to instill in people the discipline we have always been asking for, so that when we overcome the disease, as overcome it we must, we will embark on a new era of orderliness and discipline?

This sounds like a lot to ask, because the reason many people “behave” themselves now might be out fear of the disease, and once danger is over people might resort to the “good old” bad habits.

But maybe not.

Maybe the current situation could be used as an opportunity for people in our society to adopt discipline, not temporarily until we steer safely through the current challenge but permanently as a way of life.

COVID 19 is a test of how disciplined we can be to win the war against it. But this test is also an opportunity for us to learn how important discipline is, and how important it is for people to adopt it as a way of life.

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