Post Mortem

Let us please rip up the ‘Covid 19-Stigma’ for humanity’s sake!

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 8/25/2020 12:36:02 PM IST

 “This is the only time I don’t want you to be positive,”- that’s what my friend told me. Well, I hope I was able to get your attention with that as I aim to highlight one of the most diabolical trends on the block and it will take an ample of ‘we’ to be able to get rid of this blot.

Though one might have already been practising it--or not (hopefully), let me, in my mere qualification for which I beg your pardon, try to clarify what ‘Stigma’ really is, in fact, to indicate how toxic it is. In its simplified contemplation, it means, “a mark or tattoo made on the flesh by means of cauterisation to be able to identify a contaminated/defiled/forbidden group of individuals.” Let us cross-examine ourselves today sincerely:

WHO stated, “Social stigma in the context of health is the negative association between a person or group of people who share certain characteristics and a specific disease. In an outbreak, this may mean people are labelled, stereotyped, discriminated against, treated separately, and/or experience loss of status because of perceived link with a disease.” They have emphasised on it enough and we think we’ve heard enough of it but we still haven’t interweaved it with our hearts. The moment when someone tests positive, you’ll notice the ‘real mask’ falling off, of the people around in the vicinity; one ought not to shut their doors air tight and sort of, create an eerie climate amongst the neighbourhood which would definitely worsen the scenario, particularly for the victim and by victim, I mean the one who is stigmatised and eventually drive him into deeper depression. One need not be Sherlock Holmes to comprehend that. Regardless of how the individual contracted it, be it of laxity or not, that person is still a human and time becomes quite ripe then, to extend our utmost love and support in every single way we can, (keeping in mind the precautions, of course) instead of becoming the Pharisees of this era, and I think some are already taking up that role pretty well, so to speak. Yes! Taking care of oneself is important and we should, but may it not go to the extent of turning a blind eye to those in need of a helping hand. 

Further, allow me to accentuate the rub of the front liners being the prime victims of the ‘Covid 19-Stigma.’ They are inhumanly avoided and offered a flippant demeanour wherever they go only to run them ragged; talk about their boundless schedules on top of that! I want to refresh the facts that they are still humans, not some golem or whatsoever. Let us take five to picture ourselves as one of the doctors in that suit for twice the time we spend in bed, scampering in and out relentlessly  being pressurised from every corner, particularly from the VIPs to have their kindred tested first. In fact, I assume it would be such a tedious thing for them to even drink a bottle of water, ‘cause then, they’ll have to take off their protective gears; their mask, then the one underneath it, and put those back all over again. I, myself, noticed that when my Doctor had to take the trouble of putting on all those equipments just for a quick surgery. Then, imagine returning home with those ignorant contingents nudging each other and alleging you as someone to be totally avoided in every possible way, having justified by their ‘presumed wise thought’  that you might be a, ‘potential carrier’ even though you declare that you’re certainly not. Doesn’t it sound frustrating? Also, the people who have recovered from the virus or those released from quarantine are no less victims of stigmatisation. 

Stigma, particularly regarding this pandemic, is toxic, especially to that of a Naga society being labelled as Christians. Its traits are totally contrary to what we ought to do as Christians or maybe even as nominal Christians? Everyone must be following the social distancing rules at best but it doesn’t include calling up those people for comfort nor does it include stigmatising people under no circumstances. In a nutshell, social distancing doesn’t mean social stigmatisation.

These stigmas at hand, put the victim’s social identity in threatening situations, as so linked with the ‘Labelling theory’ promoted by Howard Becker, Emile Durkheim, Bruce Link and so on. The theory, in this context, would  suggest  that, due to the fear of getting stigmatised, people’s responses concerning their health issues get trammelled and they choose to keep it inside the closet instead, which would only lead to a colossal eruption of positive cases and that’s one point of no return. There are plenty of ways we can do to reach out to the victims and the front liners, especially through the myriad dimensions of media.

Nevertheless, shifting on to the silver lining, I, on behalf of all sitting under the comforts of a home’s roof, thank the Samaritans behind the scenes, working unceasingly to spread love and support amongst the neighbourhood. I also thank the front line workers in no specific order: the healthcare providers, the delivery workers, the colony panchayats, the grocery store clerks, the police forces, farmers, the cooks and everyone, in any way, aiding the battle against this pandemic despite the absence of any proper recognition.

Through this, I don’t mean to point out and blame anyone for stigmatising, we all must have fallen for it at one point or the other but from now, let us not make it a part of our ‘new normal’ and instead, rip it up for humanity’s sake! Let us rather encourage and support each other putting aside all ethnicity, status, social backgrounds or any conditions for that matter and “let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify our Father in heaven.”

Aremnochet T Changkiri, Kohima

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