Photo courtesy Miriam Nabarro, London

‘We belong to each other’: these old words of wisdom remind us to care for and to hold sacred all that unites us, all that binds us together. Acknowledgement of our intimate and inescapable human connection—long forgotten, ignored, or denied—has now been forced upon us by a virus we barely understand, cannot yet contain, and, above all, fear.

Fear can be a powerful foe, or the greatest of teachers. In this unique and fleeting global moment we have an opportunity to confront our fear head on. To look deeply into its eyes and to see—if we are brave enough—reflections of ourselves, of our societies, of what we have become, and of how we have forgotten to be.

It was only a few weeks ago, on 2 March 2020, that a shocking Euronews video clip documented the Hellenic Coast Guard using prods and warning shots to push away a dinghy carrying desperate human beings in search of safety and hope. They were denied at the borders of a European ‘civilization’ once proud of its Herodotean ideals of fairness and equal liberty.

That basic and universal aspirations such as safety and hope should regain their meaning in a global pandemic gives pause to the sense of entitlement that has prevailed among the world’s fortunate few. As entrenched international and national systems falter and business-as-usual is no more, we have a rare opportunity to reconsider the societies we want. From such terrible circumstances emerge the possibility to imagine different ways of being, for we know that there are so many better ways we could be.

Yet the possibility of transformation can be terrifying, so the obvious default option is to resuscitate defunct systems and reinforce corroded ideals. But it doesn’t have to be this way. What we need now more than ever is courage—of the most basic and universal kind—to see into the darkness of this unknown how we are also being given a chance to save ourselves.