Sense and sensibility are the two simple words, yet the gravity of these words is as deep as their simplicity. Jane Austen had to write an entire novel to illustrate the enormity of these ‘s’ words. A short write-up like this can hardly sum up the significance of the terms. Such an attempt would be futile.
'Sense', lexical definition, means an ability to understand, recognise, value, or react to something… whereas ‘sensibility’ stands for an understanding of deciding about what is good or valuable. More precisely, this is an ability to act with restraint and reasoning and giving a way to the feeling.
Following the outbreak of novel coronavirus in the country, these two simple words seem the most precious tools to contain spread of the deadly respiratory disease, COVID-19. Astonishingly we somehow have lost this prime quality though nowadays we are so active with the so-called 'social' media.
After a month of cruel lockdown, Bangladesh has finally stepped out of its strict shutdown opening up businesses for limited hours relaxing the lockdown. But, what does it mean? Is it a license to flout social distancing or the health guidelines? Certainly the relaxed lockdown has multiple implications. There are political, economic and social repercussions, which we love to call ‘politics’. In other words, it may save some lives that may be killed due to many other non-infectious causes.
Once again, we have been bankrupt in our sense and sensibility. Following the relaxed lockdown, it is as if the entire country has fallen divided into two blocks waging a war of words. And the questions of the century have emerged - to shop or not to shop, to maintain social distancing or not? Some are crying in fear of the massive infection while some simply flout the health guidelines when out. No one is forcing anybody to go to the market nor are the shop owners forced to do so. But, still we fear. Why? It is actually a fear of experiences of our irresponsibility in the unique circumstances.
The facts are there. The death toll is climbing every day while infections are mounting high. Health experts warned of more infection in the coming days. Still we are confused, our minds riddled with many questions. Researchers at the University of Sydney have built a simulation model to search the answers of the questions on social distancing, analysing the virus behavior. The university researchers projected if 80 per cent of people isolate themselves with advice on 'physical distancing', the spread of COVID-19 may be controlled within 13 weeks while if 90 per cent of the population comply with physical distancing, the virus may be wiped out. Similarly, if people fall short by 10 per cent or more in compliance, the virus cases may go up exponentially.
Social distancing or physical distancing is a science. As the virus cannot fly, we do not need to be worried if we comply with science, unless we are so insensible as to defy the advice from the health experts or fail to hold on our emotions for a bit more time it requires. Once again it’s all about the sense and sensibility that can be strongest shield against the most infectious disease.
As Jane Austen said in her masterpiece, ‘Sense and Sensibility’, “It is not what we think or feel that makes us who we are. It is what we do. Or fail to do...”
*Toriqul Islam is a journalist, working at Prothom Alo. He can be reached at email@example.com