The barrage of information regarding the SARS-CoV-2 epidemic, when and how the lockdown might be gradually lifted, and government assistance to businesses and individuals affected by the crisis appears to have overshadowed the tragic reality that over 1,000 lives have been lost.

The daily announcements of the number of deaths of coronavirus patients have not been met with the sadness, concern, and anxiety that one would expect given the extent of the tragedy.

The reaction of people is often one of apathy or indifference or at best the type of curiosity one has when seeking information.

One asks how many dead there are today in the same manner as one inquires about tomorrow’s weather – end of the conversation.

We consume the horror and carry on.

We change the channel and move on to the next news item as if we were dealing with virtual reality.

We have become indifferent to the fact that behind the numbers and cold data there are human beings with names who leave behind families, loved ones, and careers.

There is a lack of empathy.

In bygone eras the death of so many people would most certainly have greatly shocked people.

How, then, is one to explain the stance of the public today? Is it a mutation or a psychological defence mechanism that is registered in our DNA and becomes activated when the going gets very tough?

Cynicism, callousness, social automatism, and indifference are nothing new, nor are they side effects of the pandemic.

They existed before the pandemic and gradually poisoned the social fabric creating immunity to the poison. Like King Mithridates, one became immune to poison by poisoning oneself.

The gradual acclimatisation to brutality and all sorts of violence along with Greece’s decade-long economic crisis numbed social reflexes and produced a sort of immunity to what is going on around us.

A more scientific reading would be that when the cases of infection are in the millions apathy grows and leads to a psychological social distancing.

History shows that it is natural to see a drop in sympathy as the number of victims of a disaster grows.

This is how nature has designed us.

Christos Dogas

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