Non-Fiction: “Homo Homini Virus”, by Marilena Falcone

Translated from the article published on

Here we go again.

From the great AIDS scare to Chernobyl, from the ‘terrible Arab peril’ to SARS, how many déjà vus has my generation gone through in these days of ‘Novel-Coronavirus paranoia’?

The warning signs never change: the mad rush to hoard food supplies with no care for the old rule of education and good sense telling us to leave something for those who will come after us; a specific group of people being singled out as the public enemy, to be ostracized and isolated; thoughtless and mean behavior, an outcome of uncontrollable panic, which inevitably focuses on the weak and the helpless; the usual doomsayers who, depending on the times and the media available, jump at the opportunity to dress up as experts and enjoy their brief time in the spotlight before disappearing again, forgotten just as quickly; the mindless gossiping of common people who repeat and amplify everything they hear without so much as a glimpse of understanding, distorting and altering the news into an inexorable stream of nonsense.

Whatever the risk or concern may be (of a disease, of a terrorist attack, of contamination, or of the traditional vase that falls off a balcony and hits us straight on the head), it does not matter if it is motivated or not. These moments never fail to showcase the worst in humankind: ironically, a lack of our own humanity. Never mind how much we may claim to respect (from a safe distance, of course!) those who take personal risks by heading to the front lines and bring real aid to those in trouble or in actual danger. From the screens of our TVs or from the displays of our mobile devices, safe and sound in our homes, we choose to focus only on the noise. ‘Heroes,’ ‘angels,’ or any other labels we may choose – they are nothing more than a placebo that makes us feel better. We don’t lift so much as a finger, while we wrap ourselves in our own fears to justify everything. And let’s be honest: those ‘heroes’ are a bit crazy anyway; should anything happen to them, well, they had it coming. We are the wise ones, far more important than the anonymous people in need. We have our own families to think about, after all!

There is something fascinating in letting fear take over. Fear of what, it makes no difference. Fear of death? Fear of others? Or of ourselves? Or maybe fear of going through our lives without leaving a mark? At the slightest sign of trouble, with no care for statistics and the (rare) appeals to reason, we scramble to look for total protection… as if such a thing were possible in the first place. There is a difference, of course, between sheer recklessness and understanding the basic risks that are part and parcel of our lives as humans, between the natural instinct to care for our loved ones and the blind aversion towards ‘plague spreaders’. But an aseptic life spent in the obsessive search for the illusion of perfect safety at the cost of our own humanity is not worth living. Truth be told, it is also undignified.

So: today it’s the turn of the Novel-Coronavirus, tomorrow who can tell, but the script never changes.

Every moment of diffidence, every time we take part in the hype, every act of more or less concealed racism, every gesture of selfishness or cruelty towards the weak (including animals, as we are seeing these days), is everyone’s responsibility. We are the worst virus that infects humanity when we choose such behavior.

Everything else is a poor excuse.

Marilena Falcone was born and raised in Rome, Italy, where she earned her master’s degree in biomedical mechanical engineering and started a career in IT. In 2008, Marilena moved to Dubai following her husband. Here, she had the unique chance to pursue her original passion for the humanities and for writing. She has been a contributor for several online magazines and paper publications both in Italy and in the UAE.

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