An essay by Raphael Heuberger
Die am weitesten entwickelte Spezies des Planeten im Kampf gegen einen winzigen, unsichtbaren und dabei umso stärkeren Gegner. Was würde wohl ein Ausserirdischer beim Betrachten der gegenwärtigen Coronakrise denken? Dieser Frage geht Raphael Heuberger in seinem Essay nach und kommt dabei auf Beobachtungen zum Menschsein schlechthin.
The Swiss government decided to shut down public life. Most countries in the world take similar measures. Mankind is at war against another species – the corona virus. Imagine for a moment you were an extraterrestrial, secretly observing the Earth from the orbit. You could watch the tree of life on the blue planet with astonishment and curiosity. Your E.T.-eyes were piercing through matter comprehending the smallest and the largest things at the same time. There you see this new virus emerging, it switches its host from an animal to another mammal (human) in a slightly mutated form. Hardly anything remarkable in your E.T. mindset.
But then, something unusual and extraordinary happens. Some of the not infected potential hosts, all humanoids, realize the emergence of the enemy, the virus. The informed ones, specialists who cared mainly about this phenomenon, started to worry but were yet the only ones of their kind who knew. Meanwhile the virus spreads to other hosts and more humanoids start to collect samples of it. In laboratories they scrutinize the thing, collecting more and more data, they feed machines (they call it computers) with their findings. The humanoids work together with machines, using artificial kind of intelligences to decipher the genome of the virus in a very short time. The humanoids use a network, they call it “telecommunication” or “internet”, which they had already built around the globe to communicate and work together.
The virus on the other hand is well equipped to sustain its hosts efforts to get rid of him. It reproduces in a very high number whilst the host does not even feel that billions and billions of tiny viruses, more than other virus species of its kind, would produce. It lives in it and pours out from it undetected. The virus likes to reproduce in the lungs of the host, where after some orbits of the Earth around the Sun, a coughing commences. Some of the hosts die, but not too many in the eyes of the virus. The ones that die would not reproduce anyway and therefore not create potential new hosts. The aggressive examples of the virus who are going to kill their host are mostly prone to negative natural selection, the milder are likely to survive longer.
The potential hosts, the humanoids, have now found a name for their enemy: Corona. Humanoids often had had disputes and arguments in the past, which the extraterrestrial observer found difficult to understand. The humanoids had created concepts and references: Things like territories, called “nations”. Or say, groups of humanoids which they labelled, for example “The Old”, “The Young”, “The Females”, “The Dutch” and so on. Most of them were aware of some factors connecting all humanoids in spite of these distinctions, but, like any other species they had best evolved in the pursuit of their self-interest, which often was fairly altruistic in a sense. Obviously, they were the only species capable of selfsapience.
Most of the humanoids knew how important their “system” to the thriving of their species was. This is why they would usually defend the ongoing of what they called their “economy” under almost all circumstances.
The humanoids observe how fast the new virus befalls their population. All of a sudden, they make an astonishing choice: They choose to protect one of their systems, they call it “health care”, willing to shut down the other systems they call “economy”. In the “economy” humanoids had to move and meet and discuss to do their business. It was easy for the virus to jump to various hosts who then travelled to other places where new clusters of humanoids became hosts. The humanoids understand this but also know that this decision comes at a high cost.
Many of the humanoids realize that their world has quite changed; at least for some time to come. They were used to work with numbers, prices and other metrics, but somehow, these things seem to be a bit defect. They also have emotional desires and usually gather in crowds to still their social needs. The social norms, in their neighborhoods, their families and other relationship clusters, suddenly become more important. They realize that in the temporary absence of their “economy”, they have to take own initiative. It is peculiar to the extraterrestrial observer that in times like these, a mechanism seems to apply in the humanoids that makes them more altruistic. The observer realizes that it is (of course!) in their self-interest to help each other. Unlike insects, where the individuals have a very limited set of capabilities – although they are to some extent organized in a similar fashion -, new capabilities and skills emerge almost spontaneously – the extraterrestrial observer finds out.
But he found the most astonishing fact about the humanoids: They did it for the old, the ones who could not reproduce their genetic material anymore. The observer had never seen any species behaving like this.
The observer knew of some humanoid who had said that “war brings out the worst and the best out of people”. Having observed the Earth and the humanoids for a long time, the extraterrestrial felt an emotion for the first time: a kind of mimicker effect emerging from aeons of observations – sympathy. Not only were these creatures astonishingly apt, well organized in their ability to cooperate and fight against a tiny enemy they could not even see with their own eyes. They do not stop to carry on in the absurdity of their existence to be kind to each other. They are finally human.
Those humans cannot be more privileged to live in a time when their collective skill is on this phenomenal level, the extraterrestrial noticed, absolutely confident that the humans figure their way out. That is what they always do. “Even better”, the observer thought, “that besides their capabilities, they stick to high values. That seems to be the ultimate key to their success.”
Every one of us has a chance to excel in his existential being and contribute her or his best.