CPT INTERNATIONAL: COVID-19 and the Bubble of I


8 April 2020



by Mona el-Zuhairi

Around March 2020 mainstream channels, starting in China, began to publicize the outbreak of COVID-19.  The news then spread out like wildfire.

Why was there a delay announcing it? Why was there a delay taking safety measures worldwide?

Individually we remained ignorant while the outbreak wasn’t close to our loved ones, or us and we only started to think about it when we learned about social isolation in other places.

Then, social isolation became the primary safety measure for everyone.

According to Maslow, security is the second need for humans after physiological needs, followed by the need for love and belonging.

COVID-19 didn’t stop the human need for love and belonging, but it changed the framework of how it looks and is manifested.

COVID 19 placed the ongoing debate between individuality and the collective on center stage.

Again the need for social distancing became a need to achieve safety; the instinct of self-preservation became the leading player in this disaster.

In the beginning, the individual didn’t take the pandemic seriously because the “I” was safe. It wasn’t until there were institutional and government calls for action that people started to conform. In my opinion, they conformed out of fear generally, and fear of stigmatization.

Then the requirement to distance changed from friendly calls and social pressure to lockdowns and orders. That’s when collective obedience started and individuals started to leave their fake bubble of consumerism, to push the button of being safe.

The human connection didn’t stop, but organically, communities started to go back to their natural state, which is solidarity and collective safety, opposing the individuality that capitalism created.

Capitalism through history was feeding individual greed through its pillars:

  • wage labour (working for a wage),
  • private ownership of the means of production (things like factories, machinery, farms, and offices),
  • output for exchange and profit [i]

It is clear, within these principles, that if you possess the resources you will probably continue to achieve more, but if you are part of the working class, the only worry you have is how you will make it through the end of the month because with no production YOU are DONE.

In the era of capitalism, humanity has lost a lot through greed and selfishness, where the mantra has become “me and no one but me”.

Many studies have shown that capitalism changed the values of communities where “the main result reveals that with the evolution from rural to capitalistic societies, people are likely to be less prosocial and more likely to be competitive”[ii]

People hoarding and buying as much as they can in response to this crisis has proven how consumption has become part of our social fabric; it is what Hollywood movies have illustrated time and time again in their disaster movie industry.

Capitalism and imperialism didn’t start yesterday, and  from the beginning, they have been built on human suffering; the smallpox epidemic between the15th and 17th centuries was a turning point for the formation of capitalism as one historian has suggested[iii]

COVID-19 is showing the world how global solidarity is a MUST; going back to our human core values around equality and equity is our responsibility.

COVID-19 shows us all that a small virus dissolves privilege.


[i] Li, Kui. (2017). Capitalism and Socialism

[ii]Shibly Shahrier, Koji Kotani, Social Value Orientation and Capitalism in Societies

[iii] Debanjali Bose, 2020, 11 ways pandemics have changed the course of human history, from the over $4 billion spent to fight Ebola to the trillions it might take to tackle the coronavirus.

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