On the first day of the Eid weekend, my neighbour’s home was surrounded with cars after a long time, as three generations of the family came together to celebrate the festival.
But what made us pause was the sight of two guests hugging each other goodbye without face masks on the street and then getting into separate cars.
Now isn’t this just what the government warned us not to do as we mark this major festival?
Those banner adverts pleaded with us to remember our loved ones and follow all precautions.
Many frontliners have been saying it was such risky behaviour that caused a spike in Covid numbers after the Eid Al Fitr in May. We must, of course, warn people about unsafe pandemic behaviour because every individual holds the key to lock the deadly virus in its place.
If we follow the parameters of safety, we keep ourselves, our loved ones and the community safe.
However, of late, I am puzzled by the line of interrogation taken by people when family or friends fall ill.
What worries me is the aggressive victim-blaming that everybody practices when confronted with illness.
Did you contract the Covid-19 virus? Oh, you must have not practised social distancing or worn a mask in a public place or washed your hands.
Now we all know these three habits are the three pillars holding up the shield against Covid but is there any guarantee that if you do all these, you are protected 100 per cent against the virus?
Use them as precautions and not to blame.
Had a cardiac incident (as they call the heart attack these days)? You must be overweight, you probably don’t exercise, ah, you smoke… even if all of these are true, my question is, what right does even a doctor have to supersede compassion with a litany of complaints against the victim?
For years, women with breast cancer have been at the receiving end of the ‘blame game’ and their condition has been blamed on a slew of ‘lifestyle choices’ that they made from delaying motherhood to not breastfeeding to not checking obsessively every week for lumps.
Indeed, studies as far apart as Glasgow and Australia have shown that for many patients, self-blame and fear of blame appear to contribute to a reluctance to seek care.
Self-blame, experience of blame and fear of blame were the more common reasons for not checking out symptoms with a doctor.
In fact, I think only the medical practitioner and very close family should be allowed to comment on a person’s health and even then in neutral ways that do not emphasise the ‘unhealthy’ behaviours over what can be done to alleviate the condition.
And in private.
It is similar blaming that drove people needing support for mental health issues into the woodwork, pushed there by a fear of what society would say.
The first rule of caring for somebody with illness – any illness – is to offer unconditional compassion as pure as a mother’s healing kiss on the cheek of a bruised child.
A doctor is duty-bound to warn you of lifestyle choices that may affect your health otherwise she or he is not fulfilling their responsibility. However, it should be done after the care has been administered and healing is underway.
Dire warning should not be a substitute for non-judgemental bedside manner which offers comfort and instils healing confidence in the patient.
As for the non-medical public – time to silence the Google-doctor we consult and stop thrusting unsolicited analysis of our own health and that of others upon the world.