Cultures and climates differ, but Coronavirus is the same

"This is a story from an Iranian girl who lives in Belgium and watches her family and people's lives in Iran." Some societies find themselves better prepared for isolation, deprivation, threats outside the home, than others; yet we all face the same crisis of Coronavirus. Anousheh Parsaei, finds a guide in Jan Gehl's humanistic urbanism to how this equalising experience could bring change to everyone.


Until this year, I did believe that: “People have only two similarities in the world. Being born and dying.”


But... Yes! People have found another point of similarity between themselves. It is when Iran and similar countries see that they are not the only places to be under a high economic pressure and face lack of medicine. In the, let’s say, pre-Coronavirus situation, cancer patients like my father and mother have been living through this problem since the year our country became subject to international sanctions. But now is the time everybody is in the same boat and no one, no country and no government can boast about the glamorous places that they live.


'People in my country... are used to locking themselves down, from experiences many years ago; to eating less, enjoying less and burying their heads in their own crazy lives and saying nothing...'

In reply to the great Danish urbanist, Jan Gehl, who said “cultures and climates differ all over the world, but people are the same", I would say: “in my opinion, people are not the same!” People are formed as their society forms them. People in my home country didn’t feel so insecure as most of the people I see in Europe, feeling terrified since this Coronavirus has appeared. People in my country and similar countries are used to locking themselves down, from experiences many years ago; to eating less, enjoying less and burying their heads in their own crazy lives and saying nothing (since no one would hear them or any opposing word would lead to death).


I would like to expand that beautiful quote from Gehl to reflect the similar situations that “we” finally have in our world, brought by Coronavirus. I say “finally” as we have never truly seen our peoples in the same way, regardless of religion, nationality and many other factors that they didn’t even choose. I mean to say that lots of things in our world are not chosen by us (like the appearance of this Coronavirus), but getting meaning from them and, ultimately, finding a reasonable attitude with which to face them matters for everyone.


Sunset in Antwerp. Photo by Alfie Temple Stroud


We all perceive that everything is connected in the globe. Most urbanists have probably seen another famous quote from Gehl, that: “something happens because something happens because something happens”. We only have to believe this one day! From the depth of our hearts! We are all a unit. Our destiny is the same. All we need in our world is 'peace' and not showing off our power!


By sharing this story, I don’t mean to point out anybody in particular, any government, etc. Everybody should look only to themselves, now, to be reminded that, like them, all people need to work everyday to insure their welfare. All people need goods, whenever they want. All people need leisure, wherever they desire.


In post-Corona society, I wish a world of peace and happiness for everybody.


Anousheh Parsaei is an Iranian urbanist living in Antwerp, Belgium, and a recent graduate of the 4Cities Erasmus Mundus joint master degree in Urban Studies.

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