On December 31 2019, when the world was gearing up to enter the new decade, there was an uninvited guest ready to enter into our lives. There emerged SARS Coronavirus 2. Rest, as they say, will go down in history. As the fateful day that changed the world completes 100 days, here are the 10 lessons that it offers for us.
As COVID-19 started spreading across the world, it is the nation-states that have been at the forefront of the battle against the pandemic and took up the responsibility of their citizens. Despite their limitations and inefficiencies, nation-states have emerged as cohesive units and responded quite well to the crisis. Amid the chaos and crisis, nation-states have shown that they are the primary and most effective institutions of organizing the human race. The 3-minute silence in China where the whole nation came together to mourn COVID-19 victims and Indians celebrating COVID-19 warriors is testimony to the legitimacy nation-states command.
The Internet has long stopped being a tool for entertainment or privilege of some. Now, it is the primary tool to connect with the world, that shut itself down. It has become an essential tool for communication, connecting government to people, in providing access to food, medicine, education, emotional stability in times of physical isolation. Virtually we have shifted the world onto mobile phones and laptops.
COVID-19 is spreading like wildfire, already having infected over a million and killed 100 thousand. Yet, we are not talking about a doomsday scenario. We are pretty hopeful, in fact, we are confident about finding a cure for this. This confidence is not misplaced or based on myths, rather it is the firm faith in Science. There is faith in the scientific capability of human being, with which we have defeated Small Pox, Polio. Sooner or later, we will defeat COVID-19.
We have blamed everything on capitalism. Polluted air, forest fires, dying rivers, rising inequalities. It is time to recognize what good Capitalism has done for us. The development in last 200 years, the delicate balance in the world, enormous food production that sustains us, the supply of medicine, the internet, the research for cure – all these would not have happened if there was no driving force called profit. True, we have reasons to hate Capitalism, but we owe a lot to it.
Asian countries like South Korea, Japan, Singapore, India are outperforming the West (United States and Europe) in controlling the COVID-19 pandemic. This, despite China being geographically very close to them, and with comparatively less robust health infrastructure. West dominated institutions like the UN, WHO, UN Security Council, European Union failed to even make their presence felt, leave alone leading in the time of crisis. It’s time to come out of Westoxification and embrace what the East has to offer to the world.
Doctors, police, bankers, officers, civil servants, ground-level workers, delivery guys – all are working 16 hours a day making sacrifices. People across nations, religions, are making donations for vulnerable. These acts are done out of compassion and love for fellow human beings, not for the fear of God. On the other hand, all the Gods, whom people worship, whom they see as savior, whom they call almighty, for whom people kill each other- are nowhere to be found. With religious places shutdown, religious worship ceased to be center around which life revolves. More importantly, how many religious institutions have come forward for the sake of humanity in times of crisis? This offers a necessary reality check.
The purpose of creating God and religion was to unite people, to spread the message of love for humanity. On the contrary, they have become source of hatred and disunity, even in time of crisis like this. Moreover, the objectives of unity and compassion can be met without God, as we are seeing now. So, perhaps, it is wise enough to set aside the idea of artificial, imaginary God and religion, which have long outlived their utility. Instead of spreading hatred and killing, we can embrace fellow human beings just as they are and learn to love all, without boundaries.
All this time, we were in a race. Race for wealth, fame, power, promotions, costly gadgets, fashion brands. When the breaking point came, we realized all these don’t matter. In fact, they never mattered as much as we thought they mattered. All these were giving us an illusion of happiness. Man lived millions of years happily without them. Happiness is not somewhere outside to be chased, it is within us, within the small things that we fail to appreciate.
Two months ago, we were talking about the disruption of 5G technology, age of artificial intelligence, man landing on Mars, gene editing. In less than a month, an unknown virus has brought the world to a standstill. The economic forecasts, the scientific plans, the futuristic predictions – all failed to even imagine this big disruption. All our bets on the future are based on our arrogance and illusion that we own our future. We don’t.
While the planning is done and decisions are taken at the top, fight against COVID-19 needs action at the local level. Monitoring at village level, spreading awareness, delivery of services, avoiding panic – all these require locally empowered, trained people. Without these, the battle would have been only half won.
China’s economic rise, its control over global supply chains, coupled with USA’s inability to contain the spread of COVID-19 and failure to set an example of leadership, will further embolden China’s position at the world stage. USA’s allegations over WHO as being “China Centric” are not completely baseless. If not anything, it makes clear one thing. The age of Pax Americana is over and we are living in the post-American world.