People thought they knew what a pandemic entailed: loss, misery and an overall downward slope in the graph of everything between the happiness index to GDP growth. The novel coronavirus, however, has unveiled realities that humans thought could remain hidden behind the cloak of a gruesome disease. The past few months have been characterised by a paroxysm of antagonistic practices that have made matters of mortality rate and recoveries seem nothing more than trivial.
While one would expect people to be more sensitive, more compassionate, and generally more supportive of each other during these unprecedented times, humanity has digressed to an entirely polar path. Sensitivity has been ‘trumped’ by antipathy; compassion has been cremated by insouciance, and support has been crippled by egotism. World over, the coronavirus has made xenophobia and marginalisation of ‘inferior’ communities a more enduring phenomenon than the virus itself. It is almost as if the virus isn’t the disease, we are.
On one hand, we have researchers and experts who have made it their sole mission to come out with a vaccine as soon as possible in order to bring peace and stability to the world today. On the other hand, leaders including Donald Trump and Mike Pompeo have made racial fanaticism an overarching feature of all their addresses, which apparently are made in the ‘best interest of the people.’ Not only has Trump coined Covid-19 as a ‘China virus’, he also, according to Factbase, mentioned the term more than 20 times in less than two weeks. Moreover, Pompeo went to the extent of demanding the scrapping of the joint G7 statement, as many of the member nations refused to refer to the disease as the ‘Wuhan Virus’.
The fanaticism does not stop there.
Following the example of their political leaders, citizens around the globe have shunned Asians in every way possible. Even in India, citizens having roots in the northeastern part of India, as well as migrant labourers from the neighbouring countries of Nepal and Bhutan, have been labelled as ‘carriers’ of the virus and ostracised at their places of work or residence.
Furthermore, the term ‘coronavirus’ has been incorporated by people into their daily vocabulary as a racial slur towards people having ‘Chinese resemblance’. Over the past few months, countless instances of people defaming and insulting people from the Northeast by calling them ‘Corona’ have, yet again, shown humanity’s knack for bringing the worst out of a situation.
However, friction against the apparent ‘carriers’ of the disease is only one part of the spectrum of xenophobic activities that have surged with the existence of the coronavirus. Existing tensions between communities have also been exacerbated by the evils of mankind who have used the pandemic as an opportunity to further their own extremist aims. Even when people are struggling for survival, partisanship and radicalism have developed creative ways of thriving, as was exhibited by the discrepancy in the lack of coverage and the flack given to the incidents of ‘Tablighi Jamaat’ and ‘Amarnath Yatra’.
Why is it that people were so ‘woke’ about their safety during the congregation of the Tablighi Jamaat, but equally silent when the government approved of the Amarnath Yatra? Why were people so firm when it came to remembering that there were 4,500-9,000 people who had attended the former gathering, but were equally unperturbed in acknowledging the fact that there were going to be at least 2,000 people attending the Yatra each day, for over 10 days? What makes one congregation more ‘threatening’ than the other? What makes us think that one congregation would ensure better ‘social distancing’ and produce lesser cases related to it in the future than the other? We know the answer. But we won’t say.
Coronavirus is not the only virus that humanity is combatting right now. Thus, social distancing and maintaining personal hygiene aren’t (good) enough solutions for us to survive. Xenophobia and racism need to be eradicated, and not something to be used as a ‘cure’ or even precaution for a disease, which paradoxically worsens with its effect.
Note: The article was originally published here.