“Human Kind” and “Gentlemen” had become obsolete words in Pre-Corona era. Human beings were neither kind nor men / women were gentle to each other or to their habitat. The consequences of this cruelty and unkindness have never been more exposed as in the last 8 weeks. While a lot of speedy progress has been made in the gaps of science, the real challenge is fulfilling the void in “being human”. Testing for COVID- 19 is being ramped up. Vaccine for COVID-19 is already under trial. But the real test or trial is whether nations will ramp up their humanity reserves to face a crisis that cannot be solved just on medical grounds. The richest, the mightiest and the super powerful countries have all started to look powerless in the face of a virus that has gone out of hand. Wealth and resources have started looking lesser and less, and leadership clueless. From the US to UK and from Paris to Madrid the scenes remind you of horror movies showing ghost towns, hospitals that are littered with dead bodies and businesses that are hitting a new bottom every day. The economies of abundance have started looking like the economies of scarcity.
The mask of the glittery world has slipped. Behind the pomp and grandeur of the booming lifestyles is the stark reality of a world that can no longer pretend that “all was, and is well”. The pursuit of unlimited wants and desires had on one hand led to unimaginable advancement in technology and economic development but had also created stark inequalities in these countries. Even without the two World Wars this was world without peace. Wars and destruction were visible in nearly every region of the world. The word globalization had become so common that nobody really understood the implication of this philosophy. The world was cut into first, second and third worlds. This division was based on wealth and the health of people living in these contrasting worlds. The first world was the dream world of affluent people, with comfortable life styles and longer live spans. The second and the third worlds were the lesser fortune holders and the less fortunate people live in these two worlds.
Sights of overcrowded and under-resourced hospitals, patients being refused medical care, bodies in coffins lying unattended, long lines for people waiting for pittance food packs were all associated with Sub Saharan countries. These sights are now being shown in the dream cities of New York, London, Paris and Madrid. That is perhaps the biggest wake-up call for the world. Also, it is perhaps the scariest. These countries were the models of human development. The pandemic has put such pressure and strain on a system fed and bred on being “bigger and more” that it has cracked and crumbled under the first global natural disaster of this century. These cracks have been caused by the following 4 “norms” that acted as termites on real human values.
1. Consumerism Waste-In the last five decades there is a race to earn more, spend more, have more and show off more. The capitalistic model that encourages free markets has created a living for the moment and living beyond means imbalance in society. The more developed countries in the West became models of affluence where all classes of society believed in working incessantly for 5 days and then spending incessantly for 2 days. Gadgets, clothes, items were brought with unending greed rather than need. The latest model of phone, car, watches, the latest designer labels, encouraged wasteful production and consumption. Factories exhaled toxic pollution and consumers littered the environment with harmful pollutants feeding and flourishing viruses.
2. Fragmented Family Systems- The heaviest death tolls in Europe are in Italy and Spain. One of the main reasons is that they have the highest ratios of aging population. Almost 90% of fatalities are in ages 60 and above. The problem with aging population is not just of lower immunity but also lack of family care available in these cultures. Most aging parents and grandparents live on their own. Children and grandchildren are working and living their own lives and visit only on Christmas or other family occasions. Old people homes and caring homes are full of older people who are occasionally visited by their families. In the heatwave, last summer, many older people died in France as they did not have younger people around them to protect them from the searing heat and providing first aid. The WHO says protect your elders from this virus, but unlike in the eastern culture where parents and elder relatives are the responsibility of the children, western societies have moved away from this family protection network.
3. Arrogance Supremacy-The twenty-first century saw the emergence of nation states that were beset with not just capital accumulation power but racial and religious accumulation of power. While Trump raised the bar of white supremacy, Modi raised the religious superiority hysteria. They say the test of a nation and individual is in two moments- in high times and in low times. Modi’s unprecedented electoral success unleashed his ruthless Hinduvta extremism. Kashmir lockdown and then riots in Delhi over the controversial Citizen Amendment bill exposed the inhumanity of Modi. During this pandemic Muslims have been targeted as “Corona Terrorist” and mob lynching has gone up. Discriminatory treatment in hospitals against Muslims has highlighted the Hitleristic values of the ruling party.
4. Self-Serving Individualism- The focus on competition and in fact “cut throat competition” has really made cooperation and collaboration seem impossible. The western societies that were envied due to their productivity and people development have been found wanting. The mad rush on grocery stores to buy it all has left many people bereft of bread and flour. Long queues on food dole-outs belie the welfare systems of the developed countries. On the other hand, BBC has written on “the law of generosity in combatting COVID 19 in Pakistan”. They have given example of how societal and religious values in Pakistan are exhibited in the way people are whole heartedly focused on providing food for the under privileged communities.
This pandemic is a unique crisis. Neither science, nor wealth, nor countries or people alone will be able to get the world out of it sustainably. It will be the collective will, collaborative spirit and genuine sharing, caring and giving to each other that will take the world out of this unprecedented trial and tribulation confronting the human race.ANDLEEB ABBAS, "Humanity on profound trial," Business Recorder. 2020-05-04.
Keywords: Social sciences , Human Kind , Medical grounds , Leadership clueless , Economic development , Medical care , Human development , Family Systems , Hinduvta extremism , PM Modi , India , New York , London , Paris and Madrid , WHO , COVID