Mon. Apr 19th, 2021

Lessons to be learned from the Coronavirus

By Waseem Abbas

Coronavirus has wreaked havoc with an estimated 0.14 million casualties and 1.5 million patients in around 195 countries of the globe. The entire world is in almost a curfew-like situation after the outbreak of COVID-19. Schools, colleges, and universities have shut down for an indefinite period. Offices, markets, and offices (private or public) are open only for a few hours a day. Precisely, the whole world is in a standstill. The world, not only the third world countries but also the developed nations of Europe, is in awe as it has no clue how to deal with this pandemic.

Any positive, if any, that can be drawn from the corona epidemic is that it has shed light on the futile priorities of the states and the masses: defense over health and education, capitalism over socialism, and religious fundamentalism over secularism respectively. Although the immediate focus right now should be the prevention and the potential cure of the novel Corona Virus, in the long run, it should stir up questions on the existing political and social world order which failed miserably in amicably dealing with the epidemic.

The Coronavirus first erupted in December 2019 in Wuhan province of China. The contagious virus is an evolutionary specie of the malaria virus. Although its mortality rate is meager (i.e., 3%) as compare to previous viruses like SARS (15%) or Ebola virus (50%). However, its contagious nature makes it one of the deadliest and dangerous among the viruses.

Prioritizing defense over healthcare and education is one of the many fraudulent priorities that was highlighted by the virus.  Nation-states first create an enemy to legitimize its existence and then follow a blind race for arms to protect itself from that forged enemy. In the process, this blind race for armistice becomes a vicious cycle in itself.  Both Pakistan and India spend over 20% of their GDP on defense, but their spending on health languish around 3%. Both the countries have thousands of missiles and tanks, dozens of atom bombs, and innumerable arms and ammunition in their armor. Ironically, both are short of ventilators. Most of the casualties of the Coronavirus are from the developed world, which suggests that their health system is also in shambles. Along with the sham priorities mentioned, the menace of ignorance and religious fundamentalism played a crucial role in the spread of the virus.

The spread and the losses of COVID-19 could have been much lesser had the world had the audacity to let go of the religious fundamentalism for secularism. The Friday prayer leader in Mashhad city of Iran issued a religious decree stating Corona to be a propaganda of the West to keep the Muslims away from their religious duties. He advised the pilgrims to continue their pilgrimage in the holy shrines unhindered by the virus. He suggested that it would not affect them. This sluggish behavior led to the rampant spread of the deadly virus, which engulfed thousands of human lives not only in Iran but in other countries too. The religious fanatics around the world have expressed similar thoughts. The notorious Maulana Abdul Aziz of Lal Masjid arranged Jumma prayers in the mosque last Friday despite the government’s strictly forbidding it. Recently, the Government of Pakistan allowed offering prayers in mosques in the holy month of Ramadan on the insistence of religious clerics. It can cause an unhindered spread of the virus in the coming days, which then would be impossible for the government to control. The world needs to get rid of this religious fanaticism if it wishes to prosper in the post-corona world. By getting rid of the religious hedonism, we can only debilitate the ill-effects of any such calamity in the future. However, we need to tackle the menace of unequal distribution of wealth, so that everyone is capable of coping with any such catastrophe in the future.

The novel virus has wreaked havoc on the foundations of capitalism as it has failed to deliver the demands of its employees. The Capitalist world order needs to get bailed out by the state in every ten years. Its mantra has been to capitalize on the profits while socializing the losses. All the lead against the COVID-19 is in the hands of states with corporate organizations hardly seen taking any initiative. Corporate organizations around the world are looking at governments for their survival. It contradicts the traditional capitalist mantra that it is the only viable economic system to run the world. They posit that in the absence of governments’ support, many of its employees would be jobless. The Citizen Archive of Pakistan (CAP), a Non-Government Organization (NGO), sacked many of its employees from the job after the outbreak of the virus. Many white-collar employees have faced the same fate around the world.  The corporate world has created an atmosphere of uncertainty around the job security of its employees. It makes obvious its nefarious designs to minimize its losses (and maximize the profits) at the cost of the working class.

History suggests that after every great depression, there arises a period of comparative ease. Treaties of Westphalia emerged after the disasters of the European wars of religion. WW1 and WW2 led to the emergence of The League of Nations and the United Nations, respectively. These transformations were at large possible because the world had learned its lessons and was not ready to bear further scars. The world should seriously think of wiping out the old world-order (Capitalism, defense, and religious fundamentalism) in the post corona period. If we succeed in doing so, this virus will prove to be a blessing in disguise.

The contributor is a student at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). 

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