The global village must be reduced to individual hamlets fiercely guarding entry and exit points
So much for the oft-touted concept of a global village and connectivity.
A simple quirk of nature in the form of a virus has put paid to the trillions of dollars spent on science and research. Countries are falling back on the time-tested isolationist measures that were once said to be a hindrance rather than a blessing.
From the richest to the poorest, people are facing up to the stark realities of not enough investments in the health sector manifest in hospitals bursting in capacity considerations leading doctors to have to decide which of their citizens should live and who should die.
The world order that emerged after the Second World War was designed to do away with autocracy, enable economies with the wherewithal to prevent any future conflict, and give people the right to decide their way forward. But the very democracy with which this order was wrapped soon gave way to the survival of the fittest strongly laced with economic superiority.
Countries that were exploited in order for others to thrive soon found their appeals for compensation falling on deaf ears. Most had to be content with the trickle of assistance that was never going to be enough to meet basic needs of their peoples. Decades were spent in hammering out international trade agreements and decades more in trying to agree who was playing ball.
It wasn’t democracy that enabled China to get a handle on coronavirus, it was sheer repression. That was the way it had to be in order for the spread of the disease to be contained. After the initial condemnation, the world woke up to the reality that it had to be cruel to be kind. Now there’s a new spin to the global lockdown that has effectively kept at home some one billion people.
It’s called a “war footing.” Even as all energy is being diverted to address health needs of a virus that has no cure, it has become obvious that in order to prevent panic, governments and leaders were essentially in a state of denial. Some still are. The consequences were obvious. Despite the appeals of the World Health Organization, not enough priority was given to preparedness. As the pandemic spreads with no one having a clue as to where it will end, the elderly population, in particular, are paying the ultimate price of such callous governance.
We are now facing a situation where bodies of the elderly in Spain are having to be recovered by the army with close family having fled, and a phenomenon whereby the individual has to pass away with, if lucky, a few doctors and nurses surrounding them.
Nor does it help to introduce concepts such as “social distancing” in countries that are densely populated and where, in messes and slums, people live packed like sardines. The more able countries have scrambled to find finances to tide people over loss of jobs, protection of businesses, and assisting the unemployed, even as lockdowns are imposed and extended.
No one is asking what will be the fate of countries such as Bangladesh that have nowhere near the resources required for similar action.
The United Nations secretary general has made a feeble call for a $2 billion dollar fund to assist the less well-off nations. There has been no response from anyone.
Much before this delayed appeal, the World Bank, IMF, and WHO have announced financial packages for the world that pale before the trillions and billions being committed by affluent countries both to address the treatment of the virus as well as providing economic stimuli.
While sad, it is understandable that governments must act to protect and assist their citizens. For now, the global village must be reduced to individual hamlets fiercely guarding entry and exit points.
Mahmudur Rahman is a writer, columnist, broadcaster, and communications specialist.