STATE OF THE NATION
A ‘C’ CHANGE: IT’S RICH AND STRANGE
Wijith DeChickera notices how the COVID-19 pandemic has pressed transformation upon an unsuspecting globe and caused viral changes
Viral plagues are nothing new in the history of humanity. From the Black Death that ravaged Europe in the Middle Ages to the so-called Spanish Flu, which laid low an estimated 50 million, nature red in tooth and claw has been a part of life… and death.
The tales of cultures and civilisations through the centuries as far apart as Inca, Greco-Roman and Chinese reverberate down the corridors of time, with whispered names such as cholera, bubonic and smallpox.
But the novel coronavirus seems like a sea change.
It has swept over a planet that is closer and smaller – a global village, if you like – in ways that the Greeks of the Peloponnesian War (430-426BC); Romans in the time of the Antonine Plague (165-180AD); and Chinese, Indians and Americans of the Third Plague Pandemic (1855) could only imagine.
From technology that tests, traces and isolates to technocrats who push the envelope in terms of alternatively treating or terrorising their fellow countryfolk, COVID-19 has shown itself to be a beast with a difference.
Not only because a more tightly integrated planet makes its people more vulnerable by virtue of the fact. But also the bounds of human integrity as much as ingenuity have been stretched like never before.
And yet, humanity is battered not broken.
LEGEND For one, the success stories – while not legion – are still for all that quite legendary.
From Singapore in its first flush to how New Zealand is handling its second wave, governments and iconic political figures such as the Jacinda Arderns of the world have stepped up to the plate – and delivered. Of course, when the dust has settled, their achievements may prove ephemeral: mere management of disaster with smoke and mirrors?
For another, there are the solid citizens of the First World who have more than muddled through. Germany under its second ‘Iron Chancellor’ Angela Merkel may well emerge to be a model of how to save lives magnanimously while managing to salvage livelihoods magnificently.
But how the once mighty have fallen! And it seems that in the Western hemisphere at least, the bigger they are – or appear to be – the harder they fall?
What critics have not been hesitant to call the downfall of the US may only be an inevitable swing of the pendulum for more cautious or discerning students of history. America was never going to be an exception to the rise and fall of empires. Greece, Rome, Egypt: their names are written in dust… or stony silence.
And last but not least, there are the ostensible ‘success stories’ where the defining line between being a ‘success’ or simply a ‘story’ depends on proactive innovation being applied by disciplined nation-states and their leaders, as much as propagandistic information being made available for popular consumption.
Facts are inconvenient while fiction affords a measure of comfort for the heart that very few human beings under duress can resist in their mind…
MYTH Sri Lankans may be to some the champions of a post-COVID-19 world – if and when we demonstrably contain the coronavirus with the vim, vigour and vitality that is claimed for our mitigation of the crisis in our protractedly emergency-ridden island nation.
Or we may show ourselves to be the true ‘covidiots’ of a planet that will be in peril even after a viable vaccine is developed and made sustainably available to all and sundry, not only the rich and powerful.
On the one hand, we’ve surrendered our sovereignty to a caretaker government that has responded with an iron fist in a velvet glove. Hats off!
On the other, ongoing concerns with democracy, human rights, civil liberties (and all that jazz) have supplied a necessary thorn in the side of a statism that may be taking people’s tolerance levels for authoritarianism in a national disaster too lightly. Mask off?
Let us not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments! Not only do people get the governments they deserve but governments also get the people they deserve. And they’re both mutually welcome to each other – as the outcome of the general election may well show…
Only a small coterie of outside the box thinkers may still nurture those seemingly outdated concepts such as parliamentary democracy or checks and balances between branches of government.
As for me, hope springs eternal that people will balance experience with expedience; discern between personality driven civics and principled governance; and realise it’s not whom you vote for – but whom your elected representative’s parties nominate for candidacy that matters!
These may prove to be hideously, horrendously, wrong – for the nation (nay, the planet) is on the verge of a sea change such as never experienced before. The age of democracy may be over… for a while.
Destiny is not what is fated to happen. Rather, it is what end we shape of chance as well as circumstance.
Hope springs eternal that people will balance experience with expedience; discern between personality driven civics and principled governance; and realise it’s not whom you vote for – but whom your elected representative’s parties nominate for candidacy that matters