To expect the unexpected and be prepared for it | Pakistan Today

To expect the unexpected and be prepared for it

  • How do we manange the next time?

How unexpected is life that within a few months the world …the entire world is taken over and the life of all its people changed… perhaps forever… by a miniscule ‘thing’ whose very existence as a ‘living’ organism is debated. That tiny organism, about 10,000 times smaller than a single grain of salt, has managed to halt traffic… aircraft, trains, massive trucks, trundling containers, everything. It has shut down businesses, some of them run by powerful magnates, ruin livelihoods and impressive economies, and kill more than 300,000 humans around the world, more than nukes managed to kill in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In a world where humans boast about whose nuclear arsenal is larger and about being able to decimate their enemies by pressing a button, this tiny thing has ‘achieved’ much the same much more insidiously and very efficiently. Unlike clunky human bombs this organism has killed humans alone by means of a disease that has as yet no cure. Structures remain unharmed, houses, buildings and towers stand as before, and there is no damage to forests and wildlife. In fact if anything wildlife has thrived in the absence of man on the streets and with the decrease in the atmospheric pollution he caused.

Can something be done so that even if there must be a lockdown… and the need will definitely arise again… we can survive it?

Never has humanity been more united in distress, nor human beings worked more determinedly towards a common goal, a worthy goal, as they do now when they’re racing to develop a vaccine to combat covid-19, the disease. And never has what is good and what is bad in human society been more starkly differentiated for all to see. The inefficiency, the materialism, the selfishness, the opportunism displayed by a few persons in stark contrast to the selflessness and devotion of the many… doctors, nurses, medical researchers, charities and the such whom the world can never thank enough.

Never have the most crucial problems in society been more thrown into relief, like the important bits in a document being highlighted in fluorescent colours or typed in a bold font to catch the reader’s eye for maximum impact. We see starkly as never before the difference in the suffering of the rich on the one hand and the less fortunate on the other. Perhaps it was needed to put it this way because the difference was always there and was always stark but we had got used to it.

The world has become used to incorporating poverty within it as if it were some kind of necessary ingredient, like leavening in bread or water in coffee. We exist within viewing distance of poverty, we allow it to persist and grow as if nothing can be done about it. We accept without much question the differences that exist in society, in housing, education, nourishment and health care. This is not just in Third World countries, it is also in countries like the USA where homeless persons may be found living in parks in residential areas, where the difference in health care is mindboggling depending on whether you have insurance or not, or in Pakistan the difference between being able to afford a good private hospital or not.

It is inequality that is more or less inevitable, not poverty, the kind that leads to immense disadvantages… that is not necessary at all, and something can be done about it if the will exists.

If even after this, these issues are not tackled, then the next disaster might come that much closer to annihilating us all. And there will be nobody to blame but ourselves. If we are still alive

Now, for the poor, the choice is very much in black and white. For the others there are options. For the poor this episode of covid-19 has been a choice between dying of the virus and dying of want. For the rest it has been an inconvenience, of having to make do without help, of having to disinfect and wash and not being able to socialize. But in the process we have seen the interdependence of one upon the other, how much we need various trades– the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, and how much they need our custom. It comes home to us that everyone does not have a bank account much less access to online banking, so people don’t get paid while there is a lockdown, or they are not paid because they do not earn. So there is an increase in violence, what a surprise.

Can something be done so that even if there must be a lockdown… and the need will definitely arise again… we can survive it?

If even after this, these issues are not tackled, then the next disaster might come that much closer to annihilating us all. And there will be nobody to blame but ourselves. If we are still alive.

Rabia Ahmed

The writer is a freelance columnist. Read more by her at http://rabia-ahmed.blogspot.com/



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