Deepa is a freelance researcher and journalist. She writes and makes documentaries and videos.
There is Unrest Across the World
Already devastated by the coronavirus crisis, the world witnesses the depressive televised tragedy of Afghanistan 24x7 these days. In South Africa, the country in Africa worst hit by Covid 19, rioting and anarchy erupted and continued for several months. The fire of a proxy war is still burning along the borders of Israel and Palestine. International Crisis Group warns that a pandemic of this scale could trigger dangerous conflicts in “fragile states”. A delusion that the world would forget differences and come together in solidarity to wage war against the pandemic has crumbled very early.
Creating the ‘Other’ to Blame for the Crisis
Many view the pandemic as an opportunity to reinforce a sense of collectiveness. Christopher Boem, a cultural anthropologist who probed conflict extensively, sees culture as a mediating solution to the conflict. Is conflict escalating because culture is banished to the fringes of life during the pandemic? Culture is no more a priority. Humanity needs culture more than ever for its calming effect, and its ability to provide a sense of belonging to the social sphere. Lack of cultural togetherness can be dangerous in such times. A crisis is a platter of blame and guilt served steaming for those fringe groups who are obsessed with a villainous ‘other’. For them, some ‘other’, not themselves, are responsible for all the ills that come to haunt them. Thus, a crisis becomes the perfect breeding ground for hatred and violence.
Hunger Spots Newly Emerge in the Pandemic World
Inequalities deepen and widen when access to life-saving medical care becomes a distant hope for many. Job losses and an uncertain future mar a clear vision about life itself for millions, especially the young. Scarcity of food looms over the global horizon. United Nations has identified 20 hunger spots across the world prone to famine risk. The Hunger Hotspots Report published in 2021 July by the World Food Programme says African countries top the list. How do we reassure ourselves about a better future? All universities, research institutions, should give serious thought to futuristic studies, and to finding sustainability solutions for the common people devastated by the pandemic.
Why Solidarity is Important During the Pandemic
Culture and collaboration must be our motto for moving ahead. The developed countries should come forward and shoulder the responsibility of ensuring equitable Covid care. The world could conquer smallpox only when WHO and the nations came together in a massive and global vaccination program funded and implemented collectively. Why do we lack a similar concerted will today? Why is it left to the nation-states alone to protect and help their people? Is closing the borders and creating fragile safe spots going to help?
What is the World Leaders Doing?
World politics or politicians did not change much in the face of novel coronavirus. Political conflicts are supposed to be replaced with collaboration when the world is face to face with such an apocalyptic event. Instead, politics surrounding Covid 19 created murky geopolitical turf wrestling, for example, between China and the US. National boundaries have no effect on this killer virus but people tend to live in an illusion of security provided by the political state and other abstract notions of identity.
Many of us may agree that the Afghan aspirations for a better democracy should arise from and get nourished by the Afghanistan soil itself. Meanwhile, humanitarian and medical assistance by the rest of the world might convince the Afghan rulers long-term that no agent can fight in isolation against a monster such as Covid 19. The world should not abandon Afghanistan, Taliban, or no Taliban. Professor Yuval Noah Harari, the well-known author of the books such as ‘Sapiens’, thinks the pandemic is a turning point for human civilization. He warns that we should be more concerned about our “inner demons” rather than the virus, and predicts the rise of more and more totalitarian regimes.
Democracy in Peril
Violence spreading in the society, and abuse of power by the state are the two faces of a monster that can overpower and destroy democracy. The governments are trying to smuggle in policies and laws that otherwise would attract public opposition, and they make an excuse for the pandemic. There must evolve ways to strengthen democracy, forums that can oversee the society in crisis, and also in the transition to a new normal. In my country, India, the Whatsapp and Clubhouse chat rooms are alive with many discussions but the dilemma is how to rise above these tea-cup protests and move towards the real exercise of power by the people. New forms of protests and collective action are in dire need.
Dw.com, Interview with Yuval Noah Harari.
World Food Program Report on Hunger Hotspots
International Crisis Group
Christopher Boem’s writings.
© 2021 Deepa