Those who contribute to the economy or seek to contribute to the economy during the pandemic should be celebrated. Those who sow panic and advocate hermit-like anti-social behaviour on social media should be rapped on the knuckles, if not censured. But in most societies, these verities are turned on their head during this so-called global event of the Covid coronavirus.
However, the pundits have come out in full force in an attempt to censure those who in small ways at least, patronize a restaurant, go to the corner shop and physically leave the ‘virtual world’ that is being imposed on them these days. Those who engage with other people and contribute to the economy do so in a technical sense at least at some risk to themselves.
But those who are germaphobic and cloister themselves at home contribute nothing most often, except to the spread of bad news. There is a ‘pandemic’ of bad news out there that is even more dangerous than the pandemic itself.
Twenty-five years down the road, when the story of the pandemic so called of 2020 and 2021 is written, it would be reviewed very differently in the rear view mirror of history. Similar retrospectives in the past looked at Y2K, for instance, as a fiasco. In the rear view mirror, Japan and Germany’s World War II conduct is seen as a mere aberration. These are today two of the most celebrated nations for the capitalist cause, and are held up as examples to Russia, which was considered an invaluable partner of the victorious Allied Forces during WW II, but is now considered errant.
The point is that the lived reality of today celebrates some people and some causes because society still worships at the godhead of bad news. But it is not the bearer of bad news but the silent worker and the silent delivery person and the rather intrepid patron of a restaurant that has kept especially a country of this sort, sustained during the pandemic.
Meanwhile it has been revealed — due to the pandemic — that so-called Western liberal democracies are mostly Police States. This has been the reality, but it has been suppressed by the news media that has wanted to portray China as authoritarian and regimented, but the West as being liberated and free to the point of being idyllic.
All this has been revealed to be absolute nonsense because the Police States in some industrialized Western nations have imposed the same if not more severe restrictions to contain the spread of Covid, than China. Moreover, the Western media has been powered by bad news that has celebrated arbitrary rule creation, such as the so-called two-metre distancing that is now supposedly being contemplated, in contrast to the one-metre distancing that was earlier recommended.
Those who are calling for total lockdowns are not doing themselves or anybody else any good. The sheer volume of traffic on the streets confirms the fact that people are not about to opt for a shutdown when they know that most of the reactions to this so-called ‘new Covid strain’, etc., is by way of panic. Even in India, where the bad news machinery of the Western media in particular portrays a picture of misery with queues for wayside cremations, etc., the fatalities from Covid per day stands at 0.0007 percent of the population. For hundred days, it would still be 0.007 of the population, which is not a number for Arundhati Roy to go to an insane fit over.
Roy, novelist turned social commentator contributed a diatribe to the British Guardian recently calling India’s Covid response a “crime against humanity”. It was mostly an attack on the nationalist politics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, but what it ignored was the fact that spreading bad news is not in and of itself a suitable response to the spread of Covid. She never tried to put those numbers in perspective in a country of a teeming population of over 1.3 billion.
The panic contributes to the slowing down of the economy — and ironically Roy is complaining of the Indian economy, which she writes, has been hollowed out by the Modi Government.
Her brand of bad news contributes more towards the negative economic fallout — and all these Cassandras everywhere whether it is Roy in India or any similar NGO hack in Sri Lanka are guilty of making the lot of the poor and the middle classes they are complaining about even worse. It is because they contribute to the negative perceptions that keep economies suppressed during the spread of the so-called global contagion.
The Sri Lankan people have begun to realize that the more they sacrifice ostensibly because of the pandemic, the more they hurt themselves. They have also realized that it is easy for the cunning with political agendas, and other misguided busybodies who do not answer to the general population because they do not face elections, to get around generating bad vibes, and generally attempting to spread panic.
It is also a pity that India has to get such a bad rap over the pandemic. Roy says that there was no “system” in India to collapse, but she knows the country — with a massive population, can sometimes be unwieldy. John Kenneth Galbraith called it a functioning anarchy. To take some endemic issues and to try to pin them on Modi and say that India failed miserably in the face of the pandemic is a stretch. By the same yardstick or at least much similar yardsticks, the United States also failed miserably in the face of the pandemic — and is Roy to say that the world’s superpower too did not have a system to speak of? The UK failed miserably also by many assessments, and then so did other similarly placed countries compared with India, such as Brazil.
The fact is that when there is so much negative hype disseminated each day by a pandemic obsessed media, it is easy to paint any Government or any ‘system’ as bad. Such negative reports create the vicious circle of more negativity, sometimes burying economies that otherwise would have stayed on an even keel despite the spread of the disease.
Sri Lanka is so over that, and we have to raise a hat to the policymakers who were not intimidated by the Cassandras, even though there was a bit of a learning curve at the beginning. But there cannot be too long a learning curve when running a country is involved — governing is not an experiment, and prescience and wisdom is called for. As for India, “India has possibly saved hundreds of thousands of lives with its decisive (albeit imperfect) interventions.”
That is the dispassionate verdict in a book India’sFight Against The Covid-19 Pandemic, by Chandrakant Lahariya, Gagandeep Kang, and Randeep Guleria. They are not Modi supporters. These are physicians who can make a neutral assessment of things, and do not have to rant as Arundhati Roy does, because she is more interested in a political agenda than she is about Covid.
We in Sri Lanka have been fortunately able to avoid all the negative imagery, but the burning bodies in “Covid pyres” in India were bilked by the news industry to create a very alarming picture, which is not the need of the time, because Indians need to be helped to get over the current phase with minimum damage.
Instead, the world is enjoying whipping up maudlin hysteria over our neighbour to the North. Fortunately, the Modi Government is too clever to be tripped up by the negative imagery of these news-cycle theatrics. The Indian PM has weathered many storms before, and he will likely weather this one too, and that is what is most likely despite the fact that those such as Roy have already nailed him to the cross. Besides, she is a novelist, and her imagination keeps running riot. But, by the way, look at Australia. The Aussies will fine and jail their own citizens if they return from India. Talk about Police States.