No time to die

According to Donald Trump, who is eager to jump-start the US economy in an election year, the cure cannot be worse than the problem itself. Normalisation of the economy by Easter is wishful thinking going by the rate of infections in the US. Perhaps Trump should heed the makers of James Bond films, whose new title is “No Time to Die”. We know the problem, but there is still no cure.

In these critical times, when we are fed with so much information and misinformation, we are also guilty of sharing uncorroborated news and other articles through social media. Some say the end of the world is coming, referring to Nostradamus or some other soothsayer. The doomsayers quote religious texts about the end of the world. Then there are others who leave things to their faith in God rather than taking heed of good medical advice, putting others at risk.

Covid-19 has exposed human greed and stupidity. We entered the year 2020 with an insatiable appetite for more of the same, feeding our materialistic needs instead of nourishing ourselves with the spiritual goodness of the world. Environmental activists like Greta Thunberg were treated like lepers and dismissed by Trump as having anger management issues.

In the US, many thought the bull run would continue forever until it hit the barbed wire fence. Trump was confident that he would enter the election year with many positives on the economy. And he was not alone in this worldview of positive continuity.

We are now in a bearish market and with the way things are going, we will be in hibernation mode until we can find the antidote for Covid-19.

Globalisation now takes on a different meaning. The kind of globalisation in which national and regional economies, societies, and cultures have become integrated through the global network of trade, communication, immigration and transportation is being challenged by a new phenomenon, the globalisation of human disease.

It was hard to imagine decades ago that globalisation would also allow diseases to breach borders. Countries with open borders, like those in the European Union, are now trying their hardest to shut them. There are many heartbreaking stories reminiscent of those telling us about the separation of loved ones by the Berlin Wall and by the division of North and South Korea.

John Lennon’s song “Imagine” was an anthem for world peace. Dreamers were hoping the breakdown of borders were not defined by possessions or religion. Little did Lennon know that his line “Imagine all the people sharing all the world and the world will be as one” would also be about the sharing of diseases on a global scale.

It’s hard to fight an invisible army when you don’t have the right weapons to deal with it. For decades, we were engaged in an arms race to control our spheres of influence. Many countries built industries to manufacture arms for their own consumption and for export. The US and Nato are the biggest military spenders, followed by China and Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia, instead of helping the advancement of its own people and the Muslim world, chose to spend US$68 billion or 8.8% of its GDP in 2019 to arm itself and wage war against neighbouring Muslim countries. These countries have prioritised arms over healthcare and are now paying the price of their folly.

Nuclear deterrence and advanced weaponry are useless when the manufacturers and operators can be disarmed by an invisible agent that can multiply rapidly and morph into different variants to continue its damage. The theory of evolution by natural selection first formulated in Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species” comes to mind. Darwin’s theory is sometimes described as “survival of the fittest”, but that can be misleading, as “fitness” refers not to an organism’s strength or athletic ability, but rather the ability to survive and reproduce.

Doctors now have to play God and make the difficult choice of whether a patient should live or die due to the shortage of respirators. Darwin’s theory of natural selection over time and survival of the fittest takes a different meaning in the case of Covid-19. The selection process of who lives or dies becomes a game of Russian roulette.

It’s been 17 years since the respiratory virus called severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) appeared in China. Has the world learnt anything? No, we went on with our lives as if nothing had happened. We produced more arms, increased military spending, built more skyscrapers and destroyed the environment. We spend more on arms to kill people than we spend on research to curb the spread of diseases.

When people have no answer, they always attribute their situation to God’s will. The shortage of respirators is not God’s will. It’s due to man’s greed and stupidity. When people like Greta Thunberg sow warning signs all over the world, we swat her like we swat a fly, an annoying creature. We ignore such signs at our peril and pay the heavy price of loss of freedom.

Malaysians, like all citizens of the world, are now in unfamiliar territory. We are now prisoners in our homes while the virus continues its wanton destruction. This is not the time to die. We need to find the cure and help one another overcome this invisible army.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.

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