My thoughts today-
COVID-19 has taken over the world stage. As infections rise to an alarming number of 1.6 million globally, and with the whole or most of the world locked down, I am feeling compelled to share some thoughts that have been troubling me for the last few days. While it is encouraging to see that the whole world is coming together to combat this challenging fight against this extraordinary virus that does not differentiate between rich and poor, urban or rural, powerful or weak, Prime Ministers or clerks, I wonder why is this difficult time so different than other difficult times and tragedies that the world has seen and is going through as we speak? Why is everybody so in sync and collected this time?
Isn’t it just because it has now been proven that this pandemic affects the affluent, the powerful, the middle class, anybody and everybody alike so the world is taking note of it because we want to save our own precious lives?
What I find strange is how we have rarely given a thought or paid attention to the 1.5 million people from low-income and marginalized populations that die every year due to Tuberculosis. Or that about 3 million people do not even get the treatment for this ailment at all. This is because unlike COVID-19, TB is predominantly a poor man’s disease that breeds due to unhygienic and impoverished living conditions. It is contagious, but it does not affect affluent people as they are not exposed to those living conditions. I wonder if any of today’s self-sufficient souls, with well-stocked kitchens, secure homes, working-from-home status and maintaining social distancing have ever felt or done anything for these 1.5 million dying each year? They are just numbers, merely statistics for all. On the contrary, as COVID-19 kills rich and poor alike, the whole world seems be together in its fight.
I wish that this wave of compassion and empathy that has now suddenly but pleasantly emerged in the world stays for times to come, and that some attention is given to the eternally existing humanitarian catastrophes that continue to affect the world population. As an example, there are more than 71 million refugees around the world, some in camps, some in very dangerous conditions. There are people dying in hundreds of thousands due to HIV and malaria and much more. In India itself, there are now 5 million internally displaced migrants in isolation camps getting barely enough to eat, no money at hand, nowhere to go. All this due to incredibly harsh measures against the poor to enforce the lockdown. Wish it was handled better with some empathy.
People that are in their comfort zones are able to follow the precautions to prevent spread of this virus, but they often very comfortably look at the underprivileged with disdain for furthering its spread. Unfortunately, it’s not that people stuck in deprived conditions aren’t serious or sane, or do not love their lives or of their loved ones, or are not sensible human beings, or want to expose others to the deadly virus. They are simply unfortunate. We cannot blame them for prioritizing their day-to-day survival over the spread of the pandemic. We have to be sensitive to their conditions, their psychology and their limitations when it comes to blaming them. We need to push for a collective action to create conditions that enable them to take the measures necessary to contain the spread.