At a time when humanity, with its mind-boggling achievements in various fields, is marching ahead like a juggernaut, trampling all other creatures and destroying the mother earth, there appeared a pathogen, invisible and undetected. And the apocalyptic pathogen brought the entire humanity to its knees and pushed it into a dreadful huddle.
It made us stop bragging about Artificial Intelligence and the Internet of Things for a while and start practicing how to wash our hands properly. It made us set aside our gregariousness and forced us to maintain social distance. It stopped us from manifesting our confidence through a firm handshake and made us stay clueless on how to greet the other person. It forced us not to ignore coughs and sneezes as mere natural reflexes and dread them instead.
However, if you conclude that only bad things are happening due to the outbreak of novel coronavirus, you are mistaken. The relentless spread of the pandemic has brought about an unintended climate benefit through reduced pollution, which led to cleaner air and water. Not only this, it even made many people shun the consumption of meat and turn vegetarians, at least temporarily. And, most importantly, humanity realized the unpleasant fact that its seeming invincibility is only an illusion and it continues to be vulnerable to various unforeseen threats.
The virus outbreak even created many odd situations. Normally, nations, when they observe the advent of a dangerous enemy, go out all guns blazing to neutralize it. But now, they are forcing all their citizens to hide behind their four walls and wait for the invisible enemy to pass. If you sit in front of your TV most of the time, you are branded as a couch potato. But now, they want you to sit in front of your TV for God’s sake to save humanity. And the globe-trotting businessmen and professionals, who are normally looked up in awe, are now being suspected and treated with contempt.
As the deadly pathogen keeps spreading like a wildfire, it is likely to bring about some radical changes in the way we perceive things and lead our lives. Therefore, it is timely to reflect on the likely changes the dreadful pandemic will force upon the world.
De-globalization: Globalization, which brought prosperity to some sections of the society, has been under the scanner in the developed world for shifting manufacturing facilities to the third world. It also created a tribe of globe-trotting businessmen and professionals, who consider themselves as global citizens. Now, the same people are carrying the virus all over the world with their irresponsible behavior. Their behavior is breeding more contempt among the ordinary people towards globalization, which facilitated the movement of not only men, material and money but also the terrible virus across national boundaries. In many parts of the world, the airports are closed and the people who fly across national boundaries are asked to self-isolate themselves. The growing opposition to globalization may finally end up strengthening the hands of right-wing nationalists, who are likely to build tall walls alongside their borders.
Socialism: It is the capitalism that paved the way for globalization, which led to a gargantuan increase in wealth. All the new-found wealth, however, got concentrated in the hands of a few ultra-rich individuals. Nevertheless, the outbreak of coronavirus is forcing governments all over the world to resort to socialistic measures. They are extending many benefits to people, especially the vulnerable, in the form of cash transfers to compensate for the job losses.
Strong Governments: For a long time, economists and social thinkers emphasized on minimum government, restricting its activities to only some fields such as defense and policing. The virus outbreak, which requires a herculean effort to contain, once again brought the importance of government machinery to the fore. Only a strong government with its institutions and men in uniform can deal with a crisis of this magnitude. Now, the people, communities and organizations are seeking governmental support to sail through the crisis. Even the big corporates, who advocate laissez-faire during normal times, are demanding bailouts and stimulus packages to sail through the crisis.
Changing Dynamics of Crisis Management: Normally, after every crisis – whether it is a terror attack or an economic crisis – the state heads reassure their citizens not to panic and urge them to show resilience by getting on with their usual lives. But now, we are observing a completely different phenomenon where the state heads across the world are resorting to scaremongering to force people to stay indoors. The reaction of the people to coronavirus threat has so far been undisciplined. If people don’t mend their way, governments may even resort to the use of high-handed methods to bring the situation under control.
Mercy Towards Animals: After the outbreak of coronavirus, the animal rights organization, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), made a tweet showing how the term ‘coronavirus’ turned out to be an anagram for ‘carnivorous’, highlighting the fact that the pathogen has its origins in meat markets. The relentless proliferation of non-vegetarianism, in addition to causing excruciating pain and suffering to animals, also turned the slaughterhouses and meat markets into the sources of various pathogens. Most of the viruses that afflicted humankind till now have animal origins, and therefore people must reform their food habits if they want to contain virus outbreaks in the future.
End of Individualism: The twenty-first century made unlimited freedom and individualism popular, which gave greed and selfishness the undue legitimacy. But the apocalyptic virus outbreaks are forcing people to set aside their individualism and withdraw into the protective cocoon of collectivism by sacrificing their rights and freedoms. The aftermath of the coronavirus outbreak made people hyper-vigilant about their neighborhood and the level of suspicion towards their fellow citizens skyrocketed. The onus of restoring trust is on everyone by behaving in a socially responsible manner.
It is difficult to accurately predict the changes the dreadful pathogen may bring about. If it turns out to be a dreadful crisis with relentless spread and mounting mortalities, it may even end up spreading hatred towards some nationalities and some sections of the society. It already made many people detest the Chinese. It may even make people detest frequent flyers and the people who frequently go on binge partying and compulsive shopping. It may make social distancing permanent, and it may even make the society love those people who manifest introverted nature. So, let’s wait and watch how the world is going to emerge out of this seemingly apocalyptic crisis.