Thursday, June 08, 2023 | Dhu al-Qaadah 18, 1444 H
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The contradictions that torment contemporary pandemic societies


The Covid-19 pandemic is no longer about medicine, science, or health. It has now become a social phenomenon as several factors emerge through the political, economic, psychological, and social disaster that it has morphed into.

Why is it no longer a medical, scientific, and health issue? Because several different vaccines have now been developed, been approved, and are in circulation, with around 700 million people vaccinated, 8 billion yet to be treated. Pfizer, Astra-Zenneca, Moderna, Janssen, Novavax, Sputnik, Cor-V, CoronaVac, QazVax, Covaxin, and Convadecia, are those currently in use, variously, around the world. The pandemic has now evolved somewhat, and become globally, about getting populations treated, and here is where the socio-economic issues emerge, countering the global imperative of herd immunity as a defense against Covid-19.

The reality is that herd immunity, while being the only clear and coherent solution, faces political, economic, and social barriers, that are currently perpetuating global misery. Too many politicians, and global leaders, have to date demonstrated a contemptable talent for procrastination and confusion in fighting the pandemic, appearing to prioritize political survival and economic stability over their society’s needs. It is ironic that the global societies with enormous wealth and significant military might, also have the most enormous poverty, and are proving more vulnerable to the pandemic.

The cynical among us have identified capital gains by the more affluent, with employer’s practices and motives, even their capabilities, coming under the microscope. Who would have thought that organizations and institutions would be able to function effectively with their staff working from home? There is less traffic, less congestion, and significantly less pollution, but also, less control! Will management relinquish these dominance, power, and control psyches in a post-pandemic landscape?

It is, therefore, entirely understandable that those who are unable to provide sufficient protection and care for their dependents, who are bereaved, and who are unable to grieve, are further, exponentially ‘poorer’ because of lockdowns, closures, and redundancies, are showing signs of greater frustration. It is the disparity in mortality rates across gender, ethnicity, disability, and age, the social divisions existent in societies, that are rubbing salt in the wounds of the less affluent.

The social forces that we have been driven for centuries to acknowledge, of coming together, of demonstrating camaraderie and support for each other, our need for each other, through ‘thick and thin.’ While communities and families are riven with death, loss, and separation, those very issues are what generate an even greater desire for communion, friendship, and love.

Our human solidarity in adversity in the manner of the British during the German blitz of WWII, or the extraordinary survival of the Uruguayan Flight 571 passengers, a football team, in 1972, are social and relationship characteristics have been dramatically, forcefully, and rudely taken away, and the Internet, and virtual technologies are, wrote Michael Brennan, “ersatz, a poor substitute for the embodiment of touch and interaction that are the cornerstones of humanity.” Societally, and individually, we are also losing faith in the future, our futures, and Covid will not help in our positive re-imagination of that future, will it?

We cannot allow this pandemic to become a debate, an “I want,” or more importantly though ignorance and fear, an “I don’t want!” Like these... “It will make me infertile.” It has no effect on fertility. “The vaccine will give me Covid.” Impossible, it is synthetic. “I don’t need vaccination, I’m young and healthy.” You are as vulnerable as anyone. “Sanitation and hygiene are enough.” Certainly, they help, but vaccines protect. “Covid is not real!” So why are people dying? “It’s a plot, with the Chinese/Americans/ Elon Musk/ Bill Gates and 5G, to turn us into zombies!” Well... flat earth thinking is alive and well.

We, realistically, cannot do much about the politics and the economics surrounding the pandemic, but if we can understand that we are in the fight together, though distanced, we can take assurance that we are very much, not alone.

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