The day after the virus


It’s still too soon to say when this coronavirus nightmare will be over; or, for that matter, just what kind of changed world is left behind if it lasts too long. But it is already abundantly clear that governments around the world will have to redefine their priorities. How could it be, really, that the world suddenly faces an existential threat in the form of a virus that nobody can understand despite all the technological advances in the field of medicine? And, even in the 21st century, we live in a world where there aren’t enough ventilators, hospital beds, or even mortuaries to face a real, full blown crisis; even though the coronavirus threat, for all its damage, is still not quite as full blown as it can get. If only such things could be handled with bombs, bullets and super-rich shareholder bailouts, things wouldn’t be nearly as dark.
Coming out of the virus, there is a clear need to reorient popular funding towards protecting and saving the world and its inhabitants. All the expensive weaponry produced by some of the world’s wealthiest, and politically most connected, firms will amount to nothing if much of the planet’s population is suddenly wiped out by a freak pandemic. And – this is another thing that the super-rich just wouldn’t have thought of in ordinary times – the coronavirus is least impressed by one’s bank balance, financial worth or pedigree. And not all the people lying on hospital beds, not sure whether they’ll live or die, are from the lowest sections of society.
In Pakistan, too, governments have ignored the welfare of the common man for far too long. As a result, while we have powerful political elites and feudal dynasties that keep the system running by hopping onto whichever party is headed for Islamabad, nobody has yet done much to protect the interest of the people. We never made schools and universities that can produce world class engineers and doctors. And we neither make nor ever imported in right numbers the kind of things we might need in real emergencies. Whenever the coronavirus passes, some serious thought should go into redefining national concerns and adjusting the annual budget accordingly; as no doubt much of the world will do. The way we have been running the country it would have run into disasters even if it weren’t for the coronavirus. There’s an urgent need to reset our priorities. Hopefully this crisis will provide that opportunity.