Dead as a dodo
Farrukh Khan Pitafi
The writer is an Islamabad-based TV journalist and tweets @FarrukhKPitafi
Nothing is perfect in this world. Everything comes with two sets of attributes. Fatal flaws and redeeming characters. When you want to cancel something, you look almost exclusively at the former. When you want something to be accepted you talk up the redeeming features. In the end, it is the balance between the two that separates the good things from the bad. Or as is likely, the popular from the unpopular. Wondering where I am going with this? To a simple and yet shocking question. Is humanity totally useless and incapable of redemption? If you are hoping that I am about to say something mollifying in response, please do not hold your breath. All evidence sadly confirms the implication inherent in the question.
Have you spared a thought about the shape of things after the Covid crisis? If it is ever truly gone. The evidence suggests that the world will look and sound even dumber than it sounds today. Why? Because the seriousness of the crisis hasn’t sunk in even now. Even after around 140 million infections and three million deaths. After vaccine shortage and uneven distribution is exerting ungodly pressure on the existing healthcare and life support facilities. India is rapidly running out of oxygen. The state of critical care in Brazil is in shambles. Since our Indian friends will get offended if I highlight their flaws without adequately berating Pakistan, let me state here that in this country it is hard to reflect on the state of things because in its infinite wisdom the media has stopped covering the matter in granular details. Happy? Elsewhere, it is bedlam. At the outset, the virus told you it was everyone’s enemy, and it did not care about race, ethnicity, faith, nationality, caste, geography, or any other such construct. But what did you do? Singled out the country of origin and started spewing hate against it. And guess who suffered the most? The poor Johnnies whose great grandfathers had given up their countries for yours and had been totally loyal subjects. Some experts realised that the virus usually entered your body through the mouth and nose so perhaps wearing a mask was a neat idea. And the prima donnas rejected it in the name of freedom or by simply claiming that they could not breathe. A likely story. The man who told you that a good way to kill the virus was to ingest or inject bleach or disinfectants into the body won over 74 million votes in the US presidential elections. Perhaps, the voters saw the wisdom in the simple fact that the mainstream media was hell-bent on obscuring: that killing a body would most certainly kill the virus in it.
Just think about the simplest of solutions that were recommended by the experts and the creative ways you invented to undermine them all. If there was a Nobel Prize for stupidity, deservedly humanity would have won it more than once by now. Just to rub it in, let me remind you what these instructions were. Wear a mask in public. To avoid accidentally inhaling someone else’s infected droplets ensure that you position yourself at six feet distance from others. Since your hands are usually the dirtiest parts of your exposed body, make sure that you wash them often with soap for 30 seconds. Because you cannot carry a bar of soap and water around to wash your hands in public don’t touch your mouth and nose and use a sanitiser. To ensure that you do not inadvertently carry the virus to your home, try to keep your house clean and stay indoors as much as you can because let’s face it you know you cannot be trusted in public. Then the good doctors and researchers developed a whole range of vaccines to take care of the problem. And what did you do? You decided that you could not trust them. Every breakthrough was met with a whole host of conspiracy theories. If you have been a part of the exercise to spread these lies, please know that you are a stakeholder in the deaths of three million of your fellow human beings.
I have no personal experience of these vaccines because I have not yet qualified for one even though I know people who are leading a happy life after vaccination of course. But I can tell you why the other precautions work. Because although I cannot say it with certainty about tomorrow, so far owing to my pre-existing conditions I have adhered to these simple precautions (which are so basic that a kindergartner can follow them) and have been Covid free until now.
So, if these guidelines work and are so simple that a child can follow them, what do 140 million infections worldwide tell you? That mankind is doomed. And its tombstone inscription will read: Died of stupidity.
You do not need Isaac Asimov’s Hari Seldon or his psychohistory to tell you about the precarious future. Why do that when you have a mirror to tell you the truth? The novel coronavirus is only the first superbug of this century, not the last. Deadlier ones will come. Other freaks of nature will emerge. The Covid crisis and the response to it are only the full-dress rehearsals for what is to come. And then there is the fetching matter of the freaks of human ingenuity. From nuclear arsenal, short-sighted exploitation of earth resources, the unclean codes of weaponised artificial intelligence, tinkering with the human genome, social media, and broader, the all-pervasive drought of imagination.
Is there a way around it? There is. That all nations give up politics, paranoia, and hate and vow to work together for the collective security of mankind. That the UN in its current shape is empowered and given enough resources to help those who are left behind. That without giving up profit motive businesses suspend their desire for profit maximisation at all costs and invest in more equitable solutions for all. That the religious elite of all faiths realise that the wellbeing of its followers comes first and the Kumbh Mela in India, the street agitations by now proscribed religious organisations in Pakistan can wait. That politicians and the culture warriors give up their bickering at least momentarily for the greater good. That you wear a mask, wash your hands with soap, maintain social distance and take vaccine when it is made available to you. Can this happen? Of course. But will it? I am not holding my breath because it is extremely improbable.
So, what is the one prognosis then? Dumb as a doorknob, dead as a dodo. Humanity cancelled. Good Luck!