The year 2020 will probably go down in history, not for anything achieved but for bringing out the deep fault lines in humankind.
Most importantly, the year represents the near-total collapse of compassionate leadership across the world.
The year began with the people who matter already knowing that a new, highly infectious disease was rapidly spreading its tentacles in many countries.
Recent evidence suggests that some cases emerged in Europe and the Americas in 2019, besides the original hotspot, Wuhan in China. No surprise here considering the number of people who travel around the globe every day.
Agreed that the disease has revealed something new almost every day over the last few months, what was known quite early was the nature of the virus, opportunities for transmission, probability of transmission, and susceptibility. For an excellent analysis in mid-March, please watch this TED interview – https://www.ted.com/talks/the_ted_interview_adam_kucharski_on_what_should_and_shouldn_t_worry_us_about_the_coronavirus?language=en.
If an ordinary citizen could access the interview in March, indeed, the leaders of the world could have utilized the expertise to drive decisions.
What we witnessed instead were extremes of emotion-driven decisions: outright denials, name-calling, panic, and nation-wide shutdowns without a shred of evidence to support that such measures would be beneficial.
In the process, our vulnerabilities are visible and scary.
In weeks and some cases in just a few days, millions lost their jobs and livelihood. Governments had to announce massive “stimulus” packages. The pandemic exposed the limitations of public health care, even in industrialized countries. Worse, people with other conditions such as cancer or heart disease or other life-threatening conditions had no access to health care at all. People in elder care homes were left to fend for themselves in the disingenuous premise that the virus would not reach them. In a gut-wrenching spectacle, millions trudged home on foot thousands of miles. “Stay home, stay safe” is a brilliant slogan that conveniently forgets that millions have no homes in the first place. Frequent hand-washing appears simple until you realize that millions do not have access to water (or soap).
The apathy on display will remain a permanent blot on our collective failure to show fundamental human values like compassion and empathy.
With no therapy available and a vaccine yet to be developed, what the world needed was evidence-based decisions. We would have been much better off with the truth, education, and an appeal to our innate strengths of harmony, society, and co-existence.
What we have got are half-truths, outright lies, mud-slinging, and an appeal to our destructive instincts.
Liberal democracies have used the pandemic to concentrate power in a few, a farewell to institutions and a system of checks and balances, leaving ordinary citizens in a constant state of fear.
Thanks to our stupidity, the virus has had a free run, killing over a million people in nearly 200 countries and leaving a scar of unknown proportions on the survivors. Worse, we may witness more deaths due to other diseases that have not received attention. An entire generation may have to grapple with mental health and stress-induced issues.
Why have our leaders failed us so badly?
Why have we failed as a species?
What do you think?
By: PROF. KRISHNA VENKATESH