The Covid “Whys and Wherefores”
I, like 70% of the planet’s human population, have been sitting in the now very, very, very familiar environs of my home for the past 6 weeks. Please note that the last very is purely a function of the extreme intimacy with ones personal spaces nurtured by pandemics and possibly, global wars. Thankfully most of us haven’t seen the latter, but from the word on Nostalgia Street*, even those were more sociably congenial times than the ones we’re currently living in.
That being so, we’re also now constantly bombarded with news, views and opinions and a fair bit of media-propelled propaganda, persuasion and proselytism. The opportunity to step back and take stock in this information-gorged environment is becoming as difficult as it is necessary. The 21st century version of Orwell’s Newspeak* is unfolding in eerie global concordance as we parrot phrases, speculations and judgements with an unusual homogenous fervour and abandon. The Herd Mentality has unfortunately struck much earlier than any much sought after Herd Immunity as we navigate through the confounding dominion of the Mighty Microbes.
The above is meant to give some background to my subsequent Blog op-ed below:
On the face of it, the current “dithering” of the Pakistani government on the issue of permitting Ramzan-related en-mass worship seems lacking in political guts, glory and everything in between. (In fact, it comes across as a shameless pandering to the religio-political factions which have over the years dug their prayer-calloused heels quite deeply into the statutory landscape of the country). And that may be so in the clinical versions of democracy and statesmanship. But the political landscapes of the middle and low income nations can’t be fitted into constitutional ideologies created by the First World. The cultural, social and religious fundamentals are so complex and unique to each country, that painting them with the “magic” brush of western democratic ideals is hardly astute or effective state stewardship.
Pakistan has the dubious advantage of having one of the youngest populations globally (barring some African countries). Over 30% of the 230 million people are under the age of 15; and the average Pakistani is under 25 years old. We know that the best immunity to be had is the one that we develop while doing a brisk Attan* with the pathogen. We also know that it will be at least a year before the second-best option of a vaccine will see the light of day. We know too that neither our economy nor our national infrastructure is evolved enough to tide the republic through a long-standing/ indefinite lockdown.
We then, are in the dubiously optimal position to relax the ‘Stay at Home’ regimen, crank up the rusty engines as they are, of local industry and begin our lives Concurrent to Covid. Chances are that the herd immunity will kick in by the time the next wave of the virus washes up on our shores and we should be better placed to fight the invisible enemy – mostly Immunity wise, because expecting commercially, socially or religiously advanced miracles of our slap-dash citizenry is like expecting the cow to actually jump over the moon. There will be some losses and all lives are precious ….so the First world fairytale goes. But the biting reality is that far more of those precious lives will be lost through starvation, avoidable illnesses, elevated crime, lingering civil strife and other disturbing consequences of putting the lockdown spanner in the national works.
Which brings me to my ambiguous role as a spokesperson of the devout:
While the very spirit of this stubbornness to worship congregationally, reeks of selfishness and non communal fervour in every way, it is also that trademark cantankerous endeavour at keeping the civic energy buzzing which is the critical element. Maybe this time, our self-serving religiosity is being endorsed by the universe itself for the salubrious irony inherent in the devotedness. Maybe it is one of those rare occasions warranting madness that may some day…later this year in fact, with round two of the virus, be touted as a modern day religious miracle: God will have been front and centre of our Ramzan ardour as our biology too, triumphs; and we exponentially build immunity towards a more robust future. Inshallah!
De khudai pe aman.
*Nostalgia Street: tales of yore/ anecdotal blasts from the past
*Newspeak: propagandist language that is based on discouraging free/ independent thought through reduction in the nuance and ambiguity inherent in the language
*Attan: a folk dance indigenous to Afghanistan and northern Pakistan