No surprise that many of these leaders tried to downplay the disease. But no matter how strong the masquerade, covid-19 exposed the systemic inadequacies, exploitation and inequalities of the system. Optimists hoped that this may be the dawn of a new era. In all ingenuousness, it looked as if the virus had brought the capitalist framework to its knees, but facts suggest otherwise. Rather, the exploitation intensified and wealth burgeoned in the hands of the select few.
Mother nature’s final warning before the impending doom was paid no heed. The corona pandemic was an opportunity for the world leaders to sit back and delve deep into introspection; to look within and beyond national borders; to muster up the courage to challenge nationalism and populism; to embark on a journey to fight inequality; to look beyond religious and ethnic fault lines; and most of all, to take climate change seriously. None of that happened.
What was afforded to us as a second chance, to right our wrongs, was wasted recklessly and with no mercy. By 2050, Pakistan will be one of the worst hit countries due to climate change, forcing mass immigrations from low-lying areas and unpredictable flash floods. Karachi urban flooding was just a trailer of what is to come. Rather than collaboration, we witnessed political mudslinging, and among all this hue and cry, we have forgotten the underlying issue.
Just like this, the entire world from the global North to the global South has a memory like a sieve. As opposed to looking at the causes of the pandemic, they are busy in continuous pettiness and selfishness of their agendas. Exploitative capitalism, which has consolidated more than half of the world’s wealth in the hands of just 6 people or corporations, has further strengthened its position. Wealth of people like Jeff Bezos reached new heights, but no eyebrows were raised on why their labor remained unpaid, or was forced to work inhumane hours in hazardous environments.
Corona became an excuse to intrude in the personal lives of the masses. The five eyes of the world became more involved than ever. Even the financial bailouts rolled out were focused on banking and corporate relief, as opposed to safety nets for the masses. At the helm of affairs, a resistance to unite the developed and the developing world was witnessed. Where debts could have been written off, higher interest loans were given, and where cooperation was the need of the hour, the two global powers fought like cats and dogs.
With the pandemic century in full swing, I feel sorry for today’s youth, myself included. We will pay the price of today’s utter neglect, not short of criminal negligence. It is as if our lives have been cut short, and our future snatched away, by none other than the self-proclaimed generation of saviors of the world. But as the Romans say, Vincit qui se vincit(He conquers who conquers himself). In all naivety, we simply forgot to master our own urges and temptations, to look within.