By Raffique Shah
September 01, 2020
It came to pass in this not-so-blessed year 2020, that persons of far greater faith than I can imagine, convinced that God, in whatever manifestation they believed Him to be, was signalling the end of an era, epoch, curse, call it what you will, signing off on the old with pandemic flourish, and simultaneously setting the stage for the launch of a new beginning, an opportunity to wipe the slate clean and start afresh.
You of little faith may ask, with justification, how can we start afresh, encumbered as we are with an abundance of old geezers in pivotal positions? Voices will sing out from the heavens above: let them be! They have seen hell on Earth. Give them an opportunity to redeem themselves, to distinguish right from wrong, and offer solutions to the many troubled problems they and their kind have left us to resolve.
First, brethren, we need to steel ourselves for a protracted war, possibly eternal war, with enemy number one-Covid-19. There will be no magic bullets, no miracle drugs that will eradicate the invisible beast. Even if scientists create a vaccine, that will protect only those who are immunised, which will never be everyone in the world. We already have in our hands, quite literally, the simple weapons with which we can keep the killer-virus under control: proper hygiene and reduced social interaction, to which we need add only healthy lifestyles. If we can practice these simple restraints here at home, and the rest of mankind can do likewise in their countries, we can easily conquer Covid-19 and get on with our lives.
In fact, and this glaring failure on our part was exposed as the world waged war against the virus, one of mankind’s spectacular failures in dealing with diseases is reckless lifestyles, eating and drinking and smoking our lives away. Such excesses have burdened us with a range of afflictions that cut short our lives, or worse, reduce our existence to dependency on a bewildering array of pharmaceuticals that must rank marginally behind foods in their cost to patients and countries. Think about it: by dereliction of what we all know and always knew were critical to healthy living, we have, over generations, put our lives at the mercy of the truly global drug-overlords-network that makes billions, nay, trillions of dollars every year off us. Big Pharma, they are called, and they are huge in worth, in their heartlessness when pricing their products. They are the original money-or-your-lives bandits.
As we start writing on a clean slate-well, tablet or computer, whatever—here’s an opportunity for us to systematically shed our dependence on medical drugs, simultaneously using food as nutrition to enhance living and lifestyles, and in the process save billions of dollars every year. Such initiative, if only moderately successful, would free up huge sums of money that can be used instead for education, quality and affordable housing, leisure facilities such as community swimming pools and gyms.
This new beginning will start with the government and the nation recognising the importance of providing as much of the foods we consume as we can cultivate, in the process restoring agriculture and other modes of food production to places of primacy, honorable activities deserving of respect, commendation.
Covid-19 will have also stripped our one-or-two-commodities economy bare, lay it exposed not just before our eyes, but for all to see, including the regional and international lending agencies to whom we are heavily indebted. They will hardly pounce on immediately, what with most global economies in similar debt-holds. But they have evidence of our vulnerability, and will use that to remind us of the urgency for us to diversify the economy, and to reduce the multiple billion-dollar social-support programmes we have that have institutionalised the dependency syndrome among wide swathes of the citizenry.
I need note that I am among a minority of commentators who believe that we must find creative ways of supporting the most vulnerable in the society who are genuinely needy, not just plain lazy. I am not heartless to consign the poor and the sick or differently-abled to wretched lives. And regarding our economy, I am not ungrateful for what oil and gas and petrochemicals have contributed to help us maintain a fairly decent standard of living among most citizens.
But I am also cognizant of the banditry that has taken place over many years, pillage of what is really the people’s money by those entrusted to manage the nation’s wealth, among them politicians and public officials. Like many citizens, I have waited for decades to see the high and mighty, the exemplars of society, the “good citizens” Sparrow sang about, brought to justice, cast into jail, which is where bandits belong.
There can be no new beginning without an end to the pillage, jail in their tails.