Of conformity and stupidity

By Raffique Shah
October 27, 2020

Raffique ShahAt age 74, and stricken with two “co-morbidities” as members of the medical profession would describe Parkinson’s Disease and asthma, I know that if ever I contracted the Covid-19 virus, odds are that it could be a fatal affliction, that I’d likely die during such encounter. Both conditions compromise the body’s immune system. There is no cure for PD, and asthma attacks the respiratory tracts. Hence if I value my life, I need to exercise extreme caution, adhere to the Covid-19 protocols, and until a vaccine is available or treatments are developed to eliminate the virus’ devastating impact on human beings, I should take cover, preferably in a “bubble”, and stay safe.

I should add that I have long lived in relative isolation, what with PD, which is a degenerative disease, restricting my ability to move around freely. So the new drill, when it came in March or thereabout, was comparatively easy for me to adjust to. I hardly left base, choosing to stay at home where I know every nook and cranny. And since I had tonnes of books ready to be read, a supply of good music, and during the lock-down I learned to watch television, to appreciate some shows I never paid attention to before, I was good to go.

I have done a detailed account on how I have fared thus far in the pandemic because I know that Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley will likely “free up” some of the restrictions that were imposed since March, and we shall be subjected to loud grumbling from many in the populace who expect to return to the freedoms we enjoyed before Covid-19, people who fail to come to terms with the reality that life will never ever return to the “normal” we knew, not if we value human lives as being somewhat higher than those of stray animals, pests, or unwanted vegetation.

I concede that the population, indeed, people in countries across the world, ought not to be made prisoners-for-life in their homes because of a virus. I agree that the delicate balance between lives and livelihoods must be administered with a compassion that is human in every regard. We must find ways of ensuring that public spaces, schools, workplaces, recreational and leisure environments are accessible to all who need to be there without fear of the heavy hand of public health officials or the police.

But such advances (just the use of that word frightens me) can only return if people are compliant with regulations that may be seen as harsh impositions, but which are necessary if we are to avoid going down the road to self-destruction. Simple hygiene that ought to have been second-nature to us-washing hands, not sneezing or coughing into other people’s faces, hence the recommendation that we wear masks in public places and practice social distancing-should pose no problems. Yet, we find leaders at the highest levels in the world, and their alter-egos in far-off countries, insisting on their “rights” not to comply with life-saving practices.

Look, I have no problem with those who argue that old geezers such as I have no guaranteed places in a post-Covid-19 world, that we should be reduced to manure to at least make some contribution to the global food production drive. I have instructed my family that if I contract the virus and end up taking up valuable space in a hospital, pull the plug, disconnect the oxygen line, whatever, and send me on my way.

But it would pain me to see children who have hardly started living their lives reduced to pitiful lumps fighting to breathe because some irresponsible adult refused to wear a mask, coughed into the open and infected the child just because the no-good rascal could not resist getting drunk, or insisted on partying in gay abandon.

Herein lies the rub, the real issue that we must face. If the public spaces and activities we are opening up add value to the economy with minimal risk to human lives, then that makes sense. But when people insist on enjoying their rights to get drunk, which, in turn, leads to loss of control of their faculties, not to add shame (think of drunken men and women urinating against walls, in the open), they endanger others in the society who comply with the law and adhere to public health regulations.

How does such activity add value to the economy? I have not singled out rum-shops and bars because I have any religious position (I do not), or because I dislike seeing other people “enjoy” themselves. From decades of experience I know that contrary to what Sparrow sang, ah drunken man is not a happy man: he is invariably ah stupid man.

If you think ah lie, as Sparrow might retort, ask my octogenarian friend Kenty. She wrote a book on the subject. Bring drinks, as the late Sprangalang would say/sing. Right, Kenty?

(This one is for Sprang, and for Kenty who is very much alive).