By Raffique Shah
December 27, 2021
Twenty twenty-one will be recorded as the year in which the Earth was battered by calamitous events that seemed set to fulfil the biblical end-times that Man has feared from the dawn of civilisation, or the advent of religions.
There were heat waves that sparked forest fires that ravaged Western America and huge swathes of the vital Amazon jungle, and shockingly, the Tundra region in the sensitive Arctic Circle.
Then rainfall of Noah-proportions unleashed floods that surpassed anything we had seen in living memory.
More than these events that showcased climate change that Man had triggered through a seemingly insatiable appetite for hydrocarbons of every type, which, in turn, sent global warming galloping, came Death riding not a pale horse, but a microscopic virus that mutated like nothing our imaginative science fiction writers could conjure.
Covid-19, in short order, invaded every country on Earth. It reached the unreachable, touched the untouchable, humbled the mightiest nations, bringing their immense industrial bases to a screeching halt.
Its long-but-invisible arms sent billions of people scurrying for safety, only to discover there were no safe places in which anyone could hide.
Covid-19 rendered our boasting of advances in technology hollow, imprisoned all of us in our homes that had become modern jails.
It was also the year in which the world erupted in wave after wave of social and political upheavals that defied explanation and left scientists, analysts and ordinary human beings wondering where we had gone wrong in striving to inculcate values—moral, spiritual and ethical—that we hoped would rescue Man from sliding into depravity.
It seemed that somehow, maybe mystically, Covid-19 had added to its immense reach the warped minds of supremacists, racists, and sundry deviants, who first flexed their muscle-bound primitiveness in the 2020 US presidential election.
In shock and awe we saw on television the incumbent Donald Trump use every devious measure he could to steal the election. Then when the results showed a clear win for Joseph Biden we remained in shock as Trump and his aides cried foul and refused to accept the results.
That debacle would climax in open, very violent insurrection that signalled a new type of democracy, one in which liars reigned supreme. Covid-19 was at it again. Blame Covid-19 for everything.
When the Covid-19 kill-rate neared four million and the up-ticking didn’t stop, nations were heavily divided on vaccination and by the end of the year we remained that way. Meanwhile Covid-19 marches on, taking lives in its wake and leaving us to face a bleak 2022.
Death surrounds us. Each of us knows at least a dozen people who have died either by Covid-19 or some other reason. My family lost Qadir in March and I lost a few other friends, colleagues, and acquaintances along the way. Just last Thursday, we buried a quietly powerful friend and fellow-revolutionary, Abraham “Shmoo” Mahmood.
In the mutiny trial 50 years ago while in prison he penned out an immortal, soul-stirring verse that haunts those who hear it today and resounds among those who identify with it. Powerful words befitting a philosopher, not a prisoner.
“Lately, I find myself going into my cell and locking the door. It is a snap lock and a vigorous pull locks it. It may seem strange to ordinary prisoners who want to spend as much time as possible outside. But in my cell, I am free. For when I lock myself in, I am locking out hatred, fear, suspicion and all the things that affect me and make the society that put me here.
“I am free from its hypocrisy, its strains and tensions until the door is opened and the prison officer shows his face.
“Sometimes smiling, telling me I can come out for air or to eat or bathe. He thinks he is being humane and he expects me to be grateful. Welcome back to the society, he seems to be saying.
“I think to myself and smile hypocritically at him and those who put me here. I would like to say to them, ‘You have not locked me in. You have locked yourselves out. I have long withdrawn from your society. Thanks for giving me sanctuary. Your party politics has shown me you consider me an enemy and for this I am grateful. For I can now show you my contempt and dislike of you with an easy conscience.’”
Abraham “Shmoo” Mahmood lived an exciting, adventuresome, daring life. I salute this comrade and friend and pay respect to the innocent victims of Covid-19.
As this year comes to a close I once again appeal to my fellow citizens to let reason triumph over stupidity. Be done with the lies that have cost us the lives of hundreds of fellow citizens most of whom succumbed because of them.
We’ll do well to prepare to wipe out Covid-19 before it wipes us out. Here’s to a healthy and rewarding 2022.