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March 28, 2020

Covid-19 and the vultures

Opinion

March 28, 2020

When vultures start hovering over a place it is assumed that they have smelt the dead or there is going to be a death under the sky.

Vultures have a strong sense of smell and they are one of the most insidious scavengers in the animal kingdom – but useful ones. There are other predators and scavengers too with the ability to prevent vultures from being the sole consumers of the dead. Nature has its own ways to set the course of survival for every living being unless it feels disruption and intrusion in its workings.

Vultures have the advantage of seeing the dead from the above but on the ground they cannot beat hyenas. There are other scavengers and predators too with the capacity to devour the dead into pieces more ferociously than vultures. No matter how high one flies it is the ground where wars are fought for survival. And those with an aerial view of earthly things can never win the war of survival unless they are conscious of earthly realities. This is how nature established its balance by providing a level playing field to every creature it has produced.

Covid-19 cannot be defeated with an aerial view. The vultures are less pernicious for the dead than our predatory capitalism which has penetrated deep into our flesh and bones, and continues to inflict pain without killing its prey. It annihilates not only nature’s endowments but also enervates our creative capacities to produce art, poetry and knowledge. The mammon science of capitalism is not of much use for human welfare and social protection as we now experience with the Covid-19 pandemic. Science has become subservient to corporate interests to maximize profits while human welfare and protection is the least talked about subject of progress and development.

New perspectives are coming up about the helplessness of humanity and its intrusive control over nature in the face of this pandemic. While cities are locked down and human beings practise collective quarantine, nature is recuperating from long-inflicted injuries. Deserted by people, polluted cities look cleaner now, rivers have less toxicity and turbidity, beaches are free of filth, the air is fresh and skies shine with brightening stars. It seems the human propensity to rob planet earth of its purity is being deterred with vengeance and our tormentor Covid-19 is out to restrict us from being the tormentors of nature.

All scientific progress, rationality, knowledge and technological advancement are of not much use to save us from this tiny virus. Our civility and magnanimity look too ephemeral and hollow to be proud of. With all this emptiness life continues to go on and perhaps we will forget all this once Covid-19 is gone. We humans have been forgetful, frivolous and shallow, and we will continue to inflict pain on nature once our miseries are over. We have chosen to be ruled by oblivion, frivolity and temptation to the consumerist pleasures imposed on us not by nature but by our political and economic systems. Every piece of our nature is now on sale and we have not only intruded into nature but exploited it to fill the coffers of predatory capitalism.

Our failure to tackle Covid-19 begs an important question. Where on earth are the state, the government and the public sector when they are needed the most as people are dying on a daily basis? We can conquer the Moon and Mars but we do not have adequate resources to provide universal healthcare to our citizens.

Human beings in general hate vultures and hyenas and all other beasts with a strong belief that this planet belongs to human beings only. Ethical teachings and religious scriptures also say that humans are supreme creatures with the birth right to rule the earth. In COP 25, the leading nations of the world denied the existence of any environmental degradation problem due to their greed. For them there is no nature beyond their bellies and there is no life beyond their ivory towers and palaces.

We humans have intruded into the habitat of other creatures of earth and have destroyed them to pursue our capitalistic goals of money and opulence. This money and opulence is not for the welfare of all human beings though, it is only for the few who control the means of production and who know no bounds to accumulate wealth for the sake of accumulation. Nature has to react and this time it has reacted furiously with a vengeance. Only months ago, the world was different and our postindustrial societies could not imagine that their cities and towns would be locked down because they do not have the capacity even to fight the tiniest of tiny things. They were dreaming about the Moon and Mars and now they are busy only producing ventilators to fight for survival against this tiny virus.

The industrial juggernauts of the West and East are at a standstill and those who claimed to have mastery over nature to subdue it look helpless against its wrath. Can we imagine the pain of those creatures whose habitats were destroyed by greedy profiteers?

And those who intruded into nature and defaced its beauty and disrupted its serenity also killed millions of their fellow human beings by waging imperialist wars against the weaker across the world. Nature may take the longer course to react but once it reacts it can inflict irreparable damage as a chain reaction. God forbids, the chain reaction may result in the extermination of humanity from the face of this world. When a few sensible and sane voices started to question the rapacity and callousness of capitalism vis-à-vis the environment and climate change, their voices were muffled by the corporate giants. The advocates of people and the planet were not heard and were reduced to pariahs in gatherings like the World Economic Forum.

The political and economic apartheid imposed upon the majority by a few wealthy people has now come to haunt them too. The destructive wars that poisoned oceans, destroyed forests and disrupted food chains have jeopardized the survival of humanity at large. Like vultures your drones and jet fighters may have the advantage of an aerial view of the world to devour the dead corpses of humanity but on the ground you are losing to the novel hyena of nature – Covid-19. Vultures are critical for nature but they too are endangered now because of our greed for profitability.

The writer is a socialdevelopment and policyadviser, and a freelance columnist based in Islamabad.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @AmirHussain76