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COVID-19 - a rethink for the future?

Islamabad

March 31, 2020

The mass hysteria around coronavirus has largely been fuelled by images of books declaring it as biological warfare, social media platforms spreading misinformation leading to people flogging supermarkets, and finally by misplaced and miscalculated government regulations which have added to the frenzy. TikTok videos of people making fun of Asians by singling them out in public have become viral. This has enhanced the growing racism and xenophobia in society, a wave that has been drifting since the election of President Trump to office in 2016.

What is more appalling in this whole process has been the reaction of people. The “state of nature” which Locke theorised has become ever so apparent. The social contract has taken a Hobbesian turn and has rather become a matter of the ‘survival of the fittest’, as Herbert Spencer coined it. Irrational human behaviour has been at the forefront of this debate with panic buying and fake news making rounds around the world. This ‘invisible’ war has become double-edged with the virus on one side and misplaced panic on the other. The need for active governance to control individuals has never been felt more. China’s control of the virus has helped mitigate its bizarre human rights record and with its recent transfer of doctors and medical equipment to Italy, its soft power is bound to increase world over.

A rethinking of the impact of coronavirus will be discussed in the work ahead. Before moving forward, however, it is imperative to understand some facts about the fast-changing situation. From the data available to the public, the new epicentre of the virus is now Europe with record deaths being recorded in Italy. The Middle Eastern region is now fully throttling to contain the virus as the number of cases is exponentially increasing. The fears of a global recession in 2020 have become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Stock exchanges globally are facing a major crisis with the US Stock Exchange suspending trade due to record falls. National emergencies are being called and people are being forced to adopt self-isolation and social distancing. All this is bound to have severe ramifications in the future for humankind.

Firstly, the virus has showcased how flimsy the global healthcare system is. Time and again infectious diseases have immensely impacted humans, however Covid-19 has changed the nature of the game as it has impacted the western hemisphere in a way which was previously unseen. Ebola and the Zika virus destroyed lives in Africa but the inherent bias in our world system did not value their lives as it does of those in Western Countries impacted by Corona. A rethinking will most likely be underway once the impact of the virus lessens.

Secondly, a reorganization of society will most definitely be happening. The growing culture of working from home will most likely be embraced by the masses. Individuals particularly women and disabled individuals will be more active in the years to come as channels such as these would suit them more. Corporations would be more willing to hire contractual employees and provide them with limited perks for the same jobs that permanent employees do. Similarly, the education sector will further expand online. Although such ideals of a class-less education system have long been propagated, the virus has caused this to become more attainable.

Furthermore, coronavirus has been a blessing in disguise for the climate. Marshall Burke, a researcher at Stanford University, calculated that the improvements in air quality recorded in China may have saved the lives of 4,000 children under 5 years old and 73,000 adults over 70. Similarly, the canals in Venice, Italy, are displaying major environmental improvements. Records are showcasing fall in pollution levels and this change has been compounded by an increase in marine life in the canals. Such changes, although temporary in nature, will most likely cause regional and global bodies to push green investment incentives and make industries undergo structural changes to adopt environmentally friendly policies.

Lastly, a new segment for business will exponentially increase. Although the developed countries have greatly embraced the e-commerce culture with giants such as Amazon heavily invested, this change will greatly be seen in developing countries as they are now being essentially forced to adopt this change. E-medical services are also likely to exponentially increase. Streaming services are also bound to have increased profits.

According to the popularly held belief of the Gaia Hypothesis, which maintains that the Earth, to sustain life, maintains the conditions suitable for its own survival, the virus has led to a rethinking of what the future should look like for humans. As climate change wreaks havoc across the world, change has never become more urgent. The virus serves as a warning for humans to rethink their own future by changing its unsustainable life to ensure longevity for times to come.