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April 16, 2020

The fault in the system

Opinion

April 16, 2020

As the novel coronavirus ravages through several parts of the world, politicians from Islamabad to New Delhi, Washington to Berlin, London to Paris and Madrid to Rome are asserting that they cannot prevent this ominous outbreak that has claimed more than 100,000 lives.

The virus seems to have annihilated cities without firing a single nuclear arsenal. It is believed to have destroyed towns without any blitzkrieg. Its onslaught has humbled mighty stock exchanges, snobbish oligarchs and arrogant monarchs. Its plenipotentiary powers seem to have sent a shiver down the spines of global leaders who consider themselves the lords of the planet.

But many argue that, no matter how powerful and lethal a virus is, it cannot defeat human will and determination. They reject this mantra of helplessness and despair that is being used an excuse by politicians of several countries for not saving precious human lives. Critics believe this decimation of people could have been prevented. They assert that the heart-wrenching scenes of human bodies piling up in the corridors of hospitals could have been averted and this carnage on epic scale might have been nipped in the bud if global potentates had taken timely actions and had not demonstrated a sheer indifference to possible human sufferings.

The cost of PPEs, ventilators and testing kits is being debated in all Western capitals and the metropolises of the global south. Business tycoons and lords of the corporate world are fuming over the possible distribution of these essential equipment free of cost among those who are saving precious lives by endangering their own physical existence. But no such debate was considered important when the world pumped more than five trillion dollars into the war on terror.

Today the ruling elite bemoans the high price of ventilators that might cost around 17,000 euros each but they tend to ignore more than $800 billion bailout that was showered on banks and other corporate entities in the aftermath of 2008 financial crisis by the US alone. The mere idea of giving a raise to doctors and nursing staff frightens the ruling elite but they lose no time in granting tax amnesties to corporation.

The fault lies in this economic system that is based on the voracious greed of a few individuals of a tiny community of billionaires. Even the crisis is being used to serve the interests of the super-rich. For instance, most of the $2.3 trillion economic aid package by the US government will be pocketed by businesses while ordinary Americans are likely to gain very little benefit from the package. Even in countries like Pakistan where doctors are dying because of the shortage of PPEs, the government is busy lavishing lucrative schemes on the business community.

Such showering of favours flies in the face of capitalists’ claim asserting that the entrepreneurs are entitled to profit because they risk their investment by pumping money into economy. From the Great Depression to the 2008 financial crisis what we have witnessed is: the greedy lords of capital socialise losses and individualise profits.

It is the interests of these parasitic classes that dictate even the development plans of countries – both in the global north and south. The US health system would have witnessed a phenomenal improvement if Washington had diverted the more than three trillion dollars that it squandered in the mountains of Afghanistan and deserts of Iraq. How many lives could have been saved in the UK if London had not decided to pump billions of dollars into upgrading its aging nuclear arsenals? A great amount of relief could have been extended to the dying souls of France if the country had not wasted billions of dollars on modern tools of death and destruction. If the EU states had allocated $300 billion for the betterment of health system instead of raising their defence budget under the order of Trump, hospitals in Spain and Italy would not have been overwhelmed.

This unjust economic system cannot maintain social distancing when it has doled out millions or possible billions of acres of land to a few rich of the globe while more than two billion people have been consigned to the narrow alleys of slums in Mumbai, Rio, Karachi, Bangkok and other metropolises of the world. Only in the US the 100 largest land owners possess more than 40 million acres of land. The British Royal family is said to own more than 60 million acres of land. In Mumbai, where slum dwellers live in inhuman conditions, Mukesh Ambani built a 27-storey residential building that he has hardly visited and this is a country that houses more than 600 million poor souls with eighty percent of its population living on 50 cents (US) a day. In Pakistan this system has gifted over 89000 acres of land to only one family of Sindh. Our prime minister owns a villa measuring over 200 kanals, the Zardari family owns one such palatial in Lahore besides possessing several houses across the country and the Mian brothers’ fiefdom in Raiwand spreading over hundreds of acres is not a secret any longer.

And this is a country where in Lyari on average eight people are living in one-room house measuring hardly 40 yard square. With this unequal land distribution, we are demanding social distancing. The horrors of this ruthless system do not end here. More than three billion people of this planet cannot even afford to wash their hands owing to the shortage of water, let alone using sanitizer or having the privilege to wash their hands frequently and here we are exhorting them to wash their hands as frequently as possible.

This system by and large protects the rich and powerful. The outbreak has made it abundantly clear that even during a natural calamity it is men with money who are more likely to survive. Most of its victims are from the poor areas of the world. The black and Latinos of the US are not as lucky as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson. So, the fault does not lie with this or that country but rather in the system that prefers profit and greed over human beings and their needs.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Email: [email protected]