BY MADELEINE MEZAGOPIAN
Governments, socioeconomic and political scientists, psychiatrists, environmentalists and human security activists, inter alia, are all preoccupied with one crucial if not drastic development threatening humanity worldwide. A novel aggressive pandemic known as COVID 19 is menacing the globe with over 300 thousand deaths and over 4.8 million patients hitherto.
Without any warning or early forecasting, majority if not all nations embraced a new lifestyle of abandoning essential human rights of mobility and in person social interaction. Forced curfew, house confinement, physical social distancing, closed educational institutions, closed enterprises and services providers except those relevant to human survival e.g. health, food, energy, feature current daily life of nations worldwide, albeit with some recent easing of restrictions in many countries.
In the light of the above mentioned, several realities on all levels warrant revisiting. The efficacy of domestic, regional and international systems on all levels in the orbit of globalization is tested.
Globalization, the growing interdependent of the world’s economies, cultures and populations brought about by cross-border trade in goods and services, technology, and flows of investment, people, and information (PIIE, October 29, 2018), exhibited its fragility and vulnerability if not life threatening repercussions. According to Djumala, as a result of globalization that the coronavirus has spread easily across the world in a matter of days (The Jakarta Post, May 14, 2020).
The world as a small village ceased to be appealing rather getting resisted with people confining to their close vicinity. International transportation, key element of globalization, assumed the role of promoting national entities through having expatriates joining their national entities, their homelands. However, one if not the solo mean of globalization that is trans-border communication technology remains intact albeit serving mainly national interests e.g. on line learning in one nation state, online work within national governmental and non-governmental institutions and online communications between public and private sectors and between the governments and their citizens. Thus states becoming mainly preoccupied with putting their inner house in order.
The efficacy of decades old regional supranational entities equally suffered. For the first time in its history, the flag of the European Union was put on fire by citizens of EU member states who felt abandoned by EU who after worrying absence appeared to celebrate gathering billions to invest in vaccines. Further, the crisis unfolded the disparity in EU member states health systems with Germany anew emerging as the big winner. It further revealed the absence of common EU health system and foremost a united approach in handling unforeseeable crises with socioeconomic repercussions.
On domestic levels, diverse approaches and outcomes by the states with almost non-existing international cooperation in handling the crisis revealed how much globalization is abstract and how much nationhood is very much relevant and actual. Especially given the very much contested performance of the most relevant international entity the World Health Organization (WHO) whose credibility and authenticity yet to be regained.
All these developments are evolving within a world order that itself is transforming. From bipolar to a short life span of unipolar order in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union to multipolar order comprising the already existing key actors, USA and EU, and the emerging new actors the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) with China of stronger and additional world impact. China, where COVID19 was originated, is emerging as the savior providing medical devices to many countries in parallel with successful containment of the pandemic at home. However, it is indeed intriguing watching China providing both the developed and the developing countries with such a colossal medical stuff relevant to COVID 19 hence leading the observers to inquire on when China had the time to build up such a big task force, whether it is pre or post COVID 19 arrangement, and foremost whether it is a touch of humanity by a state practicing appalling human rights abuses towards its own people Or it is a mere pre COVID 19 well-structured plan by China to target and conquer the world and eventually with the help of COVID 19 reshape the world order.
In addition to the above-mentioned, the rate of success in tackling COVID 19 by different local political systems starting with China, a country of a totalitarian system, triggered the question whether dictatorship is more feasible in managing such crises than democracy. A question emerging amid ongoing demonstrations in many democratic states foremost in the USA where people protest against having their constitutional rights abused by relevant governors and mayors albeit with some exceptions leading some to perceive it as a transition to dictatorship in disguise.
Not only the feasibility of the political systems during the pandemic is questioned. The social interaction and social comportments in different countries gained also relevance. The extreme in person socializing in some countries and poor if not absent in person social interaction in others especially among different generations proved to hurt rather than to serve the management of such crisis. With the former obstructing the needed physical social distancing hence causing increase in cases and the latter leading to increase of deaths of the elderly in abandoned elderly homes due to COVID19 mainly in developed countries.
This said, many positive outcomes out of this crisis are to be underlined. International bodies starting with WHO is already revisited to guarantee better performance. Regional entitites like the European Union, while admitting its shortcomings and apologizing to its member states, will surely witness better coordination and cooperation among its member states. On domestic levels, all states will visit their health systems to overcome the shortcomings and getting better equipped to counter future identical crises. While on academic level, certain disciplines will be added and others strengthened including relevant research and development. In addition, citizens have no option but to more wisely delegate those who can well balance between all their socioeconomic, political and health requirements and rights. On personal level, many are upgrading their health awareness and hygiene related comportments and practice more vigilant social interaction after acquiring so much appropriate knowledge from different concerned experts. Last but not least and against unprecedented unemployment, the world is witnessing increased social solidarity and enhanced advocacy and support of both the employees and of the employers leading to quick recovery of the socioeconomic ailments of the pandemic.
Number of positive developments and winners are emerging out of COVID19. However, the key winner is the environment that is enjoying such a desperately needed relief from the toxins caused by humans who are equally enjoying this relief through breathing clean fresh air amid an environment devoid of ear pollution. This positive outcome will be further sustained especially in some countries where governments are determined to arrange safe bicycle and walking paths to encourage less resort to public transportation thus serving the environment and the physical and the mental health of its citizens. Peoples’ mental health is equally attended once considering many individuals in and outside the quarantine resorting to spirituality and activating their spiritual life with the support of online services provided by the priests worldwide and by the staff of the institutions of theology who are reaching all, exhibiting solidarity and genuinely assisting people to overcome panic, sorrow over their deceased beloved ones and regain hope and joy.
In the light of the above mentioned, a key question surfaces on whether COVID 19 is a blessing or a curse.