The spread of Coronavirus is changing our daily lives. Social distancing, unemployment, closed schools, a shattered economy, and high levels of anxiety. While I thought that a complete shutdown would leave me with time to ponder about the meaning of life and the fragility of our existence, I find myself mostly thinking about three major issues.
1. Is Corona a Political Issue?
2. Is Globalization Over?
3. Are we on the verge of an Ethical Bankruptcy?
These intriguing questions have been looming over in every television or radio studio, in every newspaper and probably in every personal discussion. And yet, so many answers to the same question indicate that all we have are speculations and practically no idea. Below is my take.
Corona is a political issue. There’s no other way to explain how so many people with little background in microbiology, virology, or medicine have so much to say about it. CoVid-19 is a medical issue, and unsurprisingly, we have little knowledge of what it means. Indeed, while people with medical expertise are busy saving lives, finding a vaccine or a cure, politicians and pundits seem to be taking over our screens. They offer speculations and predictions regarding the development of the epidemic and its effects on political life. Corona is political in every aspect we can imagine. It is political in the way governments choose to respond and the way civilians decide to follow instructions. It is political in raising ideological resentment about health care, about democracy, about social responsibility and solidarity. And most of all, it is political because politicians know that their political career depends on their response to potential voters’ needs. Politicians are suffering from extreme conceptual shortage to address the challenges CoVid-19 poses. So, we hear them using the concepts of war to describe the situation. I cannot even remember the number of times I have heard slogans as: ‘we need to defeat the virus’, ‘winning the battle against an invisible enemy’, ‘we’re at war’, etc. Using such political terminology is a way to demonstrate political control over a non-political threat to mitigate social anxiety of the unknown.
What about Globalization?
Despite excessive predictions, globalization is not over. Far from it. In fact, the only way we can overcome this pandemic is by utilizing the virtues of globalization. Although it may take a while until we reuse our frequent traveler card, globalization is not about marking destinations. Instead, it is about sharing ideas, it is about mutual learning, it is about realizing that we live in an ecosystem in which the interaction between the components that comprise it is inevitable. In other words, we need one another to confront this. I have read many articles that suggest that globalization, as we know, is over. Arguments range from, countries will now turn to domestic rehabilitation before assisting other countries, through states will need to be self-sufficient and productive, to citizens will need to buy home-made merchandise to bolster the economy. I am not an economist, but it seems to me that globalization is much more than Ali Express or Amazon, which by the way, is doing quite well. We don’t have to go far to see the resilience of globalization in times of Corona, for better or worse. Zoom, Skype, Social networks, fake news, and global empathy imply that the world remains as flat as Thomas Friedman described in his book. As opposed to the world of politics, the business world does not seek to politicize CoVid-19. Rather, it seeks for the next opportunity to expand. Consequently, we might be seeing entrepreneurship that pushes beyond the challenge to find the opportunities it withholds
On the verge of an Ethical Bankruptcy
Moral uncertainty is perhaps the least addressed topic in the context of the global crisis. While our entire value system has been disrupted to confront the virus spread, little has been said about the value reorganization we are experiencing. In the blink of an eye, humanity has forfeited freedom of movement and its right to privacy. We have been told that our children pose a life threat to our parents, we were asked to remain confined in our homes and jeopardize our source of income for public health and security. Criticism against these measures has been met with public outrage and condemnation. A reality that was unthinkable just about three months ago. The rapid shift from putting human liberty and dignity at the top of the ladder, to placing it at the bottom, is a moral shock. Such rapid transformations are likely to jeopardize any political or financial system. It is only reasonable that it would endanger a moral system as well. What was considered laudable and praiseworthy, is now condemnable and blameworthy. The value of social cohesion has been replaced with social isolation. Family proximity as a source of resilience, is now depicted as a source of danger. Individualism has been embraced for the sake of public well-being instead of for individual well-being. It is still early to determine how long this situation would persist and the impact it will have on our social life. Nevertheless, the reorganization of moral values might devastate our social anchors, which is much more dangerous than any financial crisis we might face.
It is still too soon to predict the implications of the corona pandemic. But it is never too soon to think about these issues.