The Corona virus is certainly, for want of a better word, unprecedented. It isn’t just an economic catastrophe like the Lehman demise was, nor is it just a health epidemic with limited economic impact. Unlike MERs and SARs, which were relatively contained in specific continents, COVID-19 has spread worldwide bringing countries to its knees. In short, it is a global pandemic that is having and will continue to have wide ranging repercussions across geographical boundaries.
It is an outbreak that has brought out the very best and also the very worst in humanity. On the one hand, we have courageous doctors and nurses risking their lives alongside those that provide essential services such as the bin men while on the other hand, we have selfish people hoarding toilet paper. It has exposed some of the shocking gaps in government systems and exposed how badly the poor and vulnerable are susceptible to the fallout caused by the virus.
For those with steady jobs and a comfortable savings buffer, staying home is an inconvenience. For those who live from hand to mouth, not going to work is simply not an option. For those in abusive homes, staying at home spells disaster. Those with mental illnesses will suffer too, along with the old and infirm. And worse off, will be the foreign workers who do not even have any rights as citizens. They are cramped away into dormitories — largely unseen and unheard from even as they toil to build the infrastructure of our first world nation. As repayment for their labour, they are paid a pittance.
This is the reality of how our first world nation treats its more vulnerable inhabitants.
This COVID-19 outbreak has brought to fore the fallacy of relying on economic growth as the great promise from the government to its citizens. In chasing after Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth, we have perhaps developed a mindset that the economy is the most important thing that has to be protected at all cost. It is after all in the name of the economy and so called progress that much of our country’s historical and natural landscape has been torn down. As we greedily reclaimed the land around our natural borders we upset the eco system and nature’s balance. And to what end now that a virus has put this haloed economy on lock down? Has this first world economy we so cherish really benefited everyone?
Of course, a healthy economy has its place but other things like equality, social and civil liberties are important too. Have we been brainwashed into thinking that the economy is the most important component in a successful country? In all things, there has to be a balance.
Have we struck the balance right? Looking at the appalling situation in foreign worker accommodation and how the virus has been seemingly allowed to spread, it would have to be a resounding NO.
As we have less opportunity to go out and more time to reflect, will we come out of this crisis, along with the rest of the world imbued with a greater sense of justice for all sentient beings that inhabit our planet? Will we have greater awareness and respect for the environment? Pursuing capitalism with wild abandon in the hope that it brings meritocracy is a fallacy when the economy that we have today is but a man made construct that can so easily be torn apart by a virus. As the virus exposes how we really treat the more vulnerable among us, can we really abide by more of the same?