Sunday 16 January 2022

Post-pandemic, towards a healthier, wealthier world (The Sunday Guardian)


The more people get vaccinated, the better. However, to penalise those who have thus far not been vaccinated seems a step too extreme.

A visitor to Syria during the early weeks of the “Arab Spring” manifestations of 2011 would have found himself in a surreal situation. Armed guards accompanied visitors, who were of any prominence, for fear of kidnapping by anti-regime elements. In a country where Sunnis predominate, the Wahhabi element within that school had for long carried out a whispering campaign against the Assad family, using the usual trope that they were “un-Islamic”. Boosted by support from states across both sides of the Atlantic who were unhappy at the closeness of the Syrian regime to Iran and Russia, the long-dormant (in public) Wahhabi element made use of the “Arab Spring” to launch street demonstrations against the government that had held sway over the country for so long. Very soon, violence erupted during such manifestations, and the government responded in kind. That gave an excuse for some countries in the Middle East to join hands with the Atlanticist powers to arm, train and fund “freedom fighters”. Not just Alawites but other Shia, as well as Druze and Christians had their throats cut, often in public. Some of these executions were streamed to the world via the internet. These powers had been warned that Tehran and Moscow would not allow Bashar Assad to get ousted in the manner planned, that which took place to Muammar Gaddafi. President Putin, possibly prompted by Prime Minister Medvedev, prodded Bashar Assad to let go the stocks of chemical weapons that his regime possessed, so that there could be a cessation of help from NATO member states to the armed groups seeking to replicate Libya in Syria. When Gaddafi and later Assad surrendered their WMD stockpiles, leading Atlanticist powers saw in this a sign that those regimes were near their expiry date, that they were getting desperate. In reality, because they were stable, the Gaddafi and Assad regimes regarded the giving away of WMD stockpiles as an acceptable risk in the cause of forging a detente with the Atlanticist powers. They wanted not just WMD stockpiles but the collapse of the regimes that they saw as obstacles to primacy in the region. These powers were happy at the prospect of replacing Gaddafi and after him, Assad, with a hotchpotch that would inevitably lead to chaos and human suffering. A former colonel of the Assad regime, who was connected with intelligence operations, defected to Germany. He had expected to lead a comfortable life in that comfortable European country. Instead, he was jailed and is now being put away for the rest of his life in prison for acts that he committed while working for the regime in power in Damascus. Just as Gaddafi’s fate and Assad’s travail post his handing over of chemical weapons convinced other powers seen as rogue by the Atlanticist states to augment rather than hand over their WMD stockpiles, the fate of this Syrian colonel will act to prevent more defections from the Assad government, especially its security services, who could have handed over a treasure trove of information about the inner workings of security and intelligence agencies in Syria. Perhaps a Thank You note should be sent to Berlin from Damascus.
Since the beginning of 2020, the manner in which the Covid-19 pandemic has changed lives has a similarly surreal feel. Each day, sombre warnings are issued by the authorities about the danger posed to human life by the lab-boosted coronavirus that has had the effect of a global war on society. Arts, theatre, cinema and music have either disappeared or gone into hiding, awaiting better tidings. Children stay at home, watching as their parents bicker as a consequence of the scissors effect of rising prices and falling incomes. The very young remain unversed in the benefits of socialization, cloistered as they are as a consequence of restrictions imposed since March 2020. Those in charge thought that SARS2 was the perfect excuse for a host of wrong decisions taken by them, but as the downfall of Donald J. Trump demonstrated, they were wrong.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is among the few leaders who have acquitted themselves well. Modi has learnt from the experience of 2020, and has this year avoided measures such as mass lockdowns. Some state governments have imposed curfews, possibly to curb drunken behaviour and its public consequences rather than out of belief in its effect on public health. When schools are shut, children go out to meet their friends, thereby getting much more exposure to SARS2 than would have been the case, had they been in class. While working online and at home may overall be preferable to working in crowded offices, many are unable to do so, and as a consequence have seen their jobs vanish. Once a single dose of the vaccine was declared to give long-term protection against Covid-19. Then it became two doses, later three and now four. The impact of so many jabs on the immune system remains to be studied. Someone close to this columnist has refused thus far to get vaccinated. She is allergic to penicillin, and at least twice in the past, was carelessly prescribed medication that included penicillin. The effect was terrible, and in the former instance, life-threatening. In several countries, she would not be admitted, despite being free of the novel coronavirus. In many cities in her own country, she can no longer go to a mall or to a cinema theatre. Certainly, getting vaccinated is a good idea. The more people get vaccinated, the better. However, to excoriate and penalise those who have thus far not been vaccinated seems a step too extreme to be classified as reasonable, at least in a democracy. Covid-19 has given governments across the world immense discretion affecting the lives of citizens. Small wonder that there is disappointment on the faces of Covid ayatollahs at reports that the Omicron variant is mild. Their fear is that the pandemic may disappear along with the extraordinary powers that they have accumulated, ostensibly towards the same end. The hope is that the situation following the pandemic will be the reverse. That the world will be healthier and wealthier than when the pandemic started, most likely through an accidental lab leak during the closing months of 2019. Another example of why meddling with nature, including through Gain of Function experiments involving pathogens, is an activity that may sometimes constitute a crime against humanity.

Post-pandemic, towards a healthier, wealthier world

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