This phase of deep condolences of untimely demise of known ones, and then living in a mind-set with feelings never before so intense about the closure of life lane, has made this world a different world than we knew. How long would it persist?? We were told it is to interact, to socialize; and now to distance socially and live in virtual world like dreams transient in the night and day. Mondays turning into next Mondays, weeks gliding over again and again, we move in the sphere of seclusion and unsaid sufferings of estrangement. From social to personal and then personal to language creature, we had travelled. Now we are private persons, dumb watchers waiting in the queue for an early exit to unknown. We are the lonely humans of COVID Era. Nature has conquered us, out smarting science and religion, instead we occupying it. It has proved its point. Still the gleam: THIS TOO SHALL PASS!
The pandemics in the past have changed the course of history. The Black Death pandemic originated from China in 1334. Travelled through the Silk Road, it remained devastating for more than five years and reduced world population from ‘460 million to below 350 million’. In subsequent centuries, it marked a turn from religious world to this world science oriented; it initiated a beginning of new era. Claiming an end of empires and kingdoms, it saw weakening of faith. Consequently, sixteenth century onwards was a rise of capitalism and emergence of nation states on the plank of modernity. God was relegated to private realm and nature was to be occupied and used. The man in the centre opted for science, and religion was declared primordial an instrument of tribal warfare. The European centrality with consensus over the superiority of its Enlightenment Project prevailed all over the world. Nature played its trick, outsmarting religion in favour of science, yet nature was praised and thought to be benign. Europe had consolidated its centrality, celebrating its triumph in ideas and power. While Europe was claiming its age of arrival, nature had another laugh through deadly Spanish Flu Pandemic that originated in 1918–1920. There was not any definite agreement on the origin of the virus, however, the pandemic was worldwide and one third of its population became infected to take the toll of deaths to fifty million people and five hundred million affected across the globe. It caused a rupture to modernity. The ramifications were the loss of European centrality and arrival of American capital boom on creole nationalism. The religion was co-opted within the US capitalism. Nature left a realm benign.
The recent COVID 19 has begun to reshape the world. First identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China; the pandemic has created havoc all over the world for the last one and half years. Until May, the death toll was 3 482 907 since then, still unabated with mutations and new waves. The year 2020 has marked the beginning of COVID era, an arrival of China and dismantling of the traditional order of internationalism and affiliations. Implications disclose that religion in the form of civilization and science complementing it in forming the affiliations. Amidst it, Nature first time has prevailed over science and religion to dictate the mechanism of order making. Nation-states normally live on economic and strategic security interests to frame and construe the common interest affiliations. The human, as agency, first has become subdued in the triangle of Nature. Religion and Science. In a globalised world with revolution in cybernetics and virtual media, religion and science both seem struggling to give humans the sense of meaning to existence.
The three main devastating pandemics recorded in history were in different eras. The first one, Black Death, happened when earth was not measured. It was linked but not properly connected. Its ramifications were much more in the region where it devastated most, in Europe. It was pre-modern era. Religious taboos, primordialism linked with human destiny were precluded and new philosophy of doubt cantered round the human being and knowledge as a power arrived to have pure reason to decide about life chances in this world. God was excluded and religion was debased. Nature was to be source to science. The second main pandemic, Spanish flue, the world was measured and earth was owned. The aftermath of pandemic devastation generated scepticism about modernity. Science that was supposed to be in neutral proved untrue, it turned to be a progression of scientism. Weber’s famous presentation ‘science as vocation’ affirmed that science cannot give meaning to life. Medical science can defer the death but cannot give life. And life on ventilator or prolonged with medicines, how much meaningful it remains were the question that needed answers. It was one sided colonized world, so the consciousness was speckled. Gradually, the consequences of Spanish flue were the rise of absurdity that looked towards individual choices of modern life and collective knit of religion, a mix of the two in different parts of the world. This time it is globalized world. COVID 19 has changed the paradigm of thought process. Scientism has proved its limitations beyond a point. Similarly, meaning cannot be driven in the probabilities of religious tenets. Which are not subject to exact interpretations? What would be the course of history? All probabilities, the religious interpreters would tell us that it would awaken from Asia, that too from South Asia, but no exactness in time and space but explained on intended wishful thinking.
South Asia is facing its severe crisis. China, even if a world power, would never like to emerge under the background of COVID-19. It is facing a moral crisis to convince the world of its leadership acumen. Pakistan continues to live on its stated mind of hostile Indian centric policies. It has its crisis, while it was not difficult in 1950s to go with western allies and be in client relationship with US, but it is difficult to shift that relationship altogether in the hands of new master – China. Pakistan has vast uneducated lower class that still is too religious and regards China its existential enemy. However, its dominant Punjabi power elite, which dominates civil and establishment remain India centric, which has made Pakistan security oriented state, a prisoner of its elite mind-set. Its role does not remain unexplained. it is now trying to rope Muslim world into the circuit of China, explicitly against US and western allies but implicitly towards India, as it did in 1970s to bring US-China relationship against Soviet Union. Its recent push to foreign policy in Israel-Palestine in this regard has been vetoed by Egypt, Russia and America, all together. India should take a leaf out of this problematic of Pakistan’s internationalism. It should not follow Pakistan to have exclusively security oriented national policy. It must inherit a policy that its earlier leadership had visualised; more economic and complimentary with security concerns of national policy. Its China relationship has to be continuous, negotiable relationship, while peace with Pakistan is an imperative. India has travelled from non-aligned to left oriented course and from their turned to right wing orientations; however, it cannot woo US beyond a point. It needs to rationalise how to decouple economic relationship with China and at the same time asking China to keep supply chain open. We can have both the relationships at merit. The leadership needs to take steps carefully. China cannot be distanced beyond a point. India is a civilization nation-state; it should go with magnanimity in its path tracing. It is more important when the COVID19 has cast shadows on normal life and the world Order is in a flux.