The human beings at this critical junctureof their existence are back to their foundational nature. A tautologicalresponse to the corona virus has emerged. While some sentient humans are busytrying to figure out a way to produce a quick treatment and save precious humanlives, others are busy in blame game. Entire countries are looking for ascapegoat. Trump has given more than an indication of hitting back at China,Europe is building a case against the dragon. The European case is epitomizedby the British Foreign Secretary when he said that it will not be 'business asusual' with China. A huge pushback is tangible against China in future. Thenthere is the pursuit of internal scapegoats. Within the affected nations alsoblames are passed back and forth. The ancient scapegoating mechanism hasresurfaced. Basically, scapegoating is one of the foundations of humanevolution. When anger cannot be vented at the thing itself (the virus in thiscase), then substitutes have to be found, and they come in various forms. Andif these forms are not available, then they have to be invented. The virus ison a global tour in search of human lungs, perhaps because its home has beenruined; and in our inability to buck the trend of its spread, the rage isdirected at each other. However, in all that something else is also surfacing,more prominently now than before.
This was the time of, as the current Popesaid, of metanoia. A period of conversion, possibly a spiritual conversion, atransformation from one state of being to another. That is hardly anywherevisible, and may not be, unless we presume that we have magically beentransported into Disneyland. The Chinese wet markets are reportedly still open.The moon will soon become a petrol station on the way to Mars. The garbage andrefuse from the stay in Mars will be funneled to Earth. Here in India anisolated spit by a Muslim on the road is suspect. And our own Line of NoControl is aflame, and crimson with human blood. Two types of conversions wereexpected from the pandemic; the ecological conversion and the human conversion.More urgently the ecological conversion because as they say God forgivesalways, human beings forgive sometimes, but nature never forgives. Recently, itwas reported that a boat passed over the north pole without any ice to stop itsmovement. Since nature is bearing the brunt of the so-called human development,it has a way to teach a lesson. The virus is perhaps a weaponized response fromnature. Also, a weapon to force reflection on the partition created betweenhuman beings (in the quiet of the homes which virus has enforced).
Long back Nani A Palkhiwala, a famous ParsiJurist, and former ambassador to the USA, wrote a book called We the People. Acentral thesis of the book was that India is not just one country but it ismade of two nations. There are two sets of rules for these two nations. Theylive in isolation of each other. They do not share much between them. There isa huge economic, emotional, political, and cultural gulf between them. This gapis increasing between the two nations. After the liberalization program whichspread across the world, and brought India also within its ambit, the gulfbetween the two nations has further widened. When he wrote the book there wereonly a few Indian billionaires but today there are dozens. Nani was not aMarxist out to propagate the need for a violent upending of a system, but hewas manifesting a reality that was ignored. The two nations that he wasreferring to were the nation of the rich and the nation of the poor. The coronavirus has highlighted the partition of India (and the globe as well) into twonations. The lockdown dramatically picturizes these two nations.
Just a few days ago we saw a moving videoof a poor man picking up milk from a road with his hands and putting in apolythene bag. The milk was flowing downwards. A few meters from the placewhere he was gathering milk in his hands, a dog was slurping on the same. Thegap between a wandering dog and the poor is less than the gap between the richand the poor. We saw how laborers are herded like sheep in Mumbai and Delhi,who want to go to their homes but are not allowed to move. They better die intheir respective places than move out. On the other hand, buses were arrangedfor people to be transported to their homes, from one part of the country tothe other. Even some airplanes are also carrying people to their homes. Thosewith connections to the higher echelons of power, the resourceful people whocan easily bend the levers of power, care as much about the lockdown as thevirus. Then there are VIP gates for some people to pass through, and bypass thetedious process of transit points (Our first positive case in Kashmir came bythe VIP gate). The corona is magnifying for you the two worlds, the twonations, the gulf which exists between human beings. The Laxman Rekha betweenthe rich and the poor, between the powerful and the powerless was never sovisible as it is today. The poor dare not cross this Rekha. The moment hasarrived to acknowledge that the virus made the border between the nationsdiscernible. There are no troops guarding this border because the relationshipbetween the two nations is that of colony and empire.
Inequality is universal, just as hierarchyis innate to human existence but those have to be rooted in differentialcompetences not open exploitation. Today some billionaires in the developedworld own money equal to the GDP of scores of nations. There is no historicalperiod which shows that equality has prevailed or hierarchies have beeneliminated, but the gaps were minimal and can be minimized. Perhaps the virushas come to remind us, among other things, that the two worlds, two nationshave to come closer with each other, and with the nature as well, in which theoriginal home of virus existed.
Dr. Javaid Iqbal Bhat is Sr. Assistant Professor, South Campus, University of Kashmir.