Since the spike in novel coronavirus cases mid March in India, our government has imposed draconian measures to contain the spread of the deadly virus, right from imposing heavy travel restrictions to a complete lockdown, despite challenges of their implementation on a 1.3 billion large scale. The death toll in India alone has reached close to 300 and the number of positive cases of coronavirus has risen close to 12,000. Across the globe, over 2 million people have been tested positive for COVID-19 so far with over 1.3 lakh deaths.
From 20th of this month, a lot of self employed people, e-commerce sites, public works programmes, dairy, agriculture, among others, in a long list of services, will be allowed to function and a lot of other relaxations will follow post May 3rd. All that joy can be snatched away with a snap of fingers if your area registers new COVID-19 cases!
Lockdown 2.0 has not only brought along with it anxiety but also fear among some of us and we’re frightened about how ugly things can get from here. Although some might call this a pessimistic way of looking at things, it cannot be denied that the State is now Santa, watching over us and we’re in our homes on our best behaviour, trying to get on his good side, because if we end up on the naughty list, we might not get our presents this Christmas.
We might want to question the way of things but we cannot because we’re afraid of turning into victims ourselves. We know we’ll need those ambulances if one of our loved ones falls sick, we’ll need that legal system if our rights are violated, we know that we’ll need those benefits that we’re entitled to as citizens, which could be taken away if we ‘misbehave’.
The hysteria that has been created by the coronavirus was in fact a predictable one. Researchers, epidemiologists and virologists have said that this outbreak was foreseen and was not sudden at all. After the SARS, the MERS, simulations were being made of the exact same scenario. Despite all that, we seem to be losing grip of the entire situation with hundreds of people losing their lives even as I type this.
As ridiculous as it sounds, some people out there suggest that this could be a ‘Problem-Reaction-Solution’ case where people in powerful positions, with their hidden agendas, blow things out of proportion, create or magnify a problem and then come up with a solution to resolve that problem so that people accept that which they otherwise wouldn’t have accepted. Could this be an attempt to send out ripples of fear among the masses, which at the moment, is not only the ‘currency’ of control but also a one-way road leading our society towards totalitarianism?
Putting conspiracy theories aside, nobody knows for real, the actual number of people affected by this virus out there. We only know what mainstream media reports to us from government sources and we are not even sure whether people in power are hiding information or opting a sabotaging mechanism for their political advantage. China, for instance, did not come out earlier which lead to spread of the Wuhan virus across the globe. Whatever may be the case, the world is in a crisis like never before and we need a way out of this.
Across the globe, various techniques are being experimented to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. In communist China, some people had their doors welded shut to restrict their movement. Citizens elsewhere are being tracked and monitored through various tracking devices and also through movements recorded on their phones through something called contact tracing.
In countries like South Korea, China, Taiwan and Singapore, the information collected from telecom companies is being ‘de-personalized’ by making it all anonymous but where does all the information go? Is there the slightest possibility of this information being used against them? Although the method looks effective and breach of privacy is the least of our concerns during testing times like these, what we must still question is – What after this pandemic?
What exactly lies in a post coronavirus world for us? This is just the beginning and we know that there will only be more pandemics like the COVID-19 in future. There will be more collection of personal data and information; more civil liberties are going to be destroyed. We are letting all this happen and this will be the new ‘Normal’.
George Orwell once wrote, “Almost certainly we are moving into an age of totalitarian dictatorships.” So, could we actually be paving way for and giving in to creation of a totalitarian society? Is this leading us, slowly but steadily, towards the architecture of oppression that most leaders have feared in the past?
This pandemic will pass, what will remain are the decisions we make today. These decisions will last for a long time and our future generations will eventually pay the price. This is a moment that will go down in history either as one of those times where the entire human race was brought down to its knees or as one where people collectively worked towards bringing about revolutionary changes by revamping the very structure of how our human society functions.
Whatever may be the reason, whatever may be the cause, safety has got to be a priority for each one of us right now. Whatever we’re all fighting for or fighting against, we’re in this together. We’ll all stay home, follow rules of social distancing and help break the chain for now. We’ll let the government make decisions for us and have patience for now.
We’ll let them enforce a nationwide lockdown and we’ll hope for this recession to pass and the economy to revive. ‘We will’ do all this voluntarily because we’re a country 1.3 billion large and nothing can stop us once this force unites; not some powerful cult of people with hidden agendas, not political parties eyeing seats for the next election, not any rival country willing to injure our spine economically, nor some evolved, sophisticated, super easily transmissible and supposedly deadly virus!
Meanwhile, can the State assure us that when all this is over, we’ll get our freedom back?