The COVID-19 Pandemic that you are in is not a war against a virus. Why not?
Many so-called “civilized nations” have been using the pretext of war against an unfamiliar or unseen enemy for a while now to control their citizens in a democracy. Whereas an autocracy can control your actions by diktat, within an apparently “free country”, even when no real threat exists, an enemy is created to give citizens the right dose of fear to ensure they maintain the status quo. This can be the case when you have two, pretty much equally malevolent political parties competing to be in power, or even when a single benevolent party ensures that it remains in power for many decades.
[Healthy Distraction Alert: if you would like to read a paper that I have co-authored on the calculation of ‘death risk’ and engendering a better perception of risk related to the COVID-19 then go here]
With the emergence and passport-free migration and colonization by the Coronavirus-19 many national leaders have used the word “war” to describe their planned actions to deal with the spreading of infection and imminent disasters within their borders. Besides following the law of your country, which you must, here is why I think you do yourself a disservice by thinking of it as being a war against a virus.
Let us look at it at various levels, zooming out. And then I will focus on you.
The virus does not want to kill you. Besides not having any specific desire, other than a natural drive to multiply, the virus would prefer it if you, its host, survived and thrived so that it could continue to live. It does not have any evil plans to take over your wealth or kidnap your loved ones. It is just doing its job as it always has. If you could prevent your enemy from spreading by wearing a 10-cent mask, or kill your enemy with water, soap or some disinfectant, would you need to use the word “war”?
If you too have come across parents who claimed that instead of enforcing social-distancing norms, they could not prevent their children from leaving their homes to meet their friends at parties, then it does not sound like the war is against a virus.
If you have elderly parents at home who will not listen to useful lifestyle advice to keep their immunity strong when they are most at risk, then your war is not against a virus.
If you have friends who are unsure of their own ability and post unwarranted messages on social media against other countries in the middle of a pandemic or espouse an unfounded conspiracy theory, then you know your war is not against a virus.
If you have neighbours who will not collaborate sensibly when you are in a lockdown. If some will hoard while others are more sensible, you do not have a war against a virus. If some will not wear masks as advised or huddle in groups because they think they’re young and immune, then you know your war is not against a virus.
When your employer whom you expect to deliver services to does not trust you to WFH (work from home) and installs surveillance cameras on the laptop they gave you, your war is not against a virus. Worse still, if the hospital you work for insists you come into work to provide care to patients without adequate personal protection for yourself, then your war is not against a virus.
Your Business Leaders
When some of your business leaders are more interested in shareholder value than the value of human life and try their best to oppose a lockdown meant to flatten the curve while the healthcare infrastructure is prepared for the large increase in patients, then your war is not against a virus.
When what you watch on TV gives you the impression that the media has poor quality, unscientific reporting on a serious event like a pandemic, then you know your war is not against a virus.
Your Political Leaders
No system is perfect, but when your national leader does not engage with science and tries to distract you with trying to blame another nation for your problems, then you know your war is not against a virus.
You will have already seen reports of the health of the planet improving in many ways. Pollution levels have been dropping and many animals and birds are returning to spaces where they were before we built artificial things with concrete, steel and glass. And before we went around those things in metal cages that burnt fossil fuel.
Your war is not against a virus.
If you reached this far, I hope you found this note useful. If you did, please share it with your family and friends and continue reading…
Your Internal Struggle
I would like you to bear in mind that much of what I have said above and below is not specific to this COVID-19 era but for always!
The Virus – has no feelings of altruism or malevolence. It is only your own physiology and immune system that can provide ultimate protection from foreign particles – living or inanimate. For this pandemic and beyond, if you do not want to have even a cold more than once in a few years, you should focus on improving your immunity – and it can only be done by you improving your lifestyle. Did you know that it’s possible even in ‘old age’ to go for years without even a slight illness? No cough, no cold, no upset tummy!
Your Family – needs you to be extra stoic. Your first step is to understand yourself, and then to communicate to your children and elders that along with responsibilities come rights. And along with rights come responsibilities. We must not take one without the other, and we must not give one without the other.
Your Friends – ought to be endured or ignored until they can see the light based on science and evidence. If you cannot wait that long, scratch them off your “friends” list – don’t waste your life on battles with them. There is only so much of your time you should invest in sharing reliable information with others.
Your Community – if you and like-minded neighbours lead by good example, you may be surprised by how others change for the better because of being around you. You can only do what you can do, and you must not do what others are doing if it is in conflict with your beliefs.
Your Employer – should have no right to make you sign away your right to privacy just because you are an employee – you must not let your employer or any government snoop into your private matters.
Your Business Leaders – are motivated by the money that is in your pocket that could be in theirs. That is a good thing if they produce things or provide services that are genuinely good for you, and to whom you are wise enough to say ‘no’ to otherwise. Be wise!
Your Media – can be dealt with easily – change the channel! Or at least follow diverse channels to make smarter, more informed decisions.
Your Political Leaders – are there not because of only your vote, but everyone else’s too. Next time, you can vote even more sensibly. Choose someone who will use your tax money to serve you and your community, and not primarily serve their business friends or their own social, ethnic or religious group.
Your Planet – would prefer that you WFH.
My launch article almost 6 years ago was Discipline – the link between ordinary and exceptional. Over the years I have come to realize that most people think of discipline as something painful. This pain I realize is not because of something physical like sweating out for hours in the gym, but something in their own heads. Rather than face themselves and handle themselves better, they give up on even the simplest tasks that just need to be done at regular intervals, systematically, to achieve great success. Not being able to deal with oneself, be it boredom or the few seconds of discomfort that is part of one’s personal growth, is the only real battle you need to fight. Once we win such simple battles within, and we were all born with the natural ability to, we need not fear viruses, bacteria or governments.
Your war is not against a virus.
Dr Purnendu Nath spends his waking hours focusing on helping individuals and organizations reach their goals, to make the world a better place. He speaks, writes and advises on topics such as finance, investment management, discipline, education, self-improvement, exercise, nutrition, health and fitness, leadership and parenting.