Dhaka, Bangladesh
Beyond the disease

Beyond the disease

Stop the world — I want to get off’ was a mildly amusing meme some decades ago. In recent weeks, the world has indeed steadily been grinding to a halt in many respects. But, naturally, no one can get off. We are all in it together. It may sound contradictory, but in these unexpected times, isolation and solidarity go hand in hand. Isolation because, for the time being, it seems to be the best way to avoid contracting, or passing on, Covid-19. Solidarity because where would we be without it? Sure, there has been no shortage of egregious displays of selfishness. A bunch of US senators, for instance, who were privy to intelligence about what lay ahead, sold off their stocks before the market tanked. On a far broader scale, across many countries, we have witnessed mass outbreaks of panic-buying — whereby shortages of basic foods and other essentials become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Most of them are merely hoarding, thereby leaving others — many of whom have little or no savings — to gaze in dismay at empty supermarket shelves. The ulterior motives go further in some cases, though, where the primary intent is to stock up on goods that can subsequently be vended at far higher rates than their previous market value. Inevitably, this kind of profiteering is not restricted to individuals. An obvious counterpoint is public outbursts of gratitude for and solidarity with professions dedicated to mitigating the crisis and providing a path forward, from nurses, doctors and other health professionals to other employees in essential services, from transport to retail, all too often derided as ‘unskilled’, and, perhaps above all, the cleaners who crucially help to keep the deadly virus at bay in any number of environments. It is somewhat heartening to see how many governments have been persuaded to suddenly turn their neoliberal ideological inclinations on their head and reach out to some of the most vulnerable segments of society with stimulus and rescue packages. At the same time, some of them are finding it hard to shed their devotion to big business. — The Dawn

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