By Ray Mawerera
The truth of the matter is that I love and enjoy writing, along with my corresponding love for reading anything and everything. I just haven’t been doing enough of it lately. It’s taken this lockdown – and revisiting some old and not-so-old scribblings, rants and musings (published and unpublished) – to remind me that I have not done justice to my preferred craft.
Well, the resolution is made. I shall write again, more and more! I might publish and I might not.
And so here we are. Mother Earth has been reduced to one tiny village. Everyone is quaking in their boots in equal measure. Seven hours ahead, six hours behind, two hours behind, near the equator, in the most developed nations, in pitiful less-than-a-dollar-a-day locations, poor, rich, black, white, yellow, it don’t matter at all no more, for the Great Equalizer is here.
Some say we’ve been here before. Maybe. For some of us that’s little consolation, nor comfort. All we know is that in our lifetimes it is most definitely unprecedented. It is either going to bring out the best, or the worst, in humanity. Already, because of fear and uncertainty, great xenophobia is being exhibited. Suppress it as some may try, the blame game and conspiracy theories are a prime preoccupation. This is dutifully complemented by creative constructs and narratives that, if nothing else, only serve to show just how imaginative desperate people can be! Suddenly, those sci-fi movies of yore don’t seem too far-fetched and fantastical anymore. It just goes to show that someone, somewhere, knew that some of our scientific experiments could lead to situations we may regret.
In my profession when crisis situations are discussed, it’s always said that though said to be unexpected, most incidents are culminations of developments that someone knew – even warned – could happen. Some experts have called it “the crisis creep”, wherein little by little a small incident gradually develops and escalates until it explodes into a full-blown crisis if ignored. By then, it is too late and not advisable anyway to say, “I told you so!” There is no celebration to be justified by being proved right.
What is important is how to get out of it, with as minimal fallout as possible. In the current global case, one death is obviously one too many. Yet, we are not talking of a single death in isolated cases: the frightening prospect when this is all over (whenever that is), as predicted by some, is fatalities topping a million!
Where I live, conspiracy theorists contend fearfully that we may be getting inadequate indications of just how widespread this thing is. Why any administration would want to suppress such information is beyond me and actually next to well-nigh impossible. Part of the explanation for such scepticism, for me, is a function of complete distrust in those entrusted with the reins of leadership and the latter’s own ill-advised and sometimes contradictory words and actions. For instance, while exhorting the general populace to “#Stay Home” and “#Observe Social Distancing”, television images continue to show them doing the exact opposite, daily organising gatherings to advise and educate people to stop gathering – with no sense of irony whatsoever! And while the debate continues on whether to wear the mask or not to wear it, the leadership is again shown wearing the mask in almost comical ways if it were not so tragic – one constantly touching and pushing the mask up and down with obviously contaminated hands, another wearing it around the neck like a scarf!
Social distancing? The ordinary people generally take their cue from their leadership and when they see such images the dismissive sentiment that this is a foreign horror visited upon the rich and shameless who have the means and wherewithal to attract it seems to make sense to them. And culturally not used to this alien phenomenon of “apartness”, they laugh it off and continue going about their business – lockdown or no. Arrests of the non-compliant are not even a deterrent.
We have a long way to go, and much to learn. As I write, the numbers where I live are starting to add up slowly, in much the same way as we used to read about similar situations only a few weeks ago in the faraway countries. Seeing this, a sister published on social media the overseas figure progressions and lamented in plaintive tones: “Why are we not afraid?!” It is obvious that the fallout is going to be massive, and will include psychological trauma arising out of that which ordinary Tom, Dick and Harry were not used to at all. Right now, TDH, not appreciating the devastation of Covid-19, is more afraid of dying from hunger wrought by not being able to go about daily income-generating chores and cannot understand why they should be confined indoors indefinitely.
Beyond mitigatory measures for the immediate term, therefore, the leadership ought to force themselves to think beyond this grave and terrible episode. It’s important to tackle the negative narratives, mistrust, politicisation and conspiracy theories that abound especially on social media, but that has always been an albatross. When all is said and done, and the unwelcome visitor has been repelled, and the cost-counting has been done in earnest, what lessons for tomorrow?