The unending variants — coronavirus -Express Tribune

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I wrote ‘The great equaliser’ outlining the implications and response to the Covid-19…the ‘Pandemic’ on 29 April 2021. Coronavirus ever since has remained a ‘Suez moment’ in human history; that is affecting being human in not yet fully comprehensible ways. From work to leisure to travel to living normal lives to commerce to geopolitics to vaccine economy to disturbed trade and supply chains to oil price volatility…nothing seems to have remained untouched by the visible implications of the invisible.

The lessons learnt so far include; responding to the pandemic together as humanity, since the pathogen respects no international borders. That SOPs and restrictions are creating unattended economic, social, political and psychological downsides. That this Pandemic has — yet again — exposed the inadequacy of human knowledge. That the virus challenges ideologies, bloc-politics, leadership and social systems. That healthcare and medical sector is seemingly the only winner. That vaccine politics has changed the Europe’s core and relations among big powers…the US, China, Russia and the EU. And that China seems to be winning the contest of global leadership with the ‘Quad’ (Australia, India, Japan and US) grouping unable to contain the ‘Rising Dragon’.

Nature works in strange ways. Ill-will begets ill-will. With China demonised as the virus’s birthplace; the US, finding an opportunity, went after communist China to arrest its indomitable rise. Instead, Europe and the US, in particular the US, went in a tailspin due to incompetent handling of the Pandemic because of inept leadership. The situation went from bad to worse given a confused and fearful scientific and medical community…more intent on saving their lucrative jobs rather than speaking the truth. And now, we are on the verge of a ‘South African Wave’. Meanwhile the entire humanity is to be vaccinated with most getting a booster shot ‘forever’ in the new normal. And the efficacy of this response against Omicron, the new variant, is ‘reportedly’ questionable.

Fear again grips a fearful humanity. There would be renewed debates, studies and conclusions coming from the bitterly divided experts…who guided us from herd immunity to universal vaccination, in not too distant past. Profiteers would fish with more enthusiasm in the troubled waters and governments would be lost again to find an ‘optimum’ response. A response that protects their citizenry and economy at the same time.

With democracies withering, personal freedoms surrendered — voluntarily and involuntarily — and the West’s imperialism morphing into ‘Vaccine Colonialism’, new regional orders are shaping up. In response to the Pandemic, ‘regionalised healthcare systems’ have been administratively efficient. Without claim to any scientific, medical and virological expertise, one has always maintained that ‘fighting and eliminating the virus’ has historically remained a tough ask. Virus debut is part of our shared life story. Virus mutation along with human mutation is God’s ways of letting humans survive and heed His wake-up calls.

In the interim period, countries need to deploy flexible, expandable software and hardware to deal with surges. And to do so, humanity has to cooperate globally and regionally and not compete. Hoarding medical supplies for national usage and export controls on raw materials reflect callous selfishness. The virus resurgence is teaching us this single lesson over and over, if we care to note. Combined with a near climate disaster, the whole human ship needs to be protected not the ‘first class’…to paraphrase the Spanish foreign minister, Arancha González. Most associated expense can be defrayed through corona-related taxation.

Besides the above zahiri asbab (visible responses), a lot lies in the realm of ghair-zahiri asbab (invisible responses). With the pronounced inadequacy of the physical world, recourse to the meta-physical dominion might lead the way. With generalised theoretical underpinnings gleaned from the Quran…the Pandemic-like calamities are Allah’s way of showing us His unhappiness. Otherwise, the Supreme being, the All Powerful, the Omnipotent and the Omnipresent can take life out of our obscure planet in His unimaginably vast universes and kingdoms…in a zillionth of a second. But He would not, till the appointed time; till everyone gets the message for salvation, and till everyone is led to the right path and then allowed to choose the right or the wrong under a free will, bestowed by Him.

In our mostly rationality-driven, science-obsessed world, the above iteration would certainly raise eyebrows. But major religious thought under the Abrahamic Religions attest to His rehma (blessings) bestowed on His creations. Just like the air that we breathe, the land that we walk upon, or cultivate for food and go back in to; and the sky that unbundles our imagination; and the body that we possess…the harmony and excellence of His creation. This consensus warrants actionable commonality of faith by the otherwise bickering clergy from the three Great Religions, to heal our divisive world.

And talking of the timelines; His timelines are stretched, invisible in life spans and only discernable through belief system. And belief in the unseen is the cornerstone of the edifice of all major religions. And in the 21st Century of earth time (the recorded fraction of it), He…the unseen, decided to be seen through an unseen (the virus). So, if Pakistan and/or some other parts of the world are spared the fate of Italy, India, Iran and/or other countries on account of the severity of the Pandemic, the ghair-zahiri explanation is His rehma. Every other zahiri explanation is questionable.

So besides tying the camel, that we should; recourse to Him and asking for forgiveness and deliverance, we must. And then believe that ajal (the appointed time) is unchanged in time, space and details. Therefore, in addition to gloating over the success of policies by the NCOC (National Command & Operation Center) and this or that strategy (without discounting their effectiveness, of course), a big thank you to Him regularly would go up to the heavens and come down with more blessings.

A ‘National Day of Prayer’, yearly, is a good idea above and beyond the so many other useless anniversaries. A secular America just celebrated the yearly thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest years ago. Our ‘National Day of Prayer’, this year, could be combined with renewed focus on the Pandemic; to educate the unknowing and refresh and restrain the culpable. We can find reasons to thank Him each year then; and the reasons are innumerable.