Tuesday, March 24, 2020 8:13 pm
By Nehru Odeh
It may not be what you expect but the truth is, as the English poet Thomas Gray, would say, the world is beating funeral drums to the grave. At no time in contemporary times has the world been hardest hit by a global pandemic as it is now, even more than SARS, even more than Ebola, even more than HIV/AIDS.
Welcome to coronavirus, the disease that erupted from Wuhan, China and has shaken the foundations of the globe (if the spherical globe has foundations). And now there is panic everywhere. Citizens are dying in thousands globally, borders are being closed and world leaders are doing everything possible to ensure that their citizens and the world are safe.
Now schools, offices, business centres and countries are shutting down. And the whole globe is on the verge of closing shop as well, as social interactions and communication is being breached in this age of globalization, in this age where national boundaries are supposed to be less relevant and diminished.
Since the coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, China, there have been many conspiracy theories bordering on apocalypse or the end time, as religionists would put it or that it is the insidious result of a biological weapon created by some countries in a military laboratory. Some are also saying we are paying for our sins. But whatever it is, the coronavirus has taught me many lessons.
One of the lessons it has taught me is our shared humanity, our oneness. We are one, no matter the colour of our skin, the religion we profess or the language we speak. Whatever affects one today affects all. So whether you are living in Manhattan, New York, whether you are working in the rice fields in Thailand, whether you are farming in the cocoa plantations in Nigeria or in remotest places in the world, we breathe the same air, suffer the same pain and are all vulnerable to disease like Coronavirus, diseases that can wipe the world away in a twinkle of an eye.
Coronavirus has taught me that every walls of separation and difference are artificial and are not real. Walls of separation and difference are man- made boundaries set up for selfish ends, and to cover up insecurities. The reality is that they are not real. The reality is that we are all exposed to the same pain, disease, death and global apocalypse. So this brings me to another lesson coronavirus has taught me.
No matter what we do or who we think we are, the world is ours to save. If the world is going to survive or be wiped out someday, everything depends on us, everything depends on the premium we place on our lives and the earth’s life (for the earth is alive and crying for milk of kindness to her and our fellow humans).
Things like climate change, Tsunamis, Earthquakes, Ultraviolet rays and diseases like coronavirus are some of the ways the earth has been speaking to us, even though we derive pleasure from plundering her and killing one another. So rather than bother about divine intervention, let’s save ourselves first. Because it is only when we save ourselves first that God will be pleased to save us through us. We must love one another or die so says the English poet, W.H. Auden.
Another lesson Coronavirus has taught me is that little things matter. Small is beautiful so say development and aesthetics theorists. Since the outbreak of the coronavirus, the World Health Organization and world leaders have been advising that people indulge in hygienic habits such as washing one’s hands with soap and running water, covering one’s mouth while sneezing and coughing etc.
Yet, given the fatalities that have resulted from coronavirus and the global panic it has created, nobody would have expected that little hygienic practices could save mankind and the world. This goes a long way to show that rather hanker after big things, we should do the little things in our own little sphere that can change the world.
A little act of kindness and love, a little word of encouragement and support go a long way in saving the world. If you have a shoulder for someone to rest on, you will find that when you need a shoulder to rest on, you will find one. By so doing, we would be taking little steps for ourselves and big ones for mankind.
Coronavirus has taught me that everyone should put their hands on the plough to save the earth. It is the responsibility of everyone, both leaders and citizens alike, to save our world from imminent collapse. That is the only way we can survive the much touted apocalypse, if there would be any. That is the only way we and future generations can inherit the earth and her immense riches. That is the only way we can beat our chest and say we are deserving of the earth.
But who will save him from himself. I would like to end this piece on a positive note. Like the Nigerian poet, scholar, and Professor of English at the University of New Orleans, Niyi Osundare says in his award-winning book, Eye of the Earth, “this earth will not die. Still, this earth is ours to save.
-Nehru Odeh, journalist with TheNEWS, is the author of The Patience of an Embattled Story Teller