Outsourcing All Thinking And Decision Making
I was initially reluctant to write this because we have all had an information (and misinformation) overdose when it comes to COVID-19. We are all waiting for the lockdown to be lifted and life to return to “normal”; the old normal or a new normal but some form of normal.
What pushed me to write this was the glaring absence and silence in mainstream media and policy about issues that are at the core of this pandemic. Our food choices, mindless destruction and exploitation of nature and natural habitats and inadequate investment in healthcare and health infrastructure are some of the issues I am referring to. These are not issues confined to one country or community but something people and governments the world over need to think about. These were not remote causes. They had a direct bearing on the spread of COVID-19 and our (in)ability to contain it.
Our food choices
If what we consumed only affected us, one could argue that there must be absolute freedom of choice of food. But that is not the case. What was sold and eaten in one part of one country in the world went onto paralyse the entire world and caused several deaths. This is not the first time a disease directly resulting from our food choices has spread and is unlikely to be the last. SARS, MERS, Ebola and Bird Flu have all been a result of humans coming into contact with infected animals and birds for the purpose of consuming them. Wet markets continue to operate the world over. Neither is there a policy intervention on the part of the government nor a drop in demand on the part of the people.
The few discussions that do happen on food choices invariably take on an ethical or religious colour. Even if we keep morals, ethics and religion out of this, there is a very strong case for deeply reflecting on and changing our food choices.
Is this something that should come from the government in terms of policy or something that each individual must decide for himself/herself, I’m not sure.
Wanton destruction of animal habitats
We have increasingly been destroying entire forest cover and cutting down every tree we possibly can to make way for new construction, transportation infrastructure, roads, etc. While development and construction is necessary, it can be done in consonance with nature. I am yet to hear anything from any government official about reconsidering or re-planning any ongoing infrastructure projects which are in blatant disregard of environmental norms.
Inadequate investment in healthcare and underdeveloped health infrastructure
One of the many things this pandemic revealed was that governments and societies in “developed”, developing and under developed countries did not have health infrastructure in place to serve even a fraction of their population. We all have enough and more defence infrastructure in place to fight wars that most likely will never happen or which we will manufacture, but we don’t have basic healthcare in place. Are we imploring or demanding from our governments to reallocate budget expenditure? Is there any talk about using this time to reconcile and make peace between nations with troubled histories so that some of the defence budget can be diverted towards healthcare which is the need of every nation and its citizens?
Freedom for some but not all
For those of us who have been privileged enough to experience restriction on our movement and our otherwise largely free lives for the very first time, is it not a time to think about people who have only known a life of restriction, prohibition and clampdown in every aspect of their life. As governments or citizens, there is little or no conversation about rethinking political decisions that have kept and continue to keep generations oppressed with little or no hope for freedom of any sort.
Let’s not outsource all thinking and decision making to our policymakers. The questions we ask, the discussions we have and the solutions we propose, all have a bearing on the policy making process and policy itself. Living in a democracy doesn’t only entail going out once in 4 or 5 years to vote and then sitting back and leaving it all to the government. Now more than ever before, we need to proactively step up and step forward, individually and collectively and be the solution we wish to see.