Who Let the Virus Out??


Who? WHo? WHO?

Who can I blame for me having to sweep and mop the floor myself1? I have to be able to blame someone for not being able to buy my weekly essentials when I want them. Neither my friends nor I deserve to be stuck without seeing each other for what feels like ages.

We are all converting to the “it’s not that bad, we can see each other on zoom” people. Of course, I need someone to blame.

What follows is a logical flow of thoughts, my logic2. The very basis for this logic is that everyone is watching out for themselves—individuals, organisations, governments. Fair enough?

If yes, please skip the next paragraph and continue.

If no, you believe that most individuals, organisations and governments watch out for the greater good. At most times, I stand at the door of your world. I try to spend my day-to-day life, believing that while knowing it is not the entire truth. So, this once, humour my cynicism.

Can you please give me someone to blame already!?

Let’s start with the most obvious one. No, not China.

The most conspicuous one is the World Health Organisation (WHO). People will cheat. Countries are made of people, so they will cheat too. It is the enforcers who should be at the top of their game. WHO ought to have known better. They had the expertise, they had the know-how, they had the data. And boy, did they have the responsibility!

Which is precisely why I cannot blame them. They had to know that this would blow in their face when the word came out. Not if, when. Imagine you are the person sitting on that desk who got this piece of information from China. You show it to the experts—scientist, health experts, etc.

  • They say it is an emergency for sure, shut the world down. And you don’t. The world would know in weeks, and you are in trouble. So you wouldn’t do this because you are watching out for yourself.
  • They say it can go in either direction. Your choices are shut the world down or let’s take our chances.
  • They say it is nothing to worry about. You still worry about it and shut the world down. Of course, no one will listen to you.

The actual conversation could have taken any hue along that spectrum.

The reality is that they probably didn’t take it seriously, at first.

How I wish I could blame them for this. But I can’t. Almost each of us didn’t take it seriously at first. At the very least, the response was, “Let’s see what happens.” No one knows how to handle this situation, they didn’t either.

Should they have known better? Of-effing-course. Of-effing-course.

That human being sitting there didn’t do their job well. The checks and balances in that system should have worked better. Worst of all, “how do we trust them the next time?”

Sure, we need improved processes and the person(s) in-charge should be reprimanded.

Meanwhile, though, as fate would have it,
they had to be incompetent, thus they were. :/

Still, my thirst for blame hasn’t quenched. I want something less abstract.

Hello, China.

Sorry, just can’t make myself do it.

Because one, almost every country downplayed it the way, China did. Some continue to give little weight to it, right? In fact, all other countries knew the repercussions quite well. Yet, the world is where it is.

Two, they intentionally kept information. For some reason, I find it hard to believe that whoever was up there knew the severity AND chose to keep it from the rest of the world. My disbelief would like to be based on the naivete that they didn’t want humanity to suffer so. But it is not.

To say that this was intentional and not plain denial, is I think just our way to satisfy our need to blame someone. Anyone up there had to be smart enough to know that the political fallback of such a move would be disastrous. The virus’ origin couldn’t have been a secret forever.

Three, China is a country. 1,438,261,858 people3. Decisions to share or keep numbers, to treat the situation with the gravity it deserved or not, are all made by the government. Am I, one of 1,377,393,760, willing to take the blame for the decisions my country’s government takes3? Ummm, no. Even if it is one I like? Still, no.

Four, if I blame China, the only thing I can do is boycott their products. Unless I am willing to live under a rock, it is impossible and unfair to boycott. I’d be blaming one-sixth of the world’s population while typing about it from an instrument that most likely some people from the same populace toiled over? A tad too hypocritical for me.

The other thing I could do is that I demand my government to ban and imposes sanction on China, the country. For starters, I doubt anyone really responsible would suffer half as much, if at all, as the person on the factory floor. Then, the macro and micro-economics implications of such actions are complicated, and I don’t know enough to make a humanitarian comment on that. But I wouldn’t be surprised if it is much more harmful than it is good.

Five, following from the two points above, not only do citizens have to pay for what the government did directly. They also have to face by-products such as hatred, discrimination, racism. Guess what, you don’t even have to be Chinese for that, you just have to look oriental. A remote resemblance will do. Jwala Gutta, an Indian badminton player, has faced racism because her mother is Chinese</a>. I cannot even imagine the wrath the ordinary Chinese person must face on a day-to-day basis. Whether I like it or not, blaming China is racist.

Virus, the next generation might grow resistant too.

Virus, if the Chinese and the Americans and the Indians and Brazilians work together, can fight, will fight.

‘Othering’, ‘us’ vs ‘them’ will be reinforced in our kids, and we will be left to fight viruses on our own. Racism and stigma have lives well beyond the life of a virus.

So, as fate would have it, they didn’t want to take it seriously at first. They didn’t. :/

And the events are squared because we didn’t take it seriously at first either. Double :/

Hey, what if the second wave comes when we open borders and some countries which took better care get hit because others couldn’t be bothered? Will we impose sanctions on those other countries and boycott their products? They knew better but were still okay with the damage the virus causes, right? Triple :/

Okay, fine. Can I blame the bats at least? Please?

Turns out I cannot. Supposedly, bats and other rodents are as likely to cause a virus as other animals. I cannot claim to understand all the statistics involved, I will rely on PNAS’ word. Instead, it’s likely that we need bats as a part of our ecosystem. hmph

Anyway, is there any way to predict which species will play host to the next deadly virus? Could be carried by the chicken you eat. Or maybe the spinach I eat is lugging it around, looking for ways to make itself truly novel as a plant-based virus. These would be possibilities even if all deadly viruses came from bats, which they did not.

Oh, and while we are at it, this virus might have come to humans from bats through uncontrolled markets and illegal smuggling. But, there is no saying where the next one will come from. Would it make it any better, if the virus came from legally sold crabmeat or tomatoes?

It had to transfer to humans, it transferred. :/

Anyone else?

No, I am not blaming Muslims.

So looks like, I can blame development.

Here’s a quote from a ‘Scientific American’ article, which talks about the origin of COVID-19:

They found that the emergence of new pathogens tended to happen in places where a dense population had been changing the landscape—by building roads and mines, cutting down forests and intensifying agriculture. “China is not the only hotspot,” he says, noting that other major emerging economies, such as India, Nigeria and Brazil, are also at great risk.

लो भई, गयी भैंस पानी में!!4 (The situation is out of control.)

What are we going to do now? Stop making roads and cutting down forests? Stop our economies from emerging? That’s not happening, is it?

Also, that seems to be pointing the finger at me. I will have to take action and start behaving responsibly and respect nature. Never mind. I will live without blaming anyone.

It had to happen, it happened. :/

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

1I live in India. I have loads of domestic help to take care of my home.
2I have little faith left in news outlets. Almost every publication says what someone makes them say or they have a strong agenda and matters are tweaked to fit that story. The validity of this agenda warrants a separate discussion.
3And counting, of course.
4lo bh-i, gayi bhains paani mein, the proverbial buffalo has gone into the pond for a bath, there’s no way you are getting out, it will come out when it feels like.

  1. Worth giving a thought

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