At this strange time in world history we are faced with more questions than answers. When there are no known weapons to protect us from this perceived threat, what do we do? Neither the bow and arrow nor nuclear weapons will do; even medical science has left us in the lurch. So fight is difficult; what about flight? Unfortunately, as proud members of the Global Village, there’s no place to hide; we’re all connected.
So the only alternative seems to be to be to keep our wits about us, drop our heads below the parapet and hope we dodge the bullet. Since it’s several centuries since the Black Death decimated the citizens of Europe and the British Isles, we don’t have many guidelines to follow, so the world-wide efforts at containment are a bit of a hit and miss affair. One has to wonder, though, whether some of the measures taken in South Africa have been properly thought through.
How does one achieve social distancing in townships and informal settlements when families live cheek by jowl with one another, where there is sometimes less than a metre between shacks, let alone individuals? Or where five or six people, including children, are expected to huddle together in one room for three uninterrupted weeks? Or where several people have to queue up to use a communal tap or an outdoor toilet?
And we’re not even talking about the incalculable damage that this universal lockdown will do to thousands of small businesses and freelancers, putting millions of jobs at risk. The US can afford to pour over $2 trillion into the economy, but what will junk-status Mzanzi have to offer?
There is good news, though. Because – not inspite – of this world-wide catastrophe, people are being forced to re-assess, not only their own values, but also those of society at large, especially with regard to its most vulnerable members; they are being impelled to look at the damage they are doing to the earth and to question global economic policies. They may even be questioning what happened to loving their neighbour. If the world can come to its senses, then all may yet be well.