For decades, political regimes around the world have been keen to achieve the elements of strength for their countries, arming themselves as much as possible with military equipment and intelligence agencies, and spending huge amounts of money on achieving internal security, so that politicians have become the muftis of all life affairs. Their legal authority in some countries, and illegal authority in other countries, have controlled the distribution of the people's wealth, the judging of the importance of projects, and their prioritisation according to their own vision, causing an imbalance of life.
Who has been prepared for such a global pandemic? Who has spent billions of dollars to fight diseases, as millions have been spent to face external enemies? And in some countries to face internal oppositionists? Who has taken environmental security and ways to prevent epidemic diseases?
Why do politicians ignore the recommendations of specialists?
On 30 December 2019, Li Wenliang, the Chinese ophthalmologist, warned his fellow doctors against a new virus that does not resemble the SARS virus, advising them to wear protective clothing. After hours of online chatting with his friends, officials from the Chinese Public Security Bureau arrived, warning him of circulating such information on social media, and forcing him to sign a paper in which he confirmed that he understood this. On 7 February 2020, Wenliang died of the coronavirus.
After the large spread of the virus in China, US President Donald Trump showed a great disdain for the virus and its rapid spread, considering that his country is far from the disease, as it is surrounded by oceans and geographical areas that prevent the disease from reaching his country. When the journalists' questions about the coronavirus increased, Trump answered a journalist's question, stating that he cannot be a politician without shaking hands with other politicians, as people want to shake hands with them, and hug them, so that they can form good political relations. If they do not shake hands with them, they will spoil and disrupt relations.
Trump's disregard for the global pandemic did not last, as the virus reached his country. At this point, we must shed light on his excessive selfishness, since Trump only moved after the virus reached his country, as he did not really care for thousands of infections in China, Europe and other countries. He rather dealt with the crisis with the mentality of World War I and II. However, globalisation based on communication, and direct contact between people, dispelled his suspicions with utter disappointment.
In Italy, a number of officials announced the importance of the time factor that surprised them without any warning, and expressed regret that they had not taken prior safety measures. They further stressed that they could have contained the crisis and avoided thousands of infections, if they took the issue of the coronavirus seriously at an earlier time.
There are several Arab and non-Arab countries that did not respond seriously enough to the coronavirus threat, due to a sense of a political vanity that prevented them from listening to specialists. When the authorities of these countries recorded the first cases of infection, they denied it and recruited a media army to ridicule the situation and discredit anyone who says anything about the virus. Some officials even claimed that people have an innate immunity that enables them to defeat the virus because they are used to drinking contaminated water and eating unhealthy food.
Based on these details, can we say that we are dealing with politicians who resemble the dark ages' popes in their tyranny? Are we facing manifestations of tyranny disguising under civilised pretentiousness? Is a politician who seeks to win democratic elections through media, electoral propaganda and external alliances able to advance human interest and human rights over his personal ambitions?
I know I raise a lot of questions that need detailed responses; however, I will not propose all the answers. It would be sufficient to intrigue you to think about the issue from any angle you wish. That is why I allow myself to conclude that the crisis triggered by COVID-19 is essentially caused by a system of values that underpins internal politics and international relations.
We are facing a global ethical crisis that the US has endorsed over decades. When Trump asked in a tweet for "God to protect America", when he received criticism of excessive selfishness, he deleted the tweet and tweeted again, "God save everyone." Then, he proved to be selfish again when he negotiated with the German authorities seeking to obtain a treatment for the coronavirus, where he requested the transfer of laboratory experiments to the US, provided that his people take the invented vaccine first. However, the laboratory owners taught the US president a moral lesson when they informed him that the treatment will be for everyone, and not just the US.
I think that we desperately need to build a value system that is faithful to our humanity, balanced with the human kind's interests, and capable of overcoming crises generated by the growing right-wing extremist currents all over the world. The coronavirus crisis may be an opportunity to build this system in light of the vulnerability of the current system, and the deterioration of the economic conditions of many powerful countries. History has shown that many new initiatives have found the way to success during or following major crises.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.