Coronavirus and the End of the Age of Arrogance

By William J. Furney

In a flash, people who thought they were on top of the world found themselves at the bottom of it. High-flying executives jetting off to far-flung places for meetings that could easily be conducted online are grounded, and many of them axed; airlines, who thought they ruled the world and devised even more daring and lengthy flights, are on their knees and many teetering on the edge; brash folk who believed the world solely revolved around them are suffering a harsh new reality.

Celebrities who thought the world adored them suddenly find themselves ignored, and derided by their social media and other stunts as they try to snare our attention and remain relevant, even as the only thing on our collective minds is to stay healthy and not succumb to the disease caused by novel coronavirus. 

Yet despite the gargantuan loss of life so far in 2020 — well over half a million people, and counting — many still hold on, limpet-like, to their arrogance that they can do what they like and there will be few, if any, consequences to face up to. 

We thought we knew it all, and it turns out we know nothing at all. 

We’re in this pandemic because of meat, and almost no one on the planet wants to own up to the stark and undeniable fact that meat is not only bad for human health, causes immense cruelty to animals (and their death) and, along with the dairy industry, is the single-biggest cause of environmental destruction. Let’s just have another flesh-burger and not think about it — even the fact that the new coronavirus is believed to have emerged from bats in China that were prepared for food. 

The bumbling World Health Organisation doesn’t want to take responsibility for its ongoing series of blunders. 

“This is a time for self-reflection, to look at the world we live in and to find ways to strengthen our collaboration as we work together to save lives and bring this pandemic under control,” its Ethopian chief, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said this week in announcing a review into how the world got into this sorry state that the WHO was meant to protect us all from. 

Tedros, who had the firm backing of China to get into the top medical spot back in 2017, told us there was little to worry about as a new pathogen was taking lives in China, that borders should be kept open (especially with China) and that the Chinese authorities were doing a great job (even as they harassed doctors who dared to speak out, and hounded others). This has led to global scorn and ridicule of the WHO and its leader — and to the United States withdrawing its membership, and over half a billion dollars in fees a year, the single-biggest contribution to the body of any country. 

“The magnitude of this pandemic, which has touched virtually everyone in the world, clearly deserves a commensurate evaluation,” said Tedros. Few outside the sterile walls of the WHO HQ in Geneva will be holding their breath. 

The 72-year-old WHO has somehow become so inept and unfit for purpose that it is now unable and unwilling to say whether coronavirus is also spread in the air, a method of transmission that would appear basic and, in fact, there is evidence to back it up, say scientists. Just what is wrong with this global health agency, which also refuses to back vaping as a healthier way to get nicotine instead of smoking, when scientific and medical institutions have produced reams of studies showing the risks of using an e-cigarette compared to a combustible one are almost negligible?

This week more than 200 scientists wrote an open letter to the WHO imploring it to “acknowledge the evidence” on the airborne transmission of coronavirus because WHO chiefs “were refusing to hear” it — an extraordinary circumstance given the WHO’s failures on coronavirus and the continuing pandemic. 

Meanwhile, blustering world leaders who believed they were right on coronavirus (“It’s just a little flu”) and everyone else was wrong, even as infection rates and death tolls around the world soared, have had their wings clipped and come crashing down to Earth. The United States, Brazil and Britain now hold the unwanted crown of countries worst affected by coronavirus, and two of their leaders have been afflicted by the virus — 137,000, 71,469 and 44,798 fatalities, respectively, for a group total of over a quarter of a million (253,267).

Some have been criticised for labelling coronavirus “the great leveller”, and while that’s a crude and cruel way to refer to the enormous loss of life, it is clear that this global pandemic is reshaping life around the planet in ways we could never have imagined. 

We are being forced to cut back on excess, travel, fundamental freedoms like going out and meeting people and enjoying drinks and meals at bars and restaurants. 

We — shocked and anguished by silent roads, empty streets and a total shutdown of life as we had always known it — are being propelled into a stark new reality amid the threat of further outbreaks and a return to monastic living. We wonder, amid the “new normal”, whether we will return to our previous, easy, comfortable lives — but wasn’t that what got us into this emergency in the first place?

Unless we’re willing to radically change our lives, for the better — including those of the creatures around us and the environment that surrounds us — and adopt a humbler approach, it’s almost certain we’re going to be in for the same nightmare, again and again. 

  • Title photograph shows planes belonging to Delta Air Lines parked as passenger demand plummeted during the early days of the coronavirus emergency. (Credit: AirTeamImages)

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