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3 mistakes of the pandemic, and lessons from it

We’ve seen it all. People gasping and begging for oxygen. Parking lots converted to cremation grounds. Bodies floating in rivers. Worse, India suffered in 2021 when vaccines are already available, and many countries are getting out of the Covid crisis. The US just eased indoor mask restrictions.

The UK reopened live theatre last week. China returned to normal months ago. We could try and deflect blame, but deep down we know we are responsible for this mess. Our leadership failed us. Ironically, it is also the most popular, most glorified, most celebrated and most supported leadership since Independence. Hence, some responsibility does lie with us citizens too, who believed this is the best government of all time.

If the apocalypse we saw in the last few months doesn’t teach us some valuable lessons, nothing will. No, the world media isn’t ‘out to get us’ or ‘jealous/ worried that we will be the next superpower’. They don’t actually care about us. Maybe deep down they see us as fools, lost in our delusions about a glorious religion and culture, even as bodies float in the same holy river that we worship.

It’s okay to make mistakes. The point is not to humiliate or shame anyone, but to change for the better. We need to change the way we think. For, how we think is how we vote, how the leadership behaves and ultimately how the country ends up. Here’s what we need to learn:

1. ‘Us vs them’ is a primitive, exploitable and harmful human trait. As kids, we love comics, with a clear set of good and bad guys. The hero and the villian. Such movies do good business too. The human brain is wired to seek safety in people ‘like us’ and get easily repelled by ‘them’. The entire Hindu vs Muslim narrative in India is driven by this primitive instinct.

This defines the politics of our country at the cost of healthcare, education, economy and governance. No, Hindus are not one cohesive, superior group. Hindu contractors exploit Hindu labourers every day. Rich Hindus don’t share their money with poor Hindus. Hindu municipal staff cleans roads too. Hindus run scams and commit crimes too.

The belief that the Hindu community is one cohesive whole is fiction. It’s just a classic manifestation of ‘us vs them’, like a comic book. Drop this mentality if you want India to not be in this dark despair again. Never, ever mix religion with politics — a recipe for complete disaster. Governments are not God. God is about faith. Governments need to be questioned and kept accountable. Never mix the two.

2. Respecting modern scientific thinking and capital investments. Today, the countries coming out of the pandemic are those who respect science and capital. We don’t. Mention science to many Indians and they start citing ancient texts and how those were so amazing that nothing new compares to that.

Science is admitting we don’t know everything, that the future holds the answers not the past. Most of the pseudo-scientific Indians are stuck in the past — the very definition of unscientific. Modern medicine isn’t just a white people vs us thing (again the ‘us vs them’). It’s based on experiments, observations, rigorous trials and reviews. We need to respect that.

The reason many countries have enough vaccines is because they invested capital in them. Just making a vaccine isn’t enough, you need to put enough capital to get enough doses. Today, we are paying for that mistake with lakhs of avoidable deaths.

3. Don’t be in a rush to get medals. Wanting India to succeed is a good thing. However, premature celebrations or glorifying it without true substantial accomplishment is not. The truth is that we are not successful yet. We are third-world in many basic parameters. Sharing a video of a plane, train or even a rocket doesn’t change that. Our healthcare sector just recently got exposed. We now need aid.

We are begging for patent waivers on vaccines which we never bothered to help develop. Is this what a superpower is like? How can we chest thump with one hand and beg with the other. Why do we need a medal at every step? Can’t we just put our heads down and work at building the nation for the next few decades?
We Indians lost the plot.

We went into a primitive ‘us vs them’ mode. We mixed government and God, and thus felt the government deserves undying faith rather than being questioned and kept accountable. We ignored science. We don’t understand capital. Hence, we paid a heavy price. The only silver lining in this misery is the lesson — that we were wrong and we need to change. If we take the lesson, there’s hope. If we don’t and stay in denial and ignorance, well, there’s no vaccine for that.



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Disclaimer

Views expressed above are the author’s own.



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