Co-opting and cooperating with covid
Humans must learn to accept the inevitability of death — fight for survival and then surrender quietly; writes Moutussi Acharyya
Every moment my confusion, sadness, anger, helplessness and horror grows at this covid spectacle I am witnessing, and this species called humankind, which claims to be superior to all other species on earth but which has so much to learn from our fellow creatures about the inherent morality of all living beings. Be it single-celled organisms or the largest of trees, insects that crawl or birds that fly, mammals or reptiles, fish or fowl, all that live or breathe, they stick close to their own and support and protect each other till their last breath. Except many of us humans.
Though in this pandemic I occasionally see great courage, generosity and selflessness, mostly I see the stupidity and selfishness of humankind.
A virus needs a live host to feed on, the moment the person dies the virus inside him starts to die, a dead body can never pose as much of a danger as a live covid patient, once you stop breathing you stop releasing virus through your breath, some virus may remain on the body's surface, but it will soon die, as the host cells the parasite is now feeding on are dead.
Covid is not a disease like Ebola where a lot of fluids are released from a dead body. And in both cases, there is more of a health danger from the body decomposing for hours than from touching the covid virus on the surface of the body while wrapping or removing it.
Yet I see families afraid to touch their dead, to transport their dead in their own cars or even in hired vehicles to the crematorium, lifelong friends and closest of family members are afraid to wear PPE kits and wrap the bodies of their loved ones, to lend a shoulder to carry them to a car or lift them on to the funeral pyre or dig a grave for them and respectfully lay them inside.
Yet they are all too quick to blame and abuse the sons and fathers, the brothers and husbands of others for not doing what they refuse to do for their own flesh and blood, the ambulance drivers or government transport that do not come to pick up their dead, doctors and attendants that do not admit or attend to ill or dead bodies lying outside emergency rooms, the hospitals that are short-staffed and leave dead bodies lying in hospital beds for hours, morgue attendants who refuse to carry or hand over dead bodies because they have not been given permission, or crematorium workers or grave diggers who are overwhelmed so dead bodies lie waiting for last rites for the entire day. The people we callously leave in the hands of strangers in their last hours on earth are parents who gave birth to us, children we gave birth to, husbands or wives, sisters or brothers, lifelong companions and dearest friends. We are not willing to risk our lives to give them a dignified departure but are willing to abuse and beat up completely unknown and unrelated people for not doing the same, people who are sometimes unwilling and afraid, but mostly unable, due to the unbearable pressure of their jobs, to do their duty towards all who need it.
During the flu pandemic of 1901, recovered flu patients and those infected who were relatively able looked after the seriously ill and dying in encampments outside the town, as they ran less risk of getting infected again. Yet now, covid patients are well enough to stand up in the wards and shout abuse at hospital authorities for an hour for dead bodies lying beside them but do not lift a finger to help lone, helpless attendants trying to wrap or remove a dead body, even though some are well enough to do so, and even though having dead bodies lie beside them for hours while they eat and breathe is a more serious health hazard than helping to remove one.
Extraordinary situations demand extraordinary measures and extraordinary people, but everywhere you see only the ordinary and the mediocre, people complaining, ranting, and raving against a reality they refuse to own or understand, because they are too afraid to face the terrible truth, that to mother nature we are no more important or essential than the millions of flies and other creatures we kill everyday, that a virus tinier than the cells in our body has the power to wipe out humankind and nothing in our intelligence and strength in numbers can help us conquer it. In fact, it is our intelligence and our huge numbers, our arrogant belief that we can subdue this earth and all her creatures to our bidding, that we can outwit evolution, tame nature to obey our every wish, and our headlong pursuit of so-called freedom and happiness and our own selfish desires sacrificed above the common good, the co-existence of all living beings, that may have brought us to this pass and will again in the future. For mother nature, in the same way we feed on other creatures she provides a home to, so too must we provide sustenance to all her other children in turn. We devour food so we too must become food for others. It is give and take, the circle of life. We curse the virus but forget to thank the billions, if not trillions of viruses and bacteria that inhabit our eco-system, which number many times the human cells existing in our body, for providing the fuel to keep life burning bright and helping us to thrive. In fact, many infected with covid speak of miraculously being cured of life-long auto immune diseases and crippling pain.
I see many people desperately trying to get family members admitted to hospitals even though they are not suffering lack of oxygen or other serious distress, perhaps just a fever and oxygen level of 94 or 95, blocking beds that could have helped critically ill patients survive, simply because they are afraid that a covid patient at home might infect other family members and they do not want the excessive trouble of caring for a covid patient or the stress they will endure if his condition deteriorates. Yet they are willing to criticise and demean doctors and hospitals for the smallest sins of omission and commission in their family member's treatment, when these doctors are dealing with hundreds of patients, not just this one family member. Though there are well-publicized protocols for less serious covid patients to be treated at home in many cases, where they don't need to come into direct contact with any other member, family members' fear leads them to ignore and avoid the patient, causing his condition to deteriorate unnecessarily. Some hoard oxygen and remdesevir at home without having the slightest idea of dosage or protocol for administering them to covid patients. They vociferously abuse the government, doctors and the system for all their suffering, without ever abusing themselves or their family and friends for often not wearing a mask properly, or removing it altogether, going out and mingling in crowds or hosting parties at home, and not maintaining social distancing, sanitization or other covid protocols. They have no idea of the capacity of our health system, our oxygen production infrastructure or that vaccines and remdesevir have been developed by foreign entities and we can manufacture and sell these only according to pre-existing approvals and contracts from those who created them.
The media was not intelligent enough to do its job in late 2020 or early 2021 and realize that a second wave had hit Europe, and warn viewers that the second wave would also hit us sooner or later, in the same pattern that it followed in March 2020, so we should all be scared and prepare for its arrival, but now it adds to the pain and stress by constantly shaming and blaming everyone, be it governments or hospitals, and adds to the problem instead of offering solutions. Everyone today is an expert in hindsight.
While we see animals huddling together, bowing their heads to the inevitability of death or destruction when the wrath of mother nature approaches, comforting each other while they wait for the storm to pass overhead, or if they can escape the tsunami they run like the wind try to and take all of their tribe or as many as they can with them, and they remain constantly alert to danger and so they are able to start running long before the tsunami strikes.
While we, homo sapiens, supposedly the most intelligent species on earth, fail to recognize that we have no control over mother nature, that viruses were there long before us, and will remain long after we are gone, that a pandemic's rapid spread in a world of 7.8 billion people or more, so closely connected due to our ever-growing demands and inventions is inevitable, so we must protect ourselves and others as best as we can and then humbly accept the natural rhythms and reasons for disease, death and resurrection that mother earth imposes on us, for we exist here at her will and her mercy.
And instead of flailing wildly at our fate and howling at the wind like madmen, refusing to accept our destiny, cursing and crying at our suffering, which is the fate of all living beings, just not the human condition, is simply of no use, we must follow the example of our animal brethren, of quiet acceptance and dignified surrender, knowing that we must do all we can to survive but then leave the rest to mother nature, this is her cleaning house, setting fire to the forest, so that fresh shoots may grow, that some will die so the rest can live and we must all face the inevitable, that we are slaves to her laws and cannot stop her dance of destruction, the tandav nritya. Let us bow to mother earth and may she protect us and may her rules guide us always.
Once we realize humans are not the one and only on this planet, we are just one among very many, things will fall into place and we can learn to accept adversity calmly and endure stoically.
Views expressed are personal