If so, where is it?
Covid-19, a black swan of the modern world, is a non-cell microscopic agent which has shaken our world to the core. No one could have predicted the impact of this pandemic before November 2019 -- no scientists, academics, public health advisors, or international secret agencies could have known.
The death toll in the world continues to increase because of Covid-19. The number is still in the thousands. Despite many countries not revealing the actual number of deaths (which stand at at least 130,000 in 27 countries according to BBC research), the total official number of deaths due to Covid-19 is more than 450,000 as of May 19.
The number of deaths in the United States of America alone is over 121,000, and more than 8.9 million people have been infected by the virus around the world.
Historically, the last known pandemic the world survived was the influenza virus between 1918 and 1920, which took up to 100 million lives when the world population was merely 2 billion. Following this, the world had plenty of other warnings in the form of HIV, SARS, Ebola, and H1N1 influenza to suggest that a global pandemic was inevitable.
Sadly, we seem to have not learnt anything from these warnings. This has been proven by the response of governments across countries, developed and developing alike, and their attention to public health.
Today, the world population is about 7.5 billion. We are in an era of globalization and the ease with which we can globetrot today is undeniable. Coronavirus, therefore, was transported from country to country within a matter of days -- thanks to our interconnected world.
As a result, almost half a million lives have been lost so far, and one-third of economies have been shut down due to lockdown procedures. The world economy has shrunk in excess of 6% in the last five months alone.
Not so long ago, in 2008, the world experienced a terrible recession; we are still reeling from the impact of this recession, and before we knew it, we were hit by Covid-19. Looking at similar historical events, the prediction is clear -- there will be a great (or greater) depression.
The great depression in the 1930s was followed by a world war. Then there was the decades-long Cold War. Less than 3 decades later, after the fall of the Soviet Union, we just about started to enjoy our neo-liberal approach to world order in the name of globalization.
Now, again, we are facing a new threat called Covid-19. This compels us to ask the big question: Does globalization really exist? If it does, then where is it?
The world has always been divided into North-South or East-West. Globalization was supposed to remove that divide. However, in this time of great need, we haven’t seen many positive impacts of globalization.
What we have witnessed, though, is the flow of information which, on many occasions, was biased, xenophobic, or simply made up. And, as stated earlier, the virus reached war and poverty-stricken countries faster than any humanitarian help ever reached them.
Today, we are in a worse situation, nationally and globally, than before this pandemic started in Wuhan in December 2019.
On a national level, a country like Bangladesh, that is a “readymade garment factory” for rich countries, has suffered for the last 4 months due to the lockdown being put in place on its internal market of 170 million people.
On a global level, these are some of the events happening during the pandemic:
US-China animosity is at its worst since the Cold War. The tension around the South China Sea has intensified as the US and its allies have gathered forces in that area and the military conflict between China and the USA is looking inevitable in the days to come.
India-China relationship is worsening to a war-like situation after 45 years, causing 23 casualties as confirmed by Indian officials. Although China never admitted its casualties, experts believe the same number of lives may have been lost on the Chinese side, too.
The positive relationship shared between India and Nepal since the end of the British rule has deteriorated due to a border dispute.
The two nuclear power neighbours India and Pakistan have survived two major wars between them and a number of situations of unrest at their border since their independence from the British Raj.
Even in this corona pandemic, these two perennial enemy nations continue to be in conflict. It is believed that the worsening relationship of India with Pakistan and Nepal may be a kindling ignited by China to outcast India from its neighbours.
The US has imposed new hard economic sanctions on war-torn Syria that has already lost 380,000 lives and seen the displacement of 11 million people since the war broke out in 2011.
The ongoing war between the Saudi-led military alliance and the Yemeni rebel groups has escalated after six weeks of ceasefire due to the coronavirus pandemic, because of which Saudi Arabia has lost thousands of lives.
There is no measure of the number of lives lost in Yemen from coronavirus due to a lack of authentic news sources in the country.
These events are just the headlines, blips on the radar. In the age of globalization, in a time of a severe global crisis, the most important action should be reshaping and reorganizing the public health sectors; countries should be working shoulder to shoulder to address the issue of our social wellbeing, which has been annihilated by the virus.
Instead, the super-powers are deepening the conflict further. One could argue that this pandemic became a perfect opportunity for the super-powers to expedite the conflict, just when people are distracted by the sheer misery caused by this situation.
The role of super-governments such as the UN, civil societies, NGOs, and think-tanks have been reduced drastically due to the pandemic.
Consequently, it wouldn’t be amiss to say that we are at an undeclared world war on two fronts: A biological one, caused by coronavirus, and a conventional one due to the impending economic depression, which could shake the status-quo of superiority among nations.
One could interpret the situation this way: The East is now a more happening place for economic activity. So, the battleground is shifting towards the East, just as it did in Europe in the 1930s and 40s.
This can only be seen as a clear failure of globalization. So, where does that leave us? In the past, world leaders stated that they “didn’t have any choice” but to go to war. However, time and history have proven that we did have choices -- and we still do.
War and conflict were, definitely, never the purpose of globalization. Globalization is not about nations asserting their superiority. Globalization is to bring nations together to collaborate and consolidate efforts for the collective good of the world; let us not fail at it.
Masuda Bhatti is the Editor-in-Charge of the daily Amader Notun Shomoy, writing from Rochester, Kent. She can be reached at [email protected]