Why Worry ?
There should be laughter after pain,There should be sunshine after rain, These things have always been the same.So why worry now ? Why worry now?- Mark Knopfler …Lead Singer and Guitarist, Dire Straits
I have been listening to Knopfler’s famous song “Why Worry Now ?”(penned some thirty-five years ago) in a loop on my Bose headphones all morning. His words and the sound of birds chirping on the Peepal tree outside my window is the assurance that I need in an increasingly hostile and unstable world.
No-one saw it coming. God did not warn us. It is stuff that even science fiction movies are afraid to indulge in. None of the naysayers, the doomsters, the cynics, the defeatists and the diehard pessimists with their end of the world conspiracy theories predicted it. It was not foretold by any religious sect, political leader, astrologer, theoretician, doctor or scientist. Bill Gates, five years ago gave a TED Talk about a global pandemic which the world was not ready to take on. People laughed and applauded the talk.
We are not laughing now. Looks like the vinyl LP record which played smoothly on the Gramophone for years has suddenly got jammed. Humanity has been pushed out of its comfort zone and the fault lines have been exposed. The era of weaponised diseases manufactured inside a lab and spread around the globe like wildfire through humans, crossing from one continent to another in a matter of hours has arrived. Fascinating but deadly. The hunter has become the hunted.
We are at a pause in our story of evolution. The survival of the fittest is questionable. Virus, a basic life form has brought the most evolved species on earth, the human being down on its knees. However, in this time of diverse realities, everyone, every species has an equal chance of survival or being lost for ever. The trees, wetlands, grasslands, bogs, salt marshes, ocean ecosystems, deserts, mangrove forests, micro-organisms, pathogens to behemoth blue whales are all claimants in this battle. A dolphin spotted for the first time ninety kms off Venice in Italy, the sight of whales for the first time near the ONGC oil rigs, near Mumbai, a nilgai found strolling in Noida, Olive Ridley turtles on a beach in Odisha and peacocks dancing on the streets in Mumbai prove that the fight for reclaiming lost habitat, on land and the ocean is getting intense. Nature is reclaiming its lost public spaces pushing the intruders out.
Fifty years ago, the 70’s were a calamitous time in American history of embarrassing movies, dreadful music, downright terrifying clothes, oil spills, polluting factories and power plants, raw sewage, toxic dumps, pesticides, freeways, the loss of wilderness and the extinction of wildlife. A massive oil spill in Santa Barbara, California, in 1969 leads to the observance of Earth Day on 22 nd April 1970 in which 20 million Americans (about 10% of Americas population) participate. They predict that civilisation would end in 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.
Fifty years later, not only Americans are much better off but the eight billion humans living on the planet have better life expectancy, nourishment, fewer deaths at childbirth, better access to education, drinking water, electricity and political stability. However, we are living in cataclysmic times. By the first quarter of 2020, 1.7 million people are affected and another 100,000 dead due to the Covid-19 Coronavirus pandemic. In the final reckoning where it is said that nature, technology and humans will decide the future course, one of the partners is definitely unhappy. Time for a pause.
The question on everyone’s mind is how and when will we get out of this? How soon can we get back to earning our livelihoods, guzzling fossil fuels and eating junk food? When will words like social distancing, lockdown, quarantine, isolation and pandemic become a thing of the past. When is the bail-out going to happen and how soon can we get on to the path of recovery ? When will things become normal ? Human memory is short especially of sad events and things. We yearn to forget the tragic, the catastrophic, the unpalatable, the painful and the distressing. We are ready to forget and move on.
We are right and not without reason. The word that comes to mind is resilience (the Oxford dictionary defines resilience as the ability of people or things to recover quickly after something unpleasant). After all we did spring back after the Great Plague of London (1665–66), the flu in Paris (1889–90), the Spanish Flu (1918–20), the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s, the H1N1 Swine Flu pandemic(2009–2010),West African Ebola epidemic (2014–2016), Zika Virus epidemic (2015) and the two World Wars. There is no cause for worry if the world’s new currency becomes resilience. The world’s animal, plant or human life, the poor or the rich will all come back and quicker they do the longer they will survive and learn to co-exist once again. The fight is for spaces and resources and the desire has to be to share them.The change will be ecological, political, economic, social and technological. Some of it will be tragic, some cause for celebration. Ecosystems will reshuffle, species will evolve. We are bound to see a fundamental shift in places, the man-made and natural environments, spaces, personal relationships, love, emotions, political priorities and our ideas about mortality and death. While artificial intelligence may not win the battle for us what will be required is ingenuity, compassion and persistence.
It is time for introspection. The question that remains unanswered is What will we learn from the Corona Virus pandemic ? To borrow words from the famous Irish poet WB Yeats, “The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity, surely some revelation is at hand; surely the Second Coming is at hand. “ The answer to the question is not simple, and not without many answers. It raises deep philosophical, religious, and moral issues and asks more questions than it answers. At the top of the food chain has the Human species truly evolved to show leadership ? Are we going too fast and are our priorities totally misplaced ? To my mind the pandemic will teach each one of us lessons both at an individual and collective level. We have to keep our ear to the ground and listen. As Winston Churchill said, “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.“ We hope we do not make this mistake.
It is evening time and the birds on my balcony have gone to their nests for a night nap hoping that we have learnt our lesson.
Why worry ?