The current pandemic, infamously known as the COVID19 has made me think twice about a phrase that I often quote, stating that “We all are in the same boat”. But are we?
From its breakout in Wuhan in China to its spread across the globe, I never really felt as much concerned until several cases started to be reported in my home country on the “beautiful” continent of Africa.
From the time the WHO (World Health Organization) declared it to be a pandemic, several instructions were given to people to prevent the virus from spreading: social distancing (even though I prefer to use the phrase “physical distancing”), regular washing of hands using soap, among others.
As cities and countries across the globe started to impose a lockdown upon their inhabitants, we slowly started to feel the seriousness of the matter, and so did our stress level slowly started to curve upwards. It wasn’t a big deal for many of us to abide by the rules of the confinement in most of the “developed world”, seeing that we could still be taking our classes or working from home thanks to Zoom or Skype, and easily be purchasing online goods to be delivered to our doors within hours. At the same time, we are enjoying the latest in-house concert by our popular singer on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram or Snapchat, name it all.
But believe you me, it was not until my own country was hit by the severe lockdown measures that I started to realize that we are not, for sure, in the same boat. I started to question a theory I supported for long. It has now been almost two weeks since the four corners of my bedroom have become my entire world, but nothing can compare to a one-day lockdown that some of my brothers and sisters are now facing back in my motherland.
Well, it is easy to shout out loud that people need to stay home to avoid new contaminations. I agree and do support that people should stay home. But do you realize that I can easily do that in my apartment in the USA from where I am easily receiving free food delivered to my door thanks to good Samaritans in my city? Enough food for me to even spare some and preserve this in my fridge?
But I imagine me back home next to my sister who must rely on a one to two hours electricity rationing in town to barely recharge her phone so to keep in touch with a brother in America. She can’t afford good internet connectivity to make a live video call with me on WhatsApp but still, she makes sure that I get news from home, letting me know how everyone is doing.
Think about my mother who has to spend her day at home because of the confinement but she can’t wash her hands from the tap because either there is not even one in the compound or it has been days since the last time water ran through it. How do I tell her that she needs to use soap every time she cleanses her hands when she doesn’t even have enough to buy the next meal?
Meanwhile, government officials are instead debating on how to raise their vacation allowances!
Talking of social or physical distancing, this is easy for me to do since I can just close the door of my room behind me and be sure that other occupants of the apartment will do the same. Have we thought about those whose entire world is equivalent to our small bedroom in the USA or Europe? What you and I call our kitchen is a dwelling place for an entire family of seven in some other parts of the world. How will their physical distancing or social distancing look like? And how about the homeless in our five stars cities?
Question is, are we still really in the same boat? Have we ever been in the same boat? If yes, then what happened? Who is the captain of this boat to whom we may get the assurance about the journey upon which we embarked?
Once again, this world crisis comes to remind us of how unequal the world has always been but also exposes our greed. We spend millions of dollars attending high-level conferences and summits to discuss world issues while staying at fancy hotels, only to come up with a long text that can barely be read or understood by the least of our people, those most concerned by issues facing our humanity. Documents, programs, and policies that end up in folders in glass stained shelves of our offices or in newspaper articles which we read today and shred tomorrow.
COVID19 is a wind that blows for a season, and even though it may tarry, it shall surely pass. But we have accommodated a virus deadlier than COVID19, called “INEQUALITY”. Who cares about it? What about rich countries plundering the resources of the poor? Is it true that only a hundred individuals in the world possess about ninety percent of the world resources?
So next time before you ask me to spread the message to my world about how to face the next crisis, please, be reminded that
“Even though we are floating on the same ocean, being tossed by the same storm, we are not in the same boat. Some are in ships, others in canoes, others in submarines, and others still are barely swimming.”