Aha! Globalised, at last…

Dr Navniit Gandhi
Monday, March 30, 2020

No! No! No!

This is not another write-up to give you the latest number of deaths due to Covid-19 or the number of confirmed patients or even a piece on how to stay safe and which exercises to follow and this one is not even about how to wash hands/utensils or how to take care of your hair and complexion while at home!

Am sure, we have our hands, plates and minds full on all of the above.

Yes, we have time on hand these days. Yes, we are anxious inside. Yes, we are not liking this uncertainty and the question: till when looms large in our hearts.

There is a lot to dwell upon these days, in addition to the routine chores to be done and videos and messages to send/read/laugh at/frown upon and delete. We seem to be thinking a lot these days. We seem to be reading a lot and watching a lot of news. There are conspiracy theories floating around as to which nation or nations deliberately planted the virus and saw to it that the virus spread so that its economies stayed afloat while those of others plunged deep down into recession; theories as to who stood to gain the utmost from all of this; and allegations against specific governments, business empires and universal health and security agencies. The sharp and incessant flow of praise and lashings continues unabated since the past two months and on the receiving end is almost everyone---the neighbours, the culprits who foolishly aided the spread, the hoarders, the police, the administrators, and the leaders.

In the next few days, we shall all be tired of all of the above. The criticisms and the statistics and the feel-good videos –shall all irritate us.

Once the anxiety over stocking our kitchens subsides and the initial hysteria over sitting at home dies down, there is a need to sit straight, take a deep breath, and dwell silently on the larger picture. Our generation is so very accustomed to being flooded by a plethora of choices in terms of products, comforts, places, and services that two very crucial truths are either accorded a back seat in some minds or are completely chucked out from some:

One, that generally life and all facets of it---seasons, fashions, struggles, and even businesses move in cycles. And since life does move in cycles, while not all of us are moving towards minimalist living, organic eating, going back to living in cottages in the countryside and enjoying solitude---all of us could be forced by nature or by a man-made virus to experience some of that in some proportions. Even in the race to acquire wealth and power, those nations which are deeply embroiled in devising cunning ways to win the race—may as well remember the two truths.

The stakes were being raised much too high, and now the wheel has turned, for the universe, (thank God!) has not lost its rhythm and has moved in a cyclical fashion. Our immediate concern now is that no one should sneeze around me and that will vegetables and milk be available on the 6th or 7th day of lockdown!

The other truth is: that every fact and phenomenon has two sides. When we embraced and bowed before globalization beginning from the 70s, we were thrilled beyond measure that we could now transcend boundaries; we were ecstatic that jobs, travels, money, materials, and technology could move freely and globally. By the 90s, the entire world almost had become an equivocal slave of the phenomenon and one must admit that the idea of making billions by selling services and products was the most alluring feature of the process. The hunger and greed inside all of us gleamed and grew beyond proportions at the very idea of the opportunities of making wealth that lay in store for all of us. And we, the consumers, were overjoyed that the comforts and products from all over the world could be at our doorstep while our families too could relocate to the greenest of the pastures or at least a few in the family could hop and jump for better and better jobs.

Aha! And yet it is now that we seem to be truly globalized. Even the impact of the two ‘world’ wars was not truly ‘worldly’ or ‘global’ as this virus has globalised the threats, experiences and consequences. Be the nation an exploiter or the exploited; be the person a prince or PM or a servant; be the region cold or warm or on the left or the right of the Pacific; be the health system advanced or crumbling; and be the polity liberal or socialist—we are all in it and together.

And over the years, although terror, weapons, recessionary trends and other threats to our sanity also moved freely and globally transcending borders as they did, we did not sit up and take serious notice. However, this virus has now succeeded in shaking us beyond measure. Suddenly, the free movement of one neighbor to another’s house has also been abruptly halted. Be it business or politics or sports or tourism or power struggles—everything and everyone was ‘integrating’ into one another in such complex combinations and permutations that the streaks of ‘individuality’ were almost crushed and lost. We were buried under heaps of products, entertainment and stakes that a peep inside or a little slowing down was a cruel joke.

Globalization too, is of course, here to stay. Just because this virus has spread from Wuhan to Lombardy and on to New York now and has killed thousands worldwide, the world shall not stop trading or travelling. The money, materials and machines shall flow once the lockdowns are lifted. There is no reversal. Trade barriers and ideological walls cannot be raised again. However, it would do us good to be prepared for the next thing that might also flow freely. One cannot just get used to the good things roaming freely across borders or those that bring us ease and comfort. As is to be expected soon now, economies of almost all nations shall reel under recession. And then, the hardships shall be global too.

A lot of learning has ensued ever since this virus has struck us immobile! A lot of lessons, indeed! But the most critical takeaway, for me, has been the reiteration of the age-old maxim that: Every coin has two sides. Yes, and globalization too had two sides. And the coin has flipped and here we are, staring at the other side.

Dr. Navniit Gandhi is an academic, writer, author and a trainer/counsellor. Her write-ups can be read at navniitspeaks.wordpress.com
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