So we’re not sure how many of our readers are following social media or whether their own personal social media echo chamber has resulted in much information around freedoms being taken away due to responses to the coronavirus but it’s certainly infiltrated our feeds in a big way. Perhaps it has something to do with the company we keep.
This is a serious issue. Let us make it clear from the outset that those of us at The RAG take COVID-19 seriously. We recognise that this is a virus that can cause a lot of harm, can contribute to death of vulnerable people and has clearly brought the world as we know it to a grinding halt. But questions do emerge as to whether the response from some governments are proportionate, and this goes for those governments undertaking oppressive measures, and to those governments that have taken very few measures. We find ourselves in a situation where there is a need for a very delicate balance between the health of individuals, human rights, the economy, and how far we allow governments to take emergency powers.
The question of emergency powers it’s not something that only comes up in the context of Covid. We have seen a huge movement seeking for governments to be declaring a climate emergency which brings with it the same challenges. For example what if the climate emergency results in certain measures needing to be taken to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions or ensure the adaptation of ecosystems or of communities? What sort of powers does this leave in the hands of the government to address climate change?.
In the context of COVID we have seen complaints by many individuals, especially from countries such as the UK, the USA and Australia (wealthy developed countries) arguing that the human rights are being violated and essential freedoms taken away due to the lockdowns, and people being required to wear masks. We’ve seen fights break out in public spaces, mostly supermarkets (strangely), arguments occurring across social media and no doubt friendships impacted as a result of people’s position on this.
We understand that the person’s truth is their own, and we all have different perceptions of reality and experiences, and we respect that. These are important issues, but those in the wealthy developed countries complaining about measures taken to protect the vulnerable should perhaps stop to recognise their own privilege. It is a privilege that people living in overcrowded circumstances, slums and mega-cities in developing countries just don’t have. Staying at home for extended periods of time in poor areas, and not going to work for hundreds of millions of people across most of the world is simply not an option.
The amount of poverty in the world, and lack of privilege most of the world deals with, is resulting in us sadly putting the economy over people’s lives. This is being justified by a need to ensure economies are protected, due to their necessity to the survival of people as we have become dependent on the mighty dollar. Poor people living in informal economies need to continue to go to work and don’t have access to social security bail outs or resources to work from home. We are certainly not all in this together.