By John Keeble
There is not much to be said about the latest coronavirus that is good, but maybe some good will come out of it.
It may finally rock safety complacency and force the mass of people to face the fact that disaster can strike our whole species as surely as it struck the dinosaurs – and that the coronavirus crisis is small beer compared with what will happen to us if we don’t reduce the rate we are wrecking the planet.
The human race is a parasitic species without much care for the planet or the other animals living on it. This is especially true in so-called developed nations where overconsumption and safety are taken for granted.
In fact, like the virus, it cares nothing for what it uses and kills as long as its needs and wants are satisfied. Increasingly, mega rich parasites are battening on planet, people and all life alike.
Now, suddenly, nature is putting us in our place – and fear is rampant. Which of us will be colonised by the coronavirus in a way not dissimilar from the humanvirus overwhelming the planet? Who will survive? Who will die? Will there be enough food? Do I dare go out of my home?
Have you seen the rich and powerful weep in court or in front of cameras when their tough confidence shatters in prosecutions or scandals? You wonder how such pre-crisis toughs can crumble so embarrassingly.
Most people are like that. One day they control their own little worlds with safety and enough to eat taken for granted. They easily dismiss climate change, turn a blind eye to animal abuse as they grab at steak or chicken, not worry in the slightest about people desperate for food and safety. The next day, a virus throws everyone into a frenzy of fear and toilet rolls.
I don’t mean life’s inadequates like the trolls and the intellectual giants who have been taught how to parrot “Fake news! Fake news! Fake news!”. I mean regular people like you and me.
It is us, after all, who let our governments kill and destroy; who pay no more than lip service to, for example, the plight of Palestinian families being murdered and forced out by Israel; who gobble meat and dairy while knowing the cruelty of the industries and their appalling damage to the planet.
Maybe the virus will help us to see the world more clearly – and, if you believe in miracles, free people to show their innate compassion and goodness. In those who have those better world-building qualities. Many, including some world leaders, do not. I wonder where I can find an example?
Quite a lot of us, the lucky ones in life’s roulette, are experiencing a strange feeling of vulnerability that rocks our personal worlds. It breaks through our old complacent feeling of knowing all the answers and being powerful enough to do what we like.
Of course, most of the wider world are the losers in humanvirus roulette, with no such feeling of safety and power… they live just down the street from us, in the next town, in the next country, at the next border, on the next continent. We know all about them. We always have. Intellectually. Emotionally, we bounce off that knowledge as we worry about how life is treating us personally.
Crises have long been recognised as catalysts for change, both in themselves and because they break the reality constructions in people’s minds by changing external conditions. The poor old human brain hates internal-external contradictions and is more likely to build a new internal world that makes sense of the new external conditions.
Now, for example, whatever views people had on medical services have to change. They can see that services are woefully inadequate and unfair. When they come to vote, will they put a cross by the candidate who promises fair health care for all or by the name of the candidate who wants to spend their tax money on more bombers but tells convenient lies?
Have you seen the way that our atmosphere is recovering with the coronavirus forcing industry and transport to stop? Except in the US, of course, where polluters are being given a free run to pollute and make money. At the ballot box, will voters choose candidates who will fight for a cleaner, safer world for today’s and tomorrow’s children, or the candidate promising to plunder and pollute the country but offering a handful of peanuts to voters?
Covid-19 is the latest in a long list of diseases caused by eating animals. Wild and farmed. Will people finally get it into their emotions, as well as their intellects, that eating animals is bad for themselves, the human race, and the planet?
Hopefully, the coronavirus may reignite feelings of compassion simply by showing us what it is like to be a blameless victim losing control and feeling threatened. Perhaps, too, reminding us how we felt when some personal disaster left us helpless.
Poor us – we really are suffering. Oh, come on! What is it like to be really desperate? Every day. No hope. Say, starving, homeless and sick in Yemen while Saudi Arabian forces are dropping bombs to kill us (US and British firms are only selling them the weapons, so our hands are clean, aren’t they?).
Or being a three-week-old lamb being sliced to death so another species can eat you? Or maybe a sow confined to a metal crate for her entire life so she can be repeatedly raped with gadgets and turned into a machine for producing piglets which are promptly ripped away for meat production?
What do you think? Are you ready to change to fight for a healthier, fairer, more compassionate future?
If you don’t, big business money will slap you into the shape it wants by defining the post-virus reality.
John Keeble is an international photo-journalist living in Cuenca. He “retired” after 25 years with The Guardian in London and has spent the past 15 years giving media services to NGOs as well as writing about and illustrating social issues.