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A Test On Self-reliance


There’s no better time to discuss this subject – self-reliance – than now that a health crisis is fiercely challenging the indomitability of the human spirit. As I emphasized in a previous essay, humans have always been the apex predator. Then came COVID-19. These microbes predate on us and suddenly we are made to play an unfamiliar role – that of the prey. Much to our chagrin, we have become the game of these microscopic parasites.

The coronavirus has put us to a battery of tests. We miserably flunked the first one – the test of preparedness. We were not ready when this deadly pestilence came. The statistics on infections and deaths clearly show that. Not that nobody saw this current pandemic happening. Many did but the alarms they sounded were either not loud enough or fell on deaf ears. We are now paying the price of our unpreparedness. We now have to bear the consequences of our complacency.

The next test is adaptation. COVID-19 is also testing our ability to adapt. This we cannot afford to fail. To adapt is the  only option we have now, at least until we have both cure and vaccine against the deadly pathogen. If we won’t, we perish.

Surviving the pandemic is the goal of adaptation. It is a personal responsibility. Each individual has to make a choice – take all the necessary precautions or naively say “come what may.” There are people who chose not to follow science-based  protocols set by the authorities to prevent possible infection. Should they get infected, they only have themselves to blame. God forbid that in their stubbornness and ignorance, other people, particularly their loved ones, would also suffer.

Surviving means not only avoiding getting infected but staying afloat in the dire conditions created by the onslaught of the deadly virus. It is not only a matter of  steering away from the deadly path of this infectious disease but also coping to the situations that emerged from its trail of destruction.

Overcoming the difficulties and challenges we are now facing  because of the pandemic require  all forms of toughness – physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual (for those who, like me, believe in God). We may also need all the help we could get during these times.

But what if nobody would help? What if we only have ourselves to rely upon in order to survive? Can we shift our gear to self-reliance if we need to?

That’s the next test and perhaps the most crucial – the test on self-reliance.

When governments of affected countries had to implement extreme measures including declaring lockdowns, all socio-political  and economic activities grinded to a halt. People were forced to stay at home and couldn’t go to work to earn a living. Many got worried, particularly the breadwinners, because they had mouths to feed and bills to pay.  Lucky were the citizens of some countries who were given economic assistance  by their governments. Some governments don’t have the capability to do the same. Luckier were those who live in very rich countries whose pockets are very deep.  But were the dole outs provided by those holding the reins of government sufficient? Are the financial resources of even the wealthiest among nations unlimited that no matter how long it will take for the COVID-19 threats to dissipate they would be able to provide the needs of their people?

The next question we have to answer is – “Are we supposed to just rely on the relief package that our respective governments would provide?”  Here’s another – “Are we going to put our fate and that of our families in the hands of other people when situations like the current health crisis occurs?”

What if the coffers of our governments run dry? What if the usually generous countries would decide not to send aids to other countries because they would want to prioritize the needs of their own citizens? What if the philanthropists and their charitable organizations have nothing more to give? What if we have no friends, relatives,  and loved ones who would (and could) give us the assistance we need? What if we only have ourselves to rely upon because everyone else have their own problems and concerns?

Yes, when COVID-19 cases started to go down some countries lifted (or eased down)  their quarantine measures, economic activities resumed, although in a limited scale only. But as soon as that happened, as soon as more people and more people ventured out of their houses and  started moving to and fro for whatever reasons, statistics on infections and deaths  started to surge again.

So, in light of the aforementioned, what should the governments of concerned countries be doing? Would they choose to preserve the lives of their citizens or resuscitate their dying economies? Should our leaders choose the former, we go back to square one. We go back to being confined in our homes and not capable of earning a living. We go back to relying solely on the support from our governments. That is, if  they still have the resources to distribute to us.  But what if they have nothing more to give?

It is our moral obligation to put ourselves in a position that when everything else fail, we can at least have ourselves to rely upon and that we have sufficient resources to draw from come rain or shine. We should be thankful if our government, our neighbors, our friends, or our relatives would offer help during difficult times but it is our duty as a person with dignity to work smart and hard enough to ensure that even without the help from anybody we (and those who rely on us) will survive.

We have all spring, summer, and fall to prepare for the winter. We should not spend the first three seasons just watching the buds in branches of trees  become leaves  until they become dry and shriveled then fall to the ground. Till the land. Sow the seeds of the kind of crop you want to reap. After the harvest, don’t eat everything. Save some for the winter. Make sure that you saved enough in your barn in case the winter gets longer than usual.



The Price of Unpreparedness

coronavirus_and_economy_3543035The  coronavirus is still wreaking havoc and there are no signs it’s stopping soon. Humanity’s resilience is being tested to the hilt.

 The deadly pathogen  arrived swiftly and stealthily like the proverbial thief in the night stealing lives and ruining dreams.  Like a powerful earthquake, the COVID-19 crisis struck violently and shook  the foundations of  our socio-political and economic institutions.  If the shaking does not stop soon,  the said institutions might collapse with us trapped under the rubbles.

The COVID-19 pandemic is an unfolding tragedy affecting the whole world. Pandemics, like other  disasters and tragedies, natural or man-made, are inevitable. They happen when they happen. Some of them can be predicted by science, but some are hard (if not impossible) to predict.

Like an  earthquake, a pandemic cannot be predicted. We know that both may occur but it is difficult (if not impossible) to predict when or where. All that humanity can do is to prepare in case they do happen. The question we should ask now is – Were we ready when the current health crisis broke out? Unfortunately we were not! The coronavirus caught the world with its pants down.

We were sufficiently warned by scientists and epidemiologists. Papers were published and  books  were written about the possibility of a pandemic as deadly as the coronavirus  occurring. The Swine Flu, Ebola, MERS, and SARS, all happening during the first 20 years of the 21st century  were telltale signs that outbreaks of infectious and deadly diseases are happening more frequently. They were all ignored and humanity is now paying the price for not heeding the warnings.

It wasn’t information we lacked but something very basic for surviving calamities (or at least lessen their damage) – preparation.

For earthquakes, we usually conduct earthquake drills to at least learn what we should do should an unpredictable earthquake occurs. What about with pandemics? What preparations did countries put in place for infectious and deadly diseases? With the way the coronavirus events unfolded in different parts of the world,  it is accurate to say that not a semblance of preparation was made… except probably in South Korea.

Experts explained that South Korea’s efficient response to the coronavirus crisis was informed by their experiences and the data they gathered from the country’s MERS outbreak in 2015. The National Geographic reported that in the immediate aftermath of the outbreak aforementioned, the country’s lawmakers laid out the legal foundation for a comprehensive strategy for contact tracing. This is crucial in containing the virus and in preventing further spread. They amended an existing law that gave their health authorities the power to collect private data from both confirmed and suspected patients even without warrant.   They also built up their diagnostic testing capabilities.

The South Koreans were, somehow, prepared. They had a plan should another MERS occur. Probably, the rest of the world had none. The South Koreans and their leaders knew what to do while the rest of the world was clueless as to how to deal effectively with the pestilence.

The South Koreans learned their lessons from a previous disease outbreak (MERS). This time they were prepared. Conversely, the US and most European countries have seemingly forgotten about the 1918 Spanish flu.  Perhaps because that was a century ago. They (and other countries) assumed that just like  the Swine Flu, Ebola, MERS, and SARS, any other outbreaks could easily be put under control. They were all wrong. The coronavirus is a testament that “assumption is the mother of all f*** ups.”

Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”  The citizens and leaders of his country learned this the hard way. The US owns the dubious distinction of the country with the most COVID-19 cases and deaths.

The US and other wealthy European nations being rendered seemingly helpless  by this deadly pestilence is an irony. The said countries are among the wealthiest in the world (with the US on top). They   also have the most advance science and technology and the  most number of Nobel Prize winners in Medicine and Chemistry. So, what happened?

The answer is simple – they were not ready for the onslaught of the coronavirus.

The deaths and sufferings we are witnessing in different parts of the world are the price we pay for our unpreparedness.

Links to other articles I wrote about COVID-19.

We Should Adapt… Or Perish

coronaThe COVID-19 crisis is here. It’s evolving.  There’s no escaping it. All we could do is to hope and pray (of course if you, like I do, believe in God) that this pandemic ends in the soonest possible time.

The world is being held hostage by the COVID-19. This deadly pathogen spares no one. Everybody in the world is affected, either directly or indirectly. Anybody could get infected – rich or poor, famous or unknown, young or old – at any given time.

 Almost all social and economic activities are also paralyzed. Many countries in the world are in a lockdown. People are being asked (or are forced) to stay at home. Most of them could not go to work and socialize with friends.

Were we ready when this happened? The answer is obvious – NO. We have to admit that we were caught with our pants down. Governments are clueless as to how effectively they could deal with the pestilence. Even the progressive and powerful countries with the most advance technologies are seemingly helpless. Nobody has a plan in place to respond to this crisis. Not that nobody saw it coming. Bill Gates did. In a Ted talk in 2015 he warned that “the greatest risk of global catastrophe is not a nuclear war but an influenza epidemic.” Did the world leaders listen? You know the answer.

There were other warnings that were given about the possibility of  another pandemic occurring. Vaclav Smil, a Canadian scientis, published in 2008 a book (“Global Catastrophes and Trends) to warn us about the likelikhood of another influenza pandemic in the next 50 years. about it.

There were other books written warning about flu pandemics – “Flu Hunter: Unlocking the Secrets of a Virus” (Robert G. Webster) and “Deadliest Enemy” Our War Against Killer Germs” (Michael Osterholm). Apparently, nobody paid attention.

But we should no longer be playing the “blame game.” Set aside also for the meantime those conspiracy theories as to where the virus really originated, whether it is manufactured in the lab or is it natural, and what have you. What we need are solutions to the many problems we are facing as a result of the pandemic. As we wait for our scientists and medical experts who are racing against time to find a cure and to develop a vaccine, we have to move on. The last time I checked, the world has not stop spinning. It’s now springtime (here in South Korea as I write this). Summer will follow, then fall, and I am sure winter comes next. We have to continue living.

Notwithstanding COVID-19, life goes on. And as Robert Frost said, “the way out is always through.” We have to embrace the new reality painted by the deadly virus. We need to contend with all the changes that emerged because of the pandemic. We have no choice but to ADAPT. If we won’t, we perish.

Yes, adaption is the name of the game. This brings us back to what Charles Darwin once said, “Species with useful adaptations to the environment are more likely to survive.”

Humans have always been the apex predator. Then came COVID-19. These microbes predate on us and suddenly we are made to play an unfamiliar role – that of the prey. Much to our chagrin – we have become the game of these microscopic parasites. We are being hunted. These little monsters are targeting our lungs. And it’s not like  a lion coming out of the bush that at least we have a window of opportunity to either stand our ground and fight or run for our safety. It’s like a traitorous bullet from a sniper hidden somewhere and you’ll just know you got hit when you start bleeding and could be seconds away from death.

But our scientists and medical experts have been learning a lot about the novel coronavirus. Humans are making a stand. We ought to fight and not just fall one after the other like helpless dominoes. The tables will certainly be turned, we just don’t know when and how soon. For the meantime, we are given a very important tool that would enable us, not to fight, not just yet anyway, but to avoid or move around our invisible predators – information. It’s all we have at this point. As of yet, there is no cure, there is no vaccine. Information – knowledge about these deadly microscopic parasites – is all we’ve got

The information gathered so far about the COVID-19, are key in the battle against the virus. All the data gathered are currently being synthesized by experts to come out with a treatment and to develop the vaccine. Leaders of different countries responded to these accumulated knowledge by formulating and implementing guidelines and policies. These guidelines and policies, in turn, resulted to the necessary changes in the way we now conduct our social and economic activities. All we need to do, for our own sake, is to adapt to all these changes.

This is the writing on the wall that everybody ought to have paid attention to – “Adapt… or perish.”

There are three cardinal rules that we ought to be following as religiously as we could – wash your hands frequently, wear mask when venturing out of our homes, and strictly observe social distancing. These guidelines were created by authorities in the field of epidemiology – people who know what they are saying. These very basic rules are not just opinions, they are assertions backed by research and science.

Are these rules difficult to follow? Most of us would probably say no. But there are some people who value so much their freedom to do as they please. There are some countries whose COVID-19 problems have gone awry where the citizens, and to some degree their governments as well,  have initially considered following these basic rules as useless. The question they need to grapple with now and in the future is how have their refusal to wear mask and observe social distancing in the early stages of the spread of the virus in their respective countries/places  contributed to the spike of COVID-19 infections  and deaths a week or so later? Is it a case of people not adapting and therefore they perished? Is it a case of the government failing to adapt and therefore their citizens perished?

We know that countries need to resume with their economic activities or risk recession. But it is not a choice between asking people to stay home and wreck the economy or allowing them to go out to save the economy but giving the virus an opportunity to kill more people. It is a matter of learning to adapt to a social and economic  environment where the threat of COVID-19 is present.

This is where the intelligence and creativity of human beings could come to the fore. How can we continue doing what we are supposed to be doing on a daily basis despite COVID-19 hanging like Damocles sword over our heads.

There are ways to do it. Some companies, for example,  are already implementing “work-at home” schemes.  There are schools in some parts of the world that have reopened opting to teach their students online.  Leaders of different religions carry out their worship services online also. Nowadays, people order their foods and basic necessities online too. These are all in keeping with the policy of “social distancing” for indeed, it is so risky to gather people together.

There are times when the pursuit of our liberties bring us to perdition. Sometimes people are just too  proud to surrender their basic freedom even if doing so means preserving the most significant of all human rights – the right to live.

We have to learn to adapt to the way the COVID-19 reconfigured the established systems we got accustomed to. We need to embrace all the changes resulting from the onslaught of the pandemic. Both individuals and organizations need to find innovative ways to deal with transformations created by the virus.

When the COVID-19 smoke dissipates, the men and women who would remain standing are the fittest and those who learned to adapt.

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