In the Financial Times, novelist Arundhati Roy describes the impact of Covid-19 in her native India, where the devastation of the virus is compounded by pervasive povery, inequality, and structural injustice. She recounts how the Hindu-nationalist government dragged its feet in responding to the outbreak, and how India’s poor have been largely left to fend for themselves. In these circumstance, suggests Roy, we should think of the virus as a potential “portal” into a new and more just world, not a temporary suspension of normality. Here’s an excerpt:
What is this thing that has happened to us? It’s a virus, yes. In and of itself it holds no moral brief. But it is definitely more than a virus. Some believe it’s God’s way of bringing us to our senses. Others that it’s a Chinese conspiracy to take over the world.
Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to “normality”, trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.
Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.
Image of Arundhati Roy by Vikramjit Kakati - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0. Via Wikimedia Commons.