Today’s epistle is not addressed to any named individual but to all of us so that each of us can take this time to rethink and reset.
Being alive today means being part of something that perhaps has never occurred in the history of humanity: A truly global phenomenon affecting every corner of the earth at the same time. As you read this missive you would observe that almost everyone you know in the world, wherever they are on the planet are voluntarily practicing or involuntarily affected by acts of self-isolation, social distancing, quarantine, lockdown or curfew.
We are all forced to slow down the pace, cancel events and activities, suspend our desires and obligations, courtesy of the scary coronavirus. I do not subscribe to the popular dictum “every disappointment is a blessing” but I do agree that as adults when we stumble we must look back to review what led to the fall.
Looking back or even just around, two of the clearest items that litters the floor upon which we now lay are our limits and vulnerabilities. Of all the talk of and race to artificial intelligence, drone warfare and technology, super power and leading forces, no country in the world, no scientific community has a clear answer to prevent, cure and control this virus. No leader has come up with a clear, concise and coherent mode of dealing with the pandemic that all can look up to and share as the very best practice. We are all learning as we go along. The best answer we have so far is the simple but precious command: “touch less and wash more”. That is in the realm of science and politics.
In the spiritual kingdom, not one preacher, prophet or seer saw this trouble coming to the world. Amazingly, not one of them even dreamt or guessed a situation where people from all over the world or even parts of the world or even people in just one country in the globe will be forced to stay at home. I mean no one saw a vision of all the streets of Lagos or that of Delhi deserted or my mother staying at home on Sunday! In the face of the pandemic, and just when it is most needed, spectacular healing seems to be on hold. The best our religious fathers and mothers can do for self and for all is to pray then touch less and wash more like the rest of us. No clear added value.
Clearly, we are on our own as we cannot blindly and automatically rely on science, politics or religion to definitely and by its own lead us to saftey. We must keep watch and intervene. In reality it has always being like that, the only difference and novelty is that coronavirus is making it obvious to more of us.
During this period of low paced home staying, we have a chance to rethink what matters to us and reset how we lead our lives. Humans are the only beings that tend to adapt environment to needs instead of adapting needs to environment. We are the only ones that prioritise aesthetics over ethics and spend more on entertainment that on essentials. These are part of the reasons why we seem willing to give more money to footballers and singers than to doctors and policemen. It is part of why we seem more interested in listening more to actors than to teachers.
Now that it is clear to more that when the chips come down, we are on our own, the rational thing to do is to use this period low paced home staying to reset our relationship with the rest of the world.
From politics and governance, we must demand for a new ratio of our budgets. Some of us have being shouting for decades on the need to prioritise education and healthy in public spending and in our societal order. This should be a time to fashion how to propose, implement and monitor such new priorities. Personally, I will make the amount that goes to education and health the top two in all public spending.
We need to rethink the process of training doctors and other health practitioners in our society. Here is a radical but highly held personal proposal: Doctors and maybe nurses should be trained for free and even paid during their training. We should deliberately make provision to train more than double the number of health practitioners we think we are going to need, with a clear ambition of becoming an exporter of health practitioners.
Our mode of operating both in the private and public sectors need to change. Now that we have been forced into staying at home and operating from afar, we need to consciously embrace digitalisation of all process, decentralisation of authorities and devolution of powers.
Our corporate leaders have started to lead the way by making substantial donations to relief funds, their acts should remind we the people who to applaud next time we go to an event: Politicians or Professionals.
Join me if you can @anthonykila to continue these conversations.
*Prof. Kila is Centre Director at CIAPS Lagos