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Dreaming of a Less Brutal World

Dreaming of a Less Brutal World

Monday, 30 March, 2020 - 12:00
Ghassan Charbel
Ghassan Charbel is the editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

Someday, a writer will say that he hinted years ago of an epidemic that would ravage the planet and claim the lives of millions. No wonder. We heard such allegations after the collapse of the Berlin wall and the suicide of the Soviet Union.


Tomorrow, some foretellers will remind us of their purported predictions. They will blame us for not taking their warnings seriously. We will not be surprised to see a chorus of mystics waiting for any mishap to claim that the end is near and that the greedy and rebellious dreamer committed a sin that deserves a painful and bitter punishment.


In fact, the coronavirus has pushed the global village into a tough turnabout that it neither expected nor was prepared for.


It is not appropriate to compare what is going on with a third world war. In a world war, safe havens could be found and allies could be called to come to your rescue.


The issue is different with this epidemic. You face it alone. But the analogy is permissible if we take into account that the virus will eliminate many institutions and individuals. It will destabilize governments, families and cities by throwing millions of people into unemployment.


More than any other, the Coronavirus War opened the books of isolation, brutality and death. In the state of long isolation, questions reproduce as viruses… Questions about human destiny, life and death that man, who running after work was too preoccupied to ask… Questions about mortality and salvation beyond this earthly residency… About fairness, injustice and judgment…


Just as the ordinary citizen of the great wars felt that he was the prey of the wild brutal machinery, a victim of the Coronavirus War feels more pain because the choice of killing has fallen on him.


Man follows the consequences of the coronavirus hurricanes in different parts of the world, and his questions multiply, so do his feelings of standing alone before his fate. He can neither find an umbrella nor can he seek shelter. The hurricane shakes everything, without exception: equations, convictions and lifestyles that tame anxiety and rationalize loss.


I have the feeling that many things have been broken at one time, and that glass towers have been irrevocably cracked. I urgently ask myself: Have we overestimated the value of progress these societies have made in recent decades? Was this progress false, incomplete or at least lacking a sufficient human dimension?


Have governments and parties forgotten that the first purpose of progress is mankind, instead of engaging in a frenzied race over interests, profits, monopoly and supremacy? Have states squandered their wealth and capabilities in wars for control and hegemony? Have international organizations lost their days and budgets for general and shiny slogans instead of real needs?


I have a feeling that the world we belong to has undergone tremendous devastation over the past few weeks, revealing its shortcomings, misguidance and impotence.


Personally, my assessment of the sizes and roles of the top players has changed. I used to think that the master of the White House is a very powerful man who, when deciding to respond, can meet any challenge facing the world or his country head on. America, with its progress, factories, universities and freedoms, is a symbol of evolution despite its mistakes and favoritisms.


After the coronavirus, I no longer have the same feeling. I no longer regard Donald Trump as the chief boxer in the “global village”. Undeniably, he is still the strongest, but I saw him puzzled and confused when an unknown virus decided to attack American soil.


The same can be said about Vladimir Putin. Those, who were behind his rise, have succeeded in drawing an exceptional image of him… An image that he personally excelled in strengthening. He is the James Bond coming from the KGB, supervising a strictly controlled democracy and an ultrasonic arsenal. Many rejoiced at the emergence of this powerful player. They deemed his strength a necessary condition to rationalize the behavior of an American boxer who is known for registering the highest record of errors when acting alone.


But this strong man, who punishes spies on the lands of others and manipulates elections inside and outside his borders, appeared without lethal weapons when coronavirus decided to visit Lenin’s country.


The Chinese leader’s ability to make tough decisions that cannot be applied in democratic systems is not reassuring enough. The policy of Mao’s heirs is ultimately part of this international dictionary that the coronavirus crisis is threatening to abolish.


Europe, on the other hand, with its tragic scenes, has proven that it deserves its title of the Old Continent. If we exclude courtesy phrases, like those murmured at funerals, the world has not seen a strong and united European response to the atrocities committed by the serial killer, especially in Spain and Italy. In this brutal and fateful crisis, Europe appears to be an aging continent, lacking the backbone and the force to mobilize people, despite attempts by the German chancellor and the man residing in the Charles de Gaulle’s office.


European states appeared weak and fragile; their institutions feeble. Not only were they powerless in front of the murderer, but also unable to provide coffins and graves to its victims. The European spirit did not express its presence, strength or victory. The European Union emerged as a club that failed to succeed in persuading its members to shed egoism and nationalism and focus their capabilities towards the common destiny.


Each country seemed to be left to its grim fate, without being able to count on support from beyond their borders. The crisis has awakened those ancient borders that many Europeans thought were memories of the past, after interests and destinies overlapped on the continent. The crisis revealed that dictionaries, methods, convictions and remedies are now outdated.


The image of the world has changed for the people who are fearing the beast lurking at the gates of their cities and villages. Whole fields of glass were shattered. Death knocks here and there. If only this shift turns into an unprecedented shock. A massive stab that awakens the minds. Humanity deserves a less brutal world. We want to believe that the post-coronavirus world will be different from its predecessor.


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