Nepali Kalasahitya Dot Com Pratishthan


Jagadish Paudel

The Power of the Invisible Coronavirus

A few months ago, reading the book, The History of Sexuality by Michel Foucault, a 20th-century French postmodern philosopher, historian, and literacy theorist, I came to know that “Power is everywhere; not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere.” The omnipresence of power has further exemplified me by this current Corona pandemic (COVID19). For the few months back, the invisible Coronavirus has been exhibiting its power by shaking terribly the whole world. No matter how much we have progressed in science and technology, this virus has progressively increased and challenged human existence. Originating in Wuhan, China and initially nicknamed the “Wuhan Virus” or “Chinese Virus,” it has quickly spread to every corner of the world. Regardless of caste, color, gender, class, and geography, it has been able to spread and write its name in history, taking thousands of people’s lives including doctors, nurses, and ministers, and sickening millions of ordinary people. Occupying a central place in discourse in houses, streets, Parliaments, and Senates of all the countries, it has greatly impacted every sector and terrified everyone, from the most powerful ruler to the beggar on the street corner.

The Coronavirus pandemic has quickly resurrected and universalized some English words and phrases, including Social Distancing, Isolation, Quarantine, Lockdown, Washing Hands, PPE (Personal Protection Equipment), Sanitizers, Rapid Test, Self-quarantine, Self-isolation, and some others. Whether people know the meaning of the words or not, they are using them. Had there not been the coronavirus, perhaps some people would not use or even hear or read these words throughout their life. Similarly, the Coronavirus has shown its power, plunging the world into an economic crisis. Many companies have been on the verge of collapse, laying off vast numbers of employees. Restaurants, cafés, hotels, industries, public transportations, schools, universities have all been greatly affected. It has challenged scientists to invent a medicine for it, teachers to learn how to teach without a classroom, economists to explore how to recover financial losses, government bodies to understand how to better serve their people, sociologists, and anthropologists to study its effects on human society, psychologists to explore its psychological and mental effects, media people to update its news, that is, it has challengingly given various jobs to different sectors people. Look at the power of the invisible Coronavirus!

The virus has also demonstrated its discursive power by causing the creation and spread of rumors across the globe. In a short period, it has given birth to several rumors, such as the phony allegation that 5G mobile networks spread COVID-19, that exposure to the sun or temperatures higher than 25C degrees protects people from it, that drinking alcohol is protective, that taking hot drinks or a hot bath can prevent it (see WHO’s website), turmeric powder and many other. The Coronavirus has also given fodder to people across the political spectrum who are grumbling to or about their governments, their political parties, political leaders or government officials. People are cursing their governments for not being able to manage the coronavirus-related problems and for failure to address those problems in a timely manner. In our country, in Nepal, due to this pandemic, some political leaders are sadly charged with being involved in bribery while purchasing medical safety equipment. Look at the power of the invisible Coronavirus!

It has also influenced educational sectors, shifting many educational institutions to virtual modes. Those students and teachers who have access to the Internet and computers are experiencing a new mode of education as they use different apps, including Zoom and Skype for their classes. Meanwhile many poor and rural students who do not have good access to technology have been altogether deprived of education. At the same time, the emergency created by the virus has provided a lot of time to voracious readers and writers. It has opened a great number of potential areas of research for scholars to write articles, do assignments, and write dissertations. It has given content for artists, painters, graffitists, music composers, singers, and comedians to compose their artistic works.

Similarly, for social media lovers, it has given lots of time to indulge and hang out on social media. They suddenly have abundant time for posting, sharing their daily activities, meals, pets and past photos on social media. Equally, it has given lots of time to watch movies for movie lovers. But this pandemic has sadly prevented some people from getting married and has halted all normal in-person social and cultural activities and canceled gatherings of all sorts. Travelers have been stranded on their way.

It has profoundly changed people’s daily life activities overnight. As going outside is dangerous, people are exercising and entertaining by dancing, singing, playing musical instruments on their verandah and around their immediate surroundings. It has allowed people to learn cooking, as well as to have different varieties of foods, families sitting down together.

Sadly, it has also posed extreme problems for people who live by their daily wages. Some people have already been starved. The scarcity of foods and goods have prevailed in the markets. It has given great fear, disruption, and pain to older people, to sick people, beggars, and vendors, as well as to people who are trapped indoors with abusive or mentally-unstable partners or housemates.

Yet in a certain sense, the virus has favored nature, since at this time nature has had a brief chance to rest. There are fewer vehicles on the streets, there are fewer planes in the sky, there are fewer ships on the sea, there is less oil drilling, there is less mining work in the mines, and there is less farming work in the field. Had it not been the coronavirus people would have continued disturbing, demolishing, destroying and exploiting nature. Air, water, and noise pollution have all decreased.

If the Coronavirus were not spreading and if governments had strived to keep people inside their homes, perhaps they would have already come into the streets to protest, they would have already been on fire. But now in the face of the coronavirus, all people, countries, and government bodies have become powerless. Look at the power of the invisible Coronavirus!

We often say that this or that person is most powerful; this or that country is most powerful. Similarly, some of us would think that power comes with a barrel of guns, some would believe that it comes from money and politics. Now all these everyday human-held notions of power have been thoroughly deconstructed by this tiny invisible virus. Truly, it has been decomposed, so by this pandemic, what we human beings should seriously ponder and understand is that the power we have is zilch, the power we arrogantly demonstrate is mundane and superpower does not exist with us, but with something invisible things. So, let us stop to show all kinds of human held power and ego, and be generous to each other.

Bio: The author is pursuing his Ph. D. in Rhetoric and Writing Studies at The University of Texas at EL Paso, US

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