On the morning of 22nd February a jeep from the World Food Programme
(WFP), followed by another one with the Italian ambassador, Luca Anastasio, was driving along Route Nationale 2
passing by The Virunga National Park, an UNESCO Congolese World Heritage Site
famous for its dwindling population of unique mountain gorillas.
Myanmar’s State Counsellor
was recently deposed and arrested along with other leaders of her ruling party – National League for Democracy
(NLD). The Leader of Tatmadaw
, the Military, Min Aung Hlaing, announced that elections in November last year had been fraudulent and in an “effort to save democracy” the military would now rule the nation for at least one year, until new elections could be organised. Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi is accused of “importing ten or more walkie-talkies” and of violating the nation’s “Natural Disaster Law”. Some might agree that Suu Kyi deserves to be locked up. As an admired role model and Nobel Peace Prize winner, she was globally depicted as an almost saintlike being, canonized in movies like Luc Bessons’s The Lady
. U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, watched the movie before she in 2011 visited Suu Kyi, who by then had spent altogether fifteen years in house imprisonment, deprived of the company of an ailing and eventually dying husband and two sons. In spite of her forced isolation she became an eloquent representative for her compatriots’ resistance and perseverance under almost fifty years of military dictatorship.
Occasionally some of us might suffer from a feeling of maximal overload, overwhelmed by COVID-19 and the reign of Donald Trump. It can maybe be conceived as far too euro-centric to be concerned about the disastrous situation in the U.S., with media stuffed to the brim by news about Donald Trump while the global environmental crisis is steadily getting worse and war, injustices and famine continue to agonize people in places like Darfur, Yemen, Afghanistan, and Syria.
Oh, Lord won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz.
My friends all drive Porsches, I must make amends.
Worked hard all my lifetime, no help from my friends.
So, oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz.
Janis Joplin, 1970
COVID-19 has made several of us aware of the frailty of our bodies, the certainty of death and how valuable health, companionship and compassion are. Such insights are not uncommon in poor societies where a person’s main and perhaps only asset is her/his body and what s/he is able to do with her/his hands. However, wealthy and privileged people are surrounded by, dependent on, and even integrated with an ever more sophisticated technology, which increasingly, for better or worse, is separating us from what human existence has been for thousands of years.
COVID-19 has in some nations been converted into a noxious, political issue. One of many worrying examples is the rhetoric of Brazil´s president. On 10 November, when Brazil´s COVID-19 death toll surpassed 162,000 victims – the numbers have continued to raise and are now 179,032 second only to USA´s 296,745 – Jair Bolsonaro minimized the effects of COVID-19 by stating: ”All of us are going to die one day. There is no point in escaping from that, in escaping from reality. We have to cease being a country of sissies.” Bolsonaro actually said maricas
, which like sissies
is slang for gay people. Both expressions originally indicated ”small girls” – marica
is a diminutive of Maria and sissy of “kid sister”. Bolsonaro thus defined homosexuality as effeminacy
by associating gay men with affectation and cowardice. By connecting disease, fear, and femininity the Brazilian president not only ignored the strength and courage women throughout history have demonstrated by enduring childbirths and caring for others, it also shows a strong disregard for gender equality and the rights of women and gay people.
On 10 December, representatives for the World Food Programme
(WFP) will in Norway receive the Nobel Peace Prize
at the Oslo City Hall. This is taking place while the COVID-19 pandemic is causing lock-downs and suffering all over world, limiting agricultural production and disrupting supply chains.
When President Luis Abinader arrived at his inauguration in an electrically driven car as a symbolic gesture of his Government’s intentions to make sustainable development one of its main objectives – he signalled the start of addressing climate change commitments in the country.
The 26th of September, the Lebanese prime minister Mustapha Adib stepped down after less than a month on his post. The president, Michael Auon, stated: ”Lebanon will be going to Hell if a new government is not formed soon.” The question is if his nation is not there already. A horrifying image of the state of the nation was provided on the 4th of August when 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate, stored in a dockside hangar, blew up in an explosion killing more than 190 people, injuring 6,500 and damaging thousands of buildings.
COVID-19 has become a scourge affecting all levels of human society – morals, behaviour, human interaction, economy and politics. The pandemic has wrecked havoc on our way of being and its impact will remain huge and all-encompassing. It is not only affecting our globally shared existence, it is also changing what has been called ”the little life”, i.e. our own way of thinking and being, our personal life situation and the one of those close to us; people we love and depend upon – our friends and family.
On Friday the 24th of June, President Trump announced he was skipping a weekend at his New Jersey golf resort to ”ensure law and order in Washington”, tweeting:
I just had the privilege of signing a very strong Executive Order protecting American Monuments, Memorials, and Statues – and combatting recent Criminal Violence. Long prison terms for these lawless acts against our Great Country!
Just as the U.S. is haunted by the 1963 murder of John F. Kennedy, Sweden is troubled by the 1986 murder of its Prime Minister Olof Palme. The American feelings were aired on Bob Dylan´s latest album, Rough and Rowdy Ways
, containing a 16 minutes long song with lines like:
movement triggered worldwide protests that hopefully was instrumental in making people better aware of a continuous and often hidden mistreatment of women. Maybe can the current I can’t breathe movement make people realize that institutional racism is far from extinct.
Another episode of the spectacular show that could be called The Greatest Story Ever Told: The Saga of the Trump Presidency
, scripted and acted by Trump himself, took place on 1st of June.
It is easy to generalize about migration. Populist politicians often portray migrants as strangers and ”our” homeland as a stable entity, rooted in an old agricultural society. When they do so they tend to forget that most of us are in fact migrants who have left that traditional farming community far behind and if it was not we who did so, it was our ancestors.
has designated at least 170 specific days of the year as occasions to mark particular events or topics to promote the objectives of the Organization. 2
This might be considered as yet another sign of a supersaturation caused by the internet revolution. However, it cannot be denied that certain issues need to be globally recognized and amended. UNESCO has declared that the 3rd of May will be a day to remind us that media are in several parts of the world under attack, their independence are denied, critical thinking is considered as a threat and journalists seeking the truth are harassed, threatened, roughed up, or even killed. I would like to add that it is also an opportunity to acknowledge that communication, critical thinking, and imagination are essential parts of human existence and culture, if this is suppressed the entire humanity will suffer.
For some time Wuhan in China and Lombardy in Italy were epicentres of the COVID-19 virus, something that has changed when the contagion is spreading fast in the US. A Lombardy in the grip of a deadly epidemic might among several Italians give rise to memories of their school days. For almost a century, Alessando Manzoni’s massive novel The Betrothed (I promessi sposi)
from 1842 has been obligatory reading for all Italians during their last primary school year. A quite impressive endeavour considering that the novel is more than 700 pages long.
The Coronavirus, COVID-19, makes its deadly round across the world. People fall sick and die, communities and entire nations end up in its deadly grip and try to cope with it. Everything is changing, and changing fast and we all have to deal with it together, even if many of us are being physically apart. Humans are social beings. Our mental and physical capacities are created around that fact and crave for support and compassion.
The experience and interpretation of the Coronavirus pandemic oscillates between the personal and the general spheres. The official discourse and measures taken by authorities have a direct impact on our lives, change our daily existence and foster worries for the future. A dark cloud of uncertainty hovers above us. What do decision makers know? What can they do? What can we do? Many of us are secluded in our own homes, others in wards or hospitals, or even alone and far away from the ones they love:
The human factor is intimately involved in the origin, spread, and mitigation of the Coronavirus and we cannot afford to ignore that our future existence depends on compassion and cooperation. Response matters!