With the entire nation held hostage at the mercy of a virus, our people are slowly being driven to madness in the midst of this seemingly perpetual lockdown. We are living in a country where people are ruled by their superstitions.
From sending faux remedies on how to deal with the coronavirus in their social media family groups to haplessly debating with people online that the world is going to end, with a disease being the sign of judgement day, our people are questioning their fate every day.
Our nation has been swept by these ‘old wives’ tales’, with people trying to base their believes on whatever they see online. It is ironic how the people of an Islamic republic can start to think like mere pagans.
Recently a video hovering over the internet on different social media platforms caught my attention. It featured a newborn child with just one eye but it wasn’t the video that was appalling; rather it was the response of the viewers of the video itself. With cries and hues of “antichrist” everywhere on the internet, people were mindlessly connecting this video with the COVID 19 pandemic and signaling this as the end of the world and the birth of Antichrist.
If life continued to prosper even after the black death then how can people nowadays base their believes that coronavirus is going to end it all
Our views on judgement days have become truly loathsome. Have we become this narrow-minded as a Muslim nation. Our lack in fate doesn’t end here but has adversely affected our psyche and has plagued our actual perception and thinking about our Islamic teachings. If anything that is more eerie than a pandemic without a cure, are the people that opportunistically weaponize a disease through conspiracy theories and spread disinformation which are aimed at initiating mass hysteria and panic, while exposing latent prejudices.
The coronavirus has reinitiated similar prejudices along sectarian lines. One only needs to search for ‘corona’ and ‘Shia’ to find tweets linking the rapid onslaught of the virus in Iran to Shia backwardness. Even in Pakistan, most people are blatantly blaming the ‘zaireen’ for the exponential rise in coronavirus patients throughout the country especially in Punjab.
Blaming a specific group based on religious lines is the actual backwardness that we are dealing with. For a country that actually believes that a hand sanitizer is better than soap, we are certainly in backwater fueled by ignorance. There have been numerous reports of increased xenophobia towards those who look Chinese.
Epidemics often prompt the activation of latent tropes that paint specific communities as uncivilized and backwards. While coronavirus is mushrooming offline, the use of it to instigate religious, cultural and racial prejudices is taking its shape not only in our day to day lives but also in the margins and the mainstream of social media.
Joanne Wright, a US Republican running for Congress in Los Angeles, soon broke the internet by claiming that the coronavirus was created by a cabal involving Bill Gates, George Soros and the pope. The tweet provoked a raft of related conspiracy theories on Twitter and started the concoction of fairytales of all sorts. It was not long enough that our country took these conspiracy theories very seriously as well.
Conversations nowadays, here often start with how the coronavirus was actually a synthetically made virus, for initiating biologic warfare and people have already linked the US, England, and China in collectively funding for the virus but eventually, the whole research backfired and resulted in the breakout of the virus in Wuhan where it was being tested.
That leaves another comforting option: clinging to the belief that one can ward off undesired outcomes by engaging in behaviors that bear little to no relationship to accepted laws of science and nature
It is not far from now when our people will also start calling America, Donald Trump and Bill Gates Antichrist again as well. These conspiracy theories are also a mockery of our fate where we can believe anything that we see online.
Did the world end in the mid-1300s when the ‘black death’ also known as black plague became a global pandemic? Was the disease created in a laboratory, cultured and concocted for destruction and killing? Was the black death a result of funding from a country which killed many in Europe and Asia? If life continued to prosper even after the black death then how can people nowadays base their believes that coronavirus is going to end it all.
Our thinking is nothing but the result of our lack of knowledge and us being prone to panic and chaos. Our lack of knowledge even stems to how people are trying to protect themselves instead of focusing on social distancing like in response to the coronavirus pandemic, countless people are covering their mouths and noses with surgical masks and buying up most stores but do not seem to realize that most masks are ineffective for people who are not sick — and buying the better models, which people aren’t trained to use correctly, limits their availability for those who really need them.
People have also been hoarding tissue papers which is beyond all sanity. The first line of psychological defense in a crisis is often denial. But as evidence of the disease’s scope grows with over 700,000 patients and over 33000 deaths globally, we should try to be focused more on social distancing and less on superstitions. That leaves another comforting option: clinging to the belief that one can ward off undesired outcomes by engaging in behaviors that bear little to no relationship to accepted laws of science and nature.
This superstitious behavior is nothing but the result of the heightened stress where people tend to resort to fairytales, conspiracies and faux remedies. It is urged that we as a nation should try to remain calm and collected in these dark times.
Salis Malik is a writer based in Islamabad who also frequently writes for Global Village Space and is working with various international and national think tanks. The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.