What Covid-19 is showing the world

Publish date: Sun, 26 Apr 2020, 11:28 AM

THEY say the only true constant is change.

While we work on flattening the curve, let’s also look at staying ahead of the curve. This second curve is all about understanding how the world is changing in deep and important ways.

The Covid-19 crisis has revealed a lot about some inherent flaws and weaknesses about how we’ve done things in the past; it may also serve as a catalyst for profound change.

For today, I’ll do a brief survey of issues in politics and economics that suggest the need for significant evolution.


Covid-19 is showing how democracy as we know it is in far too many cases failing to produce the kinds of leaders the world needs.

Brazilian professor of international relations Oliver Stuenkel dubbed a group of world leaders who refuse to take Covid-19 seriously as the Ostrich Alliance. One of these leaders is right wing Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, who has gone so far as to bizarrely join antilockdown protests (giving speeches while coughing profusely) against social distancing measures put in place by regional governments.

Bolsonaro has often been compared with US President Donald Trump, whose approach to Covid-19 has been even more alarming. The latest unbearable gaffe by Trump includes ramblings about curing Covid-19 by using ultraviolet rays and disinfectants on humans. His suggestions would literally either kill you or give you cancer.

Both Trump and Bolsonaro are, by most reckonings, democratically elected leaders.

Closer to home, we’ve had to deal with ministers who suggested that warm water can cure Covid-19, who have been spraying disinfectant uselessly on roads, and who seem to think that generating crowds during ministerial visits is perfectly fine. There has also been considerable bickering about the distribution of food aid, where once again the animosity between government and opposition politicians results in delays and accusations of unfair distribution of aid.

Long story short, the oppositional and polarising nature of most democracies today seem to produce leaders and a political climate that have proven extremely unconducive to fighting Covid-19 as a united people.

The way we have built our electoral or representative democracy seems in many cases to incentivise the rise of politicians who put their self-interest above the public interest. Trump knows that a lockdown will cripple the American economy which would almost guarantee his defeat in the November elections. This obsession with his own political survival accounts for his slow and in-denial response to Covid-19, which is literally putting the lives of millions of Americans at risk.

Here too, we have politicians who seem to be thinking of their own political careers instead of the public interest. If we continue practising a zero-sum democracy, where politicians are always incentivised to think about how to score the most political points at the expense of their opponents, we will always have roughly half the country fighting the other half. This is the antithesis of the “whole of society” approach needed to effectively fight Covid-19.

This is bad enough in peacetime, but it is so, so much worse amidst a crisis. What we really need is a democracy that is founded not on fighting and competing with one another but on finding the best ways to collaborate and build consensus.

Covid-19 is also laying bare some of the more glaring problems the world is facing with income inequality.

There have been reports around the world of celebrity billionaires who have laid off staff amidst the Covid-19 crisis. They include the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Richard Branson and Victoria Beckham.What was so difficult was to reconcile the personal fortunes of these individuals with the very vulnerable economic conditions of their employees.

Imagine what having your income completely cut off just as you enter what for many could be the scariest long-term period of their lives. Some of us here don’t have to imagine it.

When people are forced to endure such life altering economic hardship, two questions are often asked: First, what did I do to deserve this indignity? Second, what did others do to deserve such unfathomable amounts of wealth and the right to unilaterally inflict this type of economic and personal suffering on me and my family?

Covid-19 has given us the opportunity firsthand to see what it is that is precious and truly necessary in this life, and who it is exactly that we rely on to ensure our most basic survival.

This question reminded me of the price differential between a diamond and a bottle of water, and the difference in its value if you were stuck in the desert.

How would we suffer if the Ramsays, Bransons or Beckhams of the world decided to isolate themselves on an island, perhaps never to return? How would we suffer if the people removing garbage from our neighbourhood suddenly all caught Covid-19 and were no longer able to work?

I am certainly not saying “eat the rich”, or asking billionaires to drive themselves to the point of destitution to help the rest of us. But their ability to simply fire as many people as they want at their whim and fancy amidst a global crisis should surely have us asking some questions about the kind of world we seem to have tacitly agreed to live in. Is this the world that we want to go back to?

Deep, systemic overhauls are almost inherently difficult to do. There are so, so many rich and powerful people with a vested interest in keeping the system exactly the way it is. If every crisis is an opportunity, however, and if the bigger the crisis, the bigger the opportunity, then now is exactly the right time to reflect on what this pandemic is showing us about how the world works.

It is also exactly the right time to start working towards a newer, better world when we emerge from this crisis.

Nathaniel Tan and friends hope to start a web series on ‘Exploring Malaysia 2.0’; details on Twitter @NatAsasi for those who are interested. He is most grateful in this world for the love of his life, Debbie – as of this weekend, wife of five amazing years.



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If one study the billions of people who are poor in the world, they are constantly working much harder than ever before from our ancestors ...even just to have the basic primitive life we humans used to have before the capitalism economy was invented.

All we need is basic food which almost all of them can be grown from fertile land from bare hands from the physical energy we our ancestors did with barter system under agricultural village life...

and yet you will have plenty of time with your family and kids with an excellent health.

Look at these people who had everything, but capitalism tricks them to sacrifice needlessly:


Why Are Millions of Chinese Kids Parenting Themselves?

2020-04-26 11:41

Latuk Seri Rick Walker

Interesting article! Well, one could argue that communism is the best system by looking at China as example! However, it's short sighted to say that! Because Chairman Mao was the worst leader of all times! He was responsible for the death of over 30 million chinese China who die of hunger! Mind you, Chairman Mao turn a perfect forest into desert! And responsible for many man made disaster in China!
So yeah, you can't take Donald Trump and say democracy has fail humanity! Rather, one must also look at the society of that nation! Is the society innovative! Is the society only focus on praying 10 times a day!
To me China has the most hard working and enterprise society in this world! It's similar to Japan and South Korea! And just so happen it's mono race as well!
However, having said that, msot of the innovations that we enjoy today came from western nations where democracy hail as cornerstone of their principles!
So yeah, it's not easy to say communism is better than democracy!

2020-04-26 11:47


@probability, half of these billions keep alive because of capitalism. Without capitalism, we really don't need these people.

2020-04-26 11:51

Latuk Seri Rick Walker

Tripple! Before capitalism, usually married couple will have dozen of children! Why, because they need plenty of helping hands! Farmers need them the most! That's why poor people have big family! Rich ones opt for one or two children!

2020-04-26 11:57

Latuk Seri Rick Walker

Anyway, there's a law of diminishing returns! Unfortunately, in todays world law of diminishing returns hit us fast and hard! I mean, yesterday we need tons of pilots, we just can't get enough! Today and tomorrow, Airasia will have to fire half of them as Covid19 will curb flights returning to normal!

2020-04-26 12:00

Latuk Seri Rick Walker

Which bring me to a point, do you encourage couples to have children today! Because 9 months from now we will see surge of new baby malaysians after 2 months of MCO!
The truth is, the future does not need half of us! Probably the world will need one billion or so! But i think decade from now, we will see 10 billion humans on earth! And by that time climate change already reach point of no return! AI probably will take over most of our jobs including doctors, lawyers and so forth!

2020-04-26 12:04


@TrippleZ, I absolutely agree.

And, they are sustained and encouraged to reproduce for the benefit of the 5% super-rich.

A lot of people do not understand that 'profit' in a nation/world-wide collective sense can only be made by real gdp-growth.

All other profit is a zero-sum and attained by competitive advantage by competion where the capitalism lures.

Capitalism is 100 people competing for the same jackpot where only 2 or 3 people gets it from their skills and 90% works hard in the hope of getting it, and fails.

Posted by TrippleZ > Apr 26, 2020 11:51 AM | Report Abuse

@probability, half of these billions keep alive because of capitalism. Without capitalism, we really don't need these people.

2020-04-26 12:20


Good times build confidence. Bad times build characters.

2020-04-26 12:27


The China model........................look at how China has used the crisis to unite its people, to be more patriotic, to have a positive attitude/ outlook, and Xi emphasizing the work on the need to take care of the poor and poverty eradication programs.

The China model is The New Hope.

2020-04-26 12:37


and as for Malaysia.............Malaysia not so lucky.......

competence lost , malay unity won just as we enter into the crisis when competence is the difference between success and failure.

2020-04-26 12:42

Latuk Seri Rick Walker

Q3! We have a PM who reject English as medium of instruction yet speaks English on official announcement! Talk about hypocrisy! Continue to dumbfook malays!

2020-04-26 13:39


latuk........I give u permission to bash malay unity government..........I am a supporter of competence over malay unity.......I also wish to refer u to Mahathir's highly rated crisis management during the 1998 financial crisis...........

2020-04-26 14:01


the China model.............socialism with Chinese characteristics.......

2020-04-26 14:24


That socialisam with Chinese characteristics is what brought unified China and well organized county, but does it needed elsewhere? China should just go back to their closed door policy.

2020-04-26 16:47


closed door policy is not what China is interested in.............

2020-04-26 16:59

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