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COVID-19: Fighting an invisible enemy without weapons

Scholars of military history may recall that on 8 July 1853, a certain Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy sailed into Tokyo Bay. Popularly referred to as the Perry Expedition, the Commodore had under his command two steamships and two sailing vessels which set sail from the USA on diplomatic and military expedition to Bakumatsu period, Japan. Perry’s primary goal was to force an end to Japan’s 220-year old policy of isolation, and to open Japanese ports to American trade, using gun boat diplomacy, if necessary.

On arrival at Tokyo Bay, the one-star admiral landed a squadron of heavily armed sailors and marines; he moved one of the ships brazenly up the harbour, apparently in the show of force so that more people could see the naval ships. While in harbour, the Commodore delivered a letter from President Millard Fillmore, the 13th President of the United States, to Emperor Komei of Japan.

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As they left, Perry’s fleet fired guns into the ether. In the port, people were terrified: “It sounded like distant thunder,” a contemporary diarist allegedly wrote at the time, “and the mountains echoed back the noise of the shots. This was so formidable that the people in Edo (modern Tokyo) were fearful.” It was not only the noise that frightened the Japanese. The Perry expedition famously convinced them that their political system was incapable of coping with new kinds of threats.

Secure in their homeland, the rulers in Japan were convinced for decades of their cultural superiority. Japan was unique, special, and the homeland of the gods. Three decades before the arrival of the steamships and the guns, Japan was regarded as the “standard of the world” by a nationalist thinker Aizawa Seishisai. It was then, the Japanese suddenly realized that their culture, political system and technology were out of date. Their samurai-warrior leaders and honour culture were not able to compete in a world dominated by science.

Science, is “the intellectual enterprise concerned with providing an accurate account of the objects, processes and relationships in the world of natural phenomena.” It is a field of knowledge, parts of which are unplotted. Unlike technology, science is not necessarily concerned with improving the quality of life or coping with the environment. If science was necessarily concerned about improving the quality of life, an offensive bioweapon such as the COVID-19 would not have been created.

One Francis Boyle, creator of the Bioweapons Act in the USA, was alleged to have said that the 2019 Wuhan Coronavirus is an offensive Biological Warfare weapon. Francis Boyle, the professor of international law at the University of Illinois College of Law believes that the World Health Organization (WHO) knows about it. Oh no! Can this be true? Does it mean that the world less North Korea, is combating an engineered virus? North Korea has not recorded any case. Or is North Korea deliberately covering up information on the deadly virus? It is unimaginable that the world is fighting an unknown enemy in a globalized world.

Francis Boyle, believes according to unconfirmed sources, that the virus is potentially lethal and offensive biological warfare weapon or dual use biowarfare weapons agent genetically modified with gain of function properties. That was why, the erudite professor and human right activist reportedly says the Chinese government originally tried to cover up the outbreak of the deadly disease. And has now taken drastic steps to contain it. Anyway, Dr Boyle’s position is in stark contrast to the mainstream media’s narrative of the virus being originated from the seafood market in Wuhan, which is increasingly being questioned by many experts.

Once in the whole world everywhere is quiet. The world is quiet not because man likes quietness. No more war; no terrorist bombing and screening at airports? There appears to be peace everywhere except fear. Or could it be that the media, both international and local are not focusing on wars now? What has suddenly happened to Boko Haram in the past few days in Nigeria? What about kidnappers and bandits? It appears these criminals have changed tactics in pursuit of an invisible enemy.

The only invincible enemy not to be underestimated is COVID-19. Afterall, the fear of COVID-19 is the beginning of wisdom. This deadly virus has made everyone to be quiet and cooperating and learning from each other peacefully. COVID-19 bluffs all nations- powerful and less powerful- they are all combating a common enemy. Although, the coronavirus is in its early days, the scale and force of global and economic crisis that has hit the world may turn out to be as formidable as Perry’s voyage was.

The world is at war without weapons. Italy is the worst hit with over 4000 deaths so far. The healthcare systems, bureaucracy, political systems of rich and poor countries make the world as fearful as the Japanese who had the “distant thunder” of Perry’s naval gunfire. An invincible enemy has infiltrated the global arena. No nation is spared from the collateral damage inflicted by the virus.

Countries that long used to thinking that they are the most developed, most efficient, and most technologically advanced have been badly exposed by the deadly COVID-19. The “giant of Africa”- the most populous black nation in the world is not exempted. Suddenly, governments in most countries have realized that they are not as good as they thought they are. Now that human life is threatened globally, scientists are working tirelessly to ensure that lives are saved.

As I write, the information highway is busy with a large flow of ideas on how the invincible enemy can be destroyed. We are witnessing “infodemic”. The WHO defines an infodemic as a situation where there is an “over-abundance of information- some accurate and some not- that makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it.”

In the face of global panic, the WHO is battling misinformation. There is panic which has gone global. The engine of panic is the social media. All over the world, people are spooked. Even at a few Shoprite outlets in Lagos, there is supermarket punch-up as shoppers fight over last packets of pasta and bottled waters. Very many thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, who on his Facebook page, says “We’ve worked with the WHO on a way to get authoritative information about coronavirus sent directly to your WhatsApp.” There is no doubt that digital technology is playing a profound role in how we respond to the world, and to crises in particular.”

It is not only about how we grapple with a phenomenon as disparate as panic that manifests across such vastly different scales- from a supermarket brawl to the swings of the global market – but also about why it is that everywhere trust in institutions of governance is eroding as fast as panic takes hold. So, what is the cure against this invincible enemy? No one can say for sure as at 20 March 2020. Globally, there is rumour that chloroquine can destroy the virus. As chloroquine undergoes clinical trials for COVID-19, social distancing should be taken seriously, according to experts. Thank you!

 

MA JOHNSON

 

 

 

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