India, Covid, the Delta of Death
Updated: Sep 23, 2021
Special Note: this is one of my more political columns. I'm trying to move away from them because people seem to want something a little more lighthearted in these trying times. Still, I had several of these already written and so I'll be running them here for a while yet. Also, if you wish to see more political material, please check out my political blog, Crisis and Cure, which you can see here: https://theleftcrisis.blogspot.com/
So I’ve just gotten an email from one of my medical service providers on the Delta variant of Covid-19. It makes for pretty scary reading. Seems that Delta is easier to communicate than the original, hits its victims harder, and may be somewhat resistant to vaccines. All scary.
Of course, I should be quick to add that people who are vaccinated are much, much, much safer than those who aren’t. In fact, according to the CDC, the vaccines themselves seem to be pretty effective against Delta, which is a welcome bit of news for us all.(1) But, still, there is an awfully good chance we’ll be back to masks and social distancing by the Fall, and already there’s a race to develop a Delta-booster shot.
Pray for India...and for the world.
But here’s the question: where did Delta come from? Answer, India. That nation was basically swamped by the disease, with millions of cases everywhere, and when that happened mutations were free to develop and spread with chilling rapidity. This is not to blame the whole country of India for Delta. It is simply to say when an area endures an uncontrolled pandemic like this, that area tends to be the home of rather more serious versions of the disease.
Ah, but there’s the rub. India, even with its many problems and poverty, did not have to have this kind of pandemic, nor did it have to host the new variants of Covid. As writer Vidya Krishnan recently explained in The Atlantic, the Indian elites basically did nothing to deal with Covid.(2) The elites…government ministers, the wealthy, media figures, members of the higher castes, Prime Minister Modi himself…knew what was coming. And they knew they should enforce masking and social distancing, and probably a lock down. But, instead, they …sat and waited.
Why? Krishnan suspects that it had to do with the fact that the rich thought they could, once again, buy their way out of the crisis. The poor and the marginalized might die, but surely — thought the wealthy — they could simply retreat to private clinics and mountain retreats, and wait for it all to be over.
Only it didn’t work that way. The disease followed the rich and the powerful into their mountains and clinics, and soon even the grandest of the great couldn’t get oxygen and ventilators.
Why do I mention all this? Well, first, because it is an object lesson to us all. Until we stand together and fight this disease, and make certain that the slum dweller as well as the billionaire is free from it, we will none of us be truly safe.
India did nothing about Covid…and soon the Delta variant spread around the world. We need to remember that. When it comes to diseases, there is no such thing as a local problem. You can’t lock your door against a virus. There are no walls against plague. Your only hope is to confront the problem at its source…with masking, with quarantines, and with vaccines when they become available.
Which is why countries like India, and even more so Brazil — where President Bolsonaro ignored Covid while thousands of Brazilians died of it (3) — are a threat to us all.
Or, to put it all another way, in a globalized, interconnected world, there is no such thing as a purely local problem. We are all us subject to shared hazards, all risks are common, and no amount of secure borders and national sovereignty will change that. In a matter like this, it is simply not possible for a Modi, or a Bolsonaro, or a Xi, or a Putin…or, for that matter, a Trump… to say that something is “purely an internal matter,” and therefore no one else’s business.
Only, now, everything is everyone’s business.
Thus, sometimes I am afraid. I am afraid that the world is now in a race between those who understand the interconnectedness of all…and those who, like far too many of humanity’s leaders, do not.
And I hope against hope that the former are the victors…
For coming close on the heels of the latter come monsters…far more horrid than Covid…
And, indeed, more dreadful…
Than we can imagine.
Until next time…
Onward and Upward.
Copyright©2021 Michael Jay Tucker
1. See https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/covid-data/covidview/past-reports/06252021.html, https://www.yalemedicine.org/news/5-things-to-know-delta-variant-covid , and https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/07/07/delta-variant-covid/
2. “India Is What Happens When Rich People Do Nothing, “ by Vidya Krishnan, the Atlantic Monthly, April 27, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2021/04/india-covid19-moral-failure/618702/
3. See https://theconversation.com/covid-19-in-brazil-how-jair-bolsonaro-created-a-calamity-159066 and https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-021-01031-w