…don’t despair. This plague shall pass over you. Celebrate the gift of life within the confines of your private space. We are like leaves on a tree blown hither and thither by the wind of Fate. Just as some are dying while others are being born, it is as good a time as any for Christ, the ultimate game changer, to be born.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Isn’t it wonderful to be able to use the same old-fashioned words in the midst of a pandemic, which has made most of our age-long habits and practices toxic?
This used to be the season when you hugged your mum like a bear, but now you have to wave to her at a distance, lest you murder her with your show of love. Did anyone ever imagine that hugging could one day become a tool of homicide?
This used to be the season when the whole family gathered in celebration of the interconnectedness of man. We are nothing without each other. No matter how great the distances that separate members of a family, there is always the hope of reunification at Christmas. But not this year. Unless you want to bury the senior citizens in your family or, if you’re unfortunate to contract the British variant of the scourge, which is equally virulent on young people — unless you really want to depopulate your family, you have to stay where you are.
Although we have invented planes to link all the continents, reducing travelling time to tiny fractions of what they used to be, we have now become prisoners in our localities. Keep your infections to yourself, thank you very much. Aircrafts now spend more time on the ground than in the skies. When pilots are afflicted, who flies the planes? Ships are stuck in home ports. Land borders are being shut in many places. And rail connection between the U.K. and many European countries may soon be cut until this nightmare is over.
Suddenly our cockiness is gone. We, who used to prance and strut all over the place to prove our dominance of the planet have been reduced to frightened crows. Even our toothpaste smiles of yore can no longer be seen behind the face mask. Did musician Lagbaja have a third eye to see what was to come? Or the Taliban women whose unique hijab tolerated only two slits for the eyes — did they foresee the campaign to mask up? Now, we are all Lagbajas and Taliban fashionistas.
A childhood friend called me last week to say he thought that the mask makes us look like ‘night-soil men’ or ‘agbepo’, the indispensable men who evacuated human waste from homes before the introduction of water cisterns.
Death is on the prowl. No longer does the grim reaper need complicated excuses like long illness, old age or plane crash. Attendance at a conference is enough. Or embracing a long-lost friend.
In those days we talked of the kiss of death. Now, the grim reaper no longer requires the intimacy of a kiss. It could infest the very air that you breathe, lurk in a handshake or travel in a sneeze. The latest strain, for some reason, has the impatience of youth: It kills in a matter of hours.
By some supreme irony, while the pandemic depopulates on the one hand, it has led to a baby boom on the other. Unplanned exits are accompanied by unplanned entries. A Mumsnet survey of women in the U.K. shows that one-third of pregnant women say the pandemic played a part in their decision to conceive.
We have prayed and prayed. But we saw the level of our helplessness when acclaimed prayer warriors themselves were being buried left, right and centre; the oracle became muted because the spirit behind the oracle had been covid-nineteen’d.
The most powerful country on the planet is gasping for breath for its rude under-rating of the twenty-first Century version of the Spanish Flu. You may have tanks and guns and bombs; your nuclear facilities may be the most fearsome from here to Mars, but in the face of COVID, you’re nothing; inconsequential; zilch!
Presidents and prime ministers, kings and queens, and other godlets of mortal power have, to our consternation, been reduced to pyjamas-wearing patients begging for a gulp of air. Some survive; some don’t. While the dead in Africa can glide seamlessly to ancestor-hood, their mortal remains no longer command the reverence they did in years past; The remains of COVID victims are now seen as contaminants.
Let the would-be ancestor thank his stars that he can escape with his spirit. What would you have done if COVID pursued you beyond the grave?
Perhaps, we may yet come to an era when ghosts will run for dear lives. But then, does a ghost have a life? Isn’t it a requirement of ghosts that they first die? Or are they the undead as distinguished from the dead?
By some supreme irony, while the pandemic depopulates on the one hand, it has led to a baby boom on the other. Unplanned exits are accompanied by unplanned entries. A Mumsnet survey of women in the U.K. shows that one-third of pregnant women say the pandemic played a part in their decision to conceive. According to the researchers, “Another 30 per cent say the pandemic gave them more time at home with their partner, while 30 per cent say it prompted them to reassess what was important to them and 33 per cent said it made them feel life was too short to put off important decisions”.
In Nigeria, the COVID lockdown coincided with the ASUU strike of university teachers. Humorists on social media have suggested that any child conceived during ASUU strike be named Asuquo.
On a more serious note, mortal man is overrated. We think we own the universe when, in actual fact, we are but mere guests of Planet Earth. We spend all our lives in desperate acquisition through fair or foul means, creating islands of comfort around us in the midst of untold misery.
But isn’t it all futile in the end?
I wonder if you have ever imagined what would happen if the more virulent and easily transmissible strain of the virus currently in circulation becomes as efficient as the Spanish Flu of 1918, which infected 500 million people, killing about 50 million in two years (compare that with the 17 million people killed during the First World War).
Senator Shehu Sani thinks it is:
“I have visited the expensive homes of many of my big friends and these are my few findings — They have well stocked library but no time and composure to read. They have a standard swimming pool but no time to swim. They have many cars but are always driven in the bullet-proof one. They have home gardens but no time for home picnic. They have all kinds of food on the table, but can only eat the one recommended by their doctors. They have the most expensive phones but the apps they know how to use are few. They have the best of gyms which are hardly in use. They have a tennis court but are hardly there. They have everything except time for themselves. And the clock ticks for everyman and his vanities”.
The clock of Christmas ticks to mark that day about 20 centuries ago, when the child Jesus was born and the story of mankind changed forever. Imagine, Jesus lived for only 33 years. Today, over two billion people identify themselves as his followers, including racists who have created a white Jesus and a bastardised ‘bible’ to suit their fancy.
Mankind has been in a deep slumber as the world quietly transmogrified from what we used to know to what we now dread. Author Haroon Rashid waxed philosophically poetic in his assessment and concludes that we are not as consequential as we pretend to be:
“We fell asleep in one world, and woke up in another.
Suddenly Disney is out of magic,
Paris is no longer romantic,
New York doesn’t stand up anymore,
The Chinese wall is no longer a fortress, and Mecca is empty.
Hugs & kisses suddenly become weapons, and not visiting parents & friends becomes an act of love.
Suddenly you realise that power, beauty & money are worthless, and can’t get you the oxygen you’re fighting for.
The world continues its life and it is beautiful. It only puts humans in cages. I think it’s sending us a message:
‘You are not necessary. The air, earth, water and sky without you are fine. When you come back, remember that you are my guests. Not my masters.’”
I wonder if you have ever imagined what would happen if the more virulent and easily transmissible strain of the virus currently in circulation becomes as efficient as the Spanish Flu of 1918, which infected 500 million people, killing about 50 million in two years (compare that with the 17 million people killed during the First World War). The second wave exhibited what’s called a “W curve” — high numbers of deaths among the young and old, but also a huge spike in the middle composed of otherwise healthy 25 to 35-year olds.
That would be the equivalent of the heavens falling. And when the heavens fall, they fall on everyone big and small.
But don’t despair. This plague shall pass over you. Celebrate the gift of life within the confines of your private space. We are like leaves on a tree blown hither and thither by the wind of Fate. Just as some are dying while others are being born, it is as good a time as any for Christ, the ultimate game changer, to be born.
Have a truly safe Christmas!
Wole Olaoye can be reached through email@example.com.