Social hierarchy is a human construct, but every now and again (other than the certainty of death), Mother Nature reminds us that she doesn’t care if we are rich or poor. She doesn’t see ranks or races. She knows not whether we are a prince or a pauper. She doesn’t discriminate.
Discrimination is manmade. It is the inherent consequence of political division, cultural values, national identity, racial boundary and wealth gap. All of which culminate into the hierarchy that exists within a society and across the world. Mother Nature has nothing to do with it.
So while US President Donald Trump calls COVID-19 the “China Virus,” the US has surpassed China and Italy with 82,404 confirmed cases as of March 27.
People discriminate, COVID-19 doesn’t.
COVID-19 doesn’t care
The worldwide infection of COVID-19 is reaching half a million, with nearly 20,000 confirmed deaths. Most are people whose names and faces we do not and will never know. Not to mention, the millions of people who are affected by the socio-economic impact of the outbreak, which we will discuss later.
Of the nearly half a million infected cases, those at the top of the man-made social pyramid also are victims. We know their names and faces, not because somehow they are inherently “superior” to others. After all, “fame” is a social construct, Mother Nature has nothing to do with it.
For example, one of the biggest headlines has been about Britain’s Prince Charles, who was diagnosed with COVID-19. Before that, Prince Albert II of Monaco came down with the virus. The disease doesn’t care if you’re a prince or a pauper, even if princes get more pageviews.
The virus doesn’t make the political division that we humans do. You might be a part of the self-proclaimed “free world,” or are branded by former US President George W. Bush as a member of the “axis of evil.” Either way, western nations and Iran are all among the top countries most affected by the outbreak.
As long as we are on this train of thought, here’s another one. In the US, whether you are a conservative or a liberal, COVID-19 doesn’t care. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (a Florida Republican) and Representative Ben McAdams (a Utah Democrat) both tested positive.
Here’s one more. From the start of the outbreak, we have been told the most vulnerable people are the elderly, the sick and the children. While this is still true, even the most well-conditioned, world-class athletes have tested positive, such as NBA star Kevin Durant of the Brooklyn Nets.
We wish everyone a speedy recovery, rich or poor, royalty or otherwise. But if we are to take a sociological look at how COVID-19 is impacting humanity, then we are shining the light on human divisions.
Humanity should care more
Even if many individual persons do not discriminate, the social hierarchy itself is inherently discriminatory. For instance, COVID-19 may not care who it infects, but the wealth gap causes the working class to suffer more than everyone else.
Those on the upside of the wealth gap are being taken care of with the best medical services money can buy. We should not fault them for it. Discrimination is discrimination, whether against the poor or the rich.
But for the sake of humanity, it is the working class that needs the most assistance. For them, access to both COVID-19 testing and medical care remains a serious concern, as well as the financial strain from how the virus impacts jobs and the economy.
Those working-class people who live paycheck-to-paycheck, but now lose their jobs and livelihoods. Those who are unable to have the monthly income needed for basic necessities such as foods, utilities and housings. Especially those in countries lacking an effective social safety net.
In Thailand, free testing of COVID-19 is available at public hospitals, but still very limited. Each case is at the discretion of the doctor. This is due to the limited test kits available in the kingdom. The middle and upper class however, can afford to pay for testing, which is anywhere from THB3,000 at a public hospital, to over THB10,000 at a private facility.
According to Wiroj Lakkhanaadisorn, spokesperson for the Move Forward Party, there are 14.5 million Thais in need of government assistance. These are workers in the service and manufacturing sectors, including those who aren’t registered in the social security system.
Currently, the government plans to provide financial assistance at 5,000 baht per person, per month for some three million workers affected by the outbreak. This is only around 20% of the numbers provided by Wiroj.
COVID-19 is affecting millions of working-class families worldwide. Even in countries with universal healthcare, people still bear the brunt of the financial burden of job losses and businesses shutdown, with insufficient government assistance.
The outbreak should prompt humanity to take a hard look in the mirror. We have spent centuries creating classes, borders and nationalities. We invest in divisions drawn by politics, culture, wealth, religion and the color of our skin. But Mother Nature simply doesn’t care.
Perhaps a lesson from the COVID-19 outbreak is that we should make a giant leap towards flattening the hierarchical system, with its inherent discrimnation, that we have created for ourselves.
After all, if Mother Nature doesn’t discriminate, why should we?