Last night, while I was a reading O’Casey’s “Juno and the Paycock” I came across this line uttered by the titular character of the play where she finds herself totally powerless in the face of impending doom that ultimately befell her family;

“What can god do against the stupidity of men?”

Now, this very dialogue struck me like a lightning bolt, and the epiphany I experienced afterward, made me realise that our current situation; caused by this contagious virus, called; COVID-19 and the preventive measures, or may I call them permissive measures that we are taking against it, is perhaps the most ideal context to which the said dialogue seemed to have been alluding to.

Just as in the play, despite all the efforts of Juno her family meets disaster; I strongly fear that all the endeavours of our government won’t work either. And the way I interpret it, it would most likely happen because our Juno is struggling to tame my fellow countrymen who exactly represent the non-serious sort of characters who were destined to fall headlong in the play.

Let’s have a look at the ‘family’ now shall we: people, especially my compatriots, treated the lockdown as a vacation and they still are doing the same, those who apparently stay at home are having family get-togethers and parties, massive gatherings at market places are common, local traders are busy making money by selling stuff on higher rates because people had started stocking everything, shortage of medical equipment, including over-the-counter pills, masks, and common lifesaving drugs was also temporarily recorded.

The preventive measures, which I consider to be permissive measures in our case, are also to be held responsible for the outbreak of this virus. Since around the globe, countries had imposed these bans that would directly influence their economies, UN announced monetary aid for the counties that were already, or were likely to be affected by this virus to help them fight against it.

Even today, following the beaten road, we are moving towards time-barred/smart lockdown which is again more of a permissive measure to me than a preventive one, as it allows small businessmen/shopkeepers of selected trades to open their businesses for a limited span of time i.e. till 5pm generally, because of which it turns into rush hour at those stores, while the rest of the traders who are not permitted to do business suffer great loss. Apart from that, nobody seems to care if traders are genuinely observing the lockdown and the shops and markets are closed, then from where will these thousands of workers and volunteers of different NGOs and political parties who are busy in philanthropic, charity work, buy the goods they distribute, or what guarantee is there that these workers or all others who are out there these days for the implementation of so-called lockdown, do not and will not contribute in the spread of the virus? Have they all been tested for corona; what if the delivery boy or the police constable deployed on vehicle checking is infected or is a carrier?

I don’t wish to intimidate people by this scepticism nor do I condemn helping out others in the hour of need, but I certainly do not like what is going on nowadays.

Putting our economy at stake for something which will further drag us into the debt of foreign funding agencies reminds me of the scene of the play where Mr Bentham, a solicitor, brings the news of a potential inheritance on the death of a distant relative of Mr Boyle (Juno’s husband), who upon hearing the news of the inheritance, buys furniture and clothing on credit. Later it is revealed to him that not only will he be receiving any inheritance, rather his daughter has been impregnated by Mr. Bentham, who is nowhere to be found.

The nation needs to come out of the reverie that everything would be alright on its own. Juno (the government) cannot run the entire system alone; the family also needs to act maturely by avoiding politics in the hour of crisis and practicing social distancing as a personal obligation. Long live Pakistan.