Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Arundhati Roy on Gandhi - 6a

Arundhati Roy writes:

For centuries before Gandhi and for years after him, Hindu rishis and yogis have performed feats of renunciation far more arduous than Gandhi's. However, they have usually done it alone, on a snowy mountainside or in a cave set in a windblown cliff. Gandhi's genius was that he yoked his other-worldly search for moksha to a very worldly, political cause and performed both, like a fusion dance, for a live audience, in a live-in theater. 

It was precisely the idea that saints should retreat to caves that Gandhi wanted to challenge. The history of Hinduism is marked by the tension between the hermit tradition (which emphasized turning away from the world for enlightenment) and the householder tradition (which emphasized engagement with the world). Gandhi wanted to embody an enlightened householder. An unenlightened householder is one who views life either as a burden or as an indulgence. An enlightened householder is one who lives like a householder but thinks like a hermit; who is engaged in everything but is possessive of nothing.

Gandhi was venerated as a saint but he did not fit the conventional Hindu saint. In his project of trying to unite politics, ethics and spirituality, he went beyond all the great figures of modern India. His spiritual mentor, Raychandbhai, had warned him not to involve himself too deeply in the politics of Natal for the good of his soul. Many years later, Ramana Maharshi said that Gandhi was a good man who had sacrificed his spiritual development by taking too great burdens upon himself. Even Swami Vivekananda urged Indians to participate in social action, philanthropic activities, etc. but not politics. Horace Alexander, a British Quaker who worked with Gandhi, said that if Gandhi was a mystic, he was 'a very matter-of-fact mystic'. 

It was Gandhi who found a way of overcoming this fear of the political on the part of the spiritual and he found the inspiration for it in the Gita. In his opinion, there was no evidence in the Gita of any opposition between these two pursuits. Rather, it taught that in performing one's duties rightly - whatever they might be whether related to the family, society, nation or state - one could attain the goal of moksha. He was of the opinion that since man had a soul - the spark of the divine - in them, it was their natural obligation to love and respect one another. He rejected religious quietism or purely private piety and his religious vision compelled him to participate in a range of public activities. 

He didn’t believe in just talk about religion but kept reminding people that actions speak louder than words. Things had to be done rather than merely contemplated. He believed that true religion was not a matter of rules and regulations but a journey through life's realities and challenges during the course of which dharma must be worked out. He was never comfortable with the purely contemplative tradition but believed passionately that each man must find his God in encounter with his fellow men. In 1936, he told a Polish visitor, '. . . If I could persuade myself that I could find Him [God] in  a Himalayan cave, I would proceed there immediately.  But I know that I cannot find him apart from humanity.'

The exclusive cultivation of inwardness leads one to neglect the practical aspects of life which does not necessarily have a beneficial effect on society. He therefore does not advocate a retreat into the ‘cave of the heart’ like Indian holy men but the power of religion to move the heart must be used to bring people together when a course of action is being planned. He said that if religion is concerned with practical life, it is also concerned with politics. Religion, morality and ethics, for him, are closely interwoven. Similarly, politics was nothing but a major instrument of service to the people totally free from all games of power politics. Gandhi realized that he couldn't do even social work without politics. He told a group of missionaries in 1938:

I could not be leading a religious life unless I identified myself with the whole of mankind and that I could not do unless I took part in politics. The whole gamut of man’s activities today constitutes an indivisible whole . . . I do not know of any religion apart from activity. It provides a moral basis to all other activities without which life would be a maze of sound and fury signifying nothing. He said, '. . . religion that takes no count of political affairs and does not help to solve them, is no religion.'

Gandhi said that a truly spiritual person had to be engaged with society – he could not be indifferent to the social ills that he sees around him. If he is indeed an indifferent spectator of these ills and prefers to pursue his spiritual quest in isolation, then there is something wrong with his concept of spirituality. He felt that the most challenging moral problems for a religious person came from politics. As early as in 1926, Gandhi asserted that "'moksha' or self-realization was impossible today without service of and identification with the poorest." What Gandhi meant by service was not relief or charity, but radical restructuring of the present exploitative economic system. Raghavan Iyer writes in The Moral and Political Thought of Mahatma Gandhi:

Gandhi thought that the saint and the revolutionary are not incompatible, although the former is more concerned with his inward integrity and the latter with his outward effectiveness. The saint must not be a self-deceiving escapist who refuses to act, while the revolutionary politician must not become a self-seeking opportunist who is ever-ready to sacrifice his declared principles.

The true saint must be effective in society, while the true revolutionary must be possessed of the deepest integrity; in the end, the two categories merge into each other. In this way Gandhi upheld what Archbishop Temple called 'the error of medieval monasticism', the belief that it is possible to live in a society that is altogether at variance with the prevalent moral standards. 

He recognized a key feature of modernity that had never been present earlier - the elevation of vices like greed and selfishness to the status of virtues resulting in the institutionalizing of irresponsibility. He argued that the modern version of material advancement is a regression rather than a higher stage of human evolution, because it displaces dharma (as ethics) from its primacy. He argued that all efforts to improve the human condition are bound to fail unless they put dharma, or a moral framework and a sense of higher purpose, above the pursuit of artha (wealth) and kama (pleasure). He considered modern civilization to be without a moral center with its emphasis on progress without limits, rights without responsibilities, and technology without cost.

Gandhi felt that Indian civilization needs a realignment of the aims life with an end to the predominance of the ascetic tradition. He felt that India needs to have modern type of political and economic institutions with Western values like human rights, gender equality, civil liberty etc. But he felt that those who rely only on this philosophy tend to believe that perusing spiritual transcendence is anti-modern and that the modern state can justify any end it pursues. His concern had been based on his perception that modernity over-emphasized the material comforts of life and under-emphasized the ethical dimension – it encouraged the pursuit of bodily needs without the framework of ethics i.e. it did not provide any 'inducement for morality'. 

Friday, February 12, 2021

Arundhati Roy on Gandhi - 5b

 Gandhi's reading of John Ruskin’s Unto this Last made him “determined to change my life”, influencing his concept of “soul-force” as a substitute for physical force. He learnt from it that “the good of the individual is contained in the good of all . . . the lawyer’s work has the same value as the barber’s. . . a life of labor, ie, the life of a tiller of the soil and the handicraftsman, is the life worth living.” After his return to India, he used his philosophy of work to undermine the caste hierarchy that undermined manual labor in various social practices. He tried to re-legitimize the manual and the unclean and delegitimize the Brahminic and the clean. Ashis Nandy writes in Bonfire of Creeds:

I remember anthropologist Surajit Sinha once saying that while Rabindranath Tagore wanted to turn all Indians into Brahmans, Gandhi sought to turn them into Shudras. This can be read as an indictment of Gandhi; it can be read as a homage. 

And every Indian social thinker and activist has to make his or her choice some time or the other; for to say glibly that one must in the long run abolish both the categories is to fight in the short run for the Brahminic world-view. Exactly as to work for the future removal of poverty without touching the super rich in the present is to collaborate with the latter. 

A year after his return he asked a group of students, ‘…I consider that a barber’s profession is just as good as the profession of medicine’.   At that time, a barber’s profession was meant for untouchables and the medical profession provided entry into the ranks of the Westernized elite so Gandhi’s statement would have been incredible for the students. He further stated that only when these ideas are clearly understood ‘and not until then, you may come into politics’. Indians, according to him had not developed its scientist-engineers like in the west because: 

We are apt to think lightly of the village crafts because we have divorced educational from manual training. Manual work has been regarded as something inferior, and owing to the wretched distortion of the varna, we came to regard spinners and weavers and carpenters and shoemakers as belonging to the inferior castes and the proletariat. 

We have had no Comptons and Hargreaves because of this vicious system of considering the crafts as something inferior divorced from the skilled. If they had been regarded as callings having an independent status of their own equal to the status that learning enjoyed, we should have had great inventors from among our craftsmen. 

Gandhi was anxious that those engaged in physical labor should not be looked down upon and their place should be considered equal to those engaged in intellectual pursuits. He thought that it is the wide gulf between manual and intellectual labor that is the cause of poverty and inequality in society. Gandhi said that the labor test would be far superior to that either of literacy or property for a person to take part in government. He held that voters could not become pawns in the hands of politicians by becoming self-reliant through this principle. He held that this would enable people to have the capacity to resist authority and prevent the formation of a small class of exploiting rulers and a large class of exploited subjects. 

It was not that Gandhi held intellectual labor in low esteem. He even says at one place that he would allow those with greater intellect to earn more. But he believed that all should perform manual labor, irrespective of their professions, so that the load of physical labor was not borne unfairly by some and a sense of identification was created with the hardships of others. Spinning and khadi must be seen in this context. While for the poor, it provided some additional income during the off-season, for others it was a form of sacrifice. 

But the pragmatic in Gandhi had been overwhelmed by the idealist in pursuit of an egalitarian, just society which is why there are contradictions in Gandhi’s argument. He asserts that professionals should not expect payment for their work, but at the same time, he was willing to allow those with greater intellect to earn more. 

The importance of using ones hands also informed his views on science. In a speech he delivered to a group of college students in Trivandrum in March 1925, Gandhi said that he appreciated the urge that led scientists to conduct basic research, to do ‘science for the sake of science’. But he worried that scientists and science students in India came overwhelmingly from the middle class (and upper castes), and hence knew only to use their minds and not their hands. His own view was that it would be ‘utterly impossible for a boy to understand the secrets of science or the pleasures and the delights that scientific pursuits can give, if that boy is not prepared to use his hands, to tuck up his sleeves and labor like an ordinary laborer in the streets’. For only if one’s ‘hands go hand in hand with your heads’, could one properly place science in the service of humanity. 

Without an understanding of practical needs as developed through such labor, scientific research was unlikely to benefit the masses. In Young India of September 1, 1921, Gandhi wrote, “Our children should not be so taught as to despise labor. It is a sad thing that our school boys look upon manual labor with disfavor, if not contempt.” With this view he exhorted the science students to work with their hands, as science was one of the few things that involved accuracy of thought and accuracy of handling. Gandhi's critique of education, both modern and traditional, was based on the place of manual and crafts work in its overall scheme. He was convinced that: 

The utterly false idea that intelligence can be developed only through book reading should give place to the truth that the quickest development of the mind can be achieved by artisan's work being learnt in a scientific manner. True development of the mind commences immediately the apprentice is taught at every step why a particular manipulation of the hand or a tool is required (Harijan, 9-I-37, 386).

The demands that he made were revolutionary and required profound changes in thinking about work, caste, religion and politics. Following his critique of traditions from the standpoint of a believer, he argues that the stagnation in matters of science was inevitable if the practice of untouchability persisted. He said, 'We look down upon those who do manual work. Had we assigned to craftsmen and artisans a place of dignity in society, like other countries we too would have produced many scientists and engineers 

Friday, January 29, 2021

Arundhati Roy on Gandhi - 5a

(I have changed the numbering system from this post. This series is very long and I thought that it would be easier for readers to follow if I switched from Roman numerals to Hindu-Arabic numerals with sub-sections. For example, this post and the next are numbered 5a and 5b respectively.  This means that these two posts are on the same issue viz. manual labor. If there are posts numbered from 12a . . .12f, it would mean that there are 6 posts on the same issue triggered by a comment by Arundhati Roy.) 

Arundhati Roy writes sarcastically about an article in the Harijan where Gandhi writes that 'the ideal Bhangi of my conception would be a Brahmin par excellence' and that a 'Bhangi constitutes the foundation of all services'. He then writes about the qualities that 'such an honored servant of society' should have. These include 'a thorough knowledge of the principles of sanitation', 'how a right kind of latrine is constructed and the correct way of cleaning it', 'how to overcome and destroy the odor of excreta and the various disinfectants to render them innocuous', etc. 

It is common practice these days to take a quote that somebody made a long time ago, and invest it with huge significance. If somebody wants to condemn him politically, they quote this one line. It’s not that he didn’t say it, but you can't analyze somebody based on one sentence they said years ago. You have to look at their entire body of work. Gandhi's philosophy of manual labor was completely at variance with existing Indian assumptions about labor which was causing sharp caste divisions and the horror of the upper castes in performing manual labor. It was part of his indirect attack on the caste system without saying it in so many words. 

Gandhi is too nuanced for people who want black and white answers and leap too easily to simplistic conclusions. Manual labor is the labor that is essential for meeting basic needs and nobody was exempt from it. While the poor had to do it out of necessity, the rich had to do it out of choice. The Industrial Revolution changed the way labor was perceived. Now labor is seen only as an input to produce profit and power. Manual labor's status was downgraded and seen as fit only for backward, illiterate people. It was looked down upon in Indian culture and Gandhi spent his entire adult life fighting this prejudice. Dennis Dalton writes in Gandhi: Non-violent Power in Action:

If any single idea demonstrates or stamps Gandhi's credentials as a social reformer, it must be his theory and practice of work. The idea pervades his whole reform preprogram, from abolition of untouchability to construction of village latrines and wells. His unique emphasis on public health and sanitation required social workers-cum-political volunteers to engage in labor that would routinely defy caste restrictions.

For Gandhi, manual labor is not a sign of weakness but our humanity yet he finds it continually degraded. 'In our country manual labor is regarded as a low occupation . . . We should spin, therefore, if only to guard against the pernicious tendency of regarding the toiler as being low in the social scale.' - (Young India, May 20, 1926). He was critical of the devaluation of manual labor in Buddhist monasteries. Although he had very high regard for the Buddha, he had some criticisms as well. He said that 'if I had the good fortune to be face to face with one like him [the Buddha], I should not hesitate to ask him why he did not teach the gospel of work, in preference to one of contemplation.' 

He said that he would do the same thing if he met Hindu saints such as Tukaram and Jnanadev. He wondered how much responsibility the Buddha had to bear for the rise of an anti-work ethic in Buddhist monasticism. He said, '. . . did he himself set up the organizations [of monasteries] or did his followers do so? Whoever did it, the monasteries which were established became . . . stagnant and by-and-by acquired a reputation as dens of sloth.' He alluded to the same state in Hindu monasteries also. Anthony Parel writes in Gandhi's Philosophy and the Quest for Harmony:.

. . he felt it necessary to criticize the imbalance between work and the spiritual life. The theory that begging was holy and that living off the labor of others legitimate, provided it was done by mendicants, also came for criticism. He made it clear that his criticism did not spring from any sectarian bias. They sprang from the insight that the work ethic was mandatory on all, mendicants as well as lay people. 

In his ashrams his insistence on everybody performing manual labor caused friction between various castes. In Sabarmati Ashram, manual labor was part of daily routine - inmates had to work for 3 1/2 hours in the field and 3 hrs. in the kitchen and dining hall. The first task entrusted to new entrants was the cleaning of latrines.  Gandhi's reasoning for this kind of initiation was that this would strip the person of any residual ego and make them humble enough to be able to recognize truth and be prepared to serve the weakest and the poorest. To a young man to whom he had assigned the job of cleaning latrines, he said:

I know that you have been educated abroad and so you feel that you must address the bigger issues plaguing India, like reducing poverty, speeding up development and eradicating illiteracy, but as long as you don’t have the humility to do the humblest of jobs you will not be able to recognize the real problems that beset our motherland. 

If you really want to make a difference you will have to first get rid of your ego, only then will you be able to understand that it is essential to recognize the importance of the seemingly insignificant, menial tasks and have the humility to perform them, if you learn to do them with dignity and honor, the bigger tasks will become easy.

He asserted that no work was superior or inferior; the work of a Brahmin, of expounding holy truths, was not one whit better than that of a sudra who removed night-soil. Madeline Slade was the daughter of an Admiral of the British Navy. She came under the thrall of Gandhi, renounced her affluence and came to India to live in his ashrams. Her transformation into Meerabehen, the name given to her by Gandhi, began by cleaning latrines and emptying chamber pots. He wrote in Harijan of September 8, 1946: 

I am a firm believer in the educative value of manual work. Useful manual labor, intelligently performed, is the means par excellence for developing the intellect. One may develop a sharp intellect otherwise, too. But, then, it will not be a balanced growth but an unbalanced, distorted abortion. It might easily make of one a rouge and rascal.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Arundhati Roy on Gandhi - IV

Gandhi was well-aware that caste was (and remains) a deeply-entrenched component of Indian society (observed not only by Hindus, but by Muslims, Sikhs, and Christians).  He himself had been outcasted by members of his bania sub-caste for going abroad to study and he showed no interest in rejoining it. He chose to focus on the most odious component of the caste system (untouchability) and call for its elimination.  Roy chooses to harshly critique Gandhi for this stance and dismiss him as a hypocrite.  Gandhi was a product of his time, place and culture.  His position calling for the eradication of untouchability was considered radical by most caste Hindus of his time. 

In September 1915, Gandhi accepted in his ashram in Ahmedabad an untouchable couple and their child. Even this limited challenge to the social order posed by the ashram caused such a crisis that the community nearly disintegrated. Various members threatened to leave or actually left including those closest to Gandhi – Kasturba and Maganlal. There was talk of social boycott by the residents of the city. Outside funds dried up.  Gandhi held his ground and refused to remove the untouchable family from the ashram. He was ready to close down the ashram and move to an untouchable settlement. The community was only saved by an ‘anonymous’ donation of 13,000 rupees by a local businessman. 

While the Congress wanted him to concentrate on gaining political independence and deemed Gandhi's tackling of other issues a distraction, Ambedkar said he was prepared to call the former his leader if he dropped all issues and concentrated only on the caste issue. It is easy to to take maximalist positions if you are focusing only on one issue but you have to be more cautious and diplomatic when pursuing multiple objectives. At one point, C.F. Andrews, his closest friend in adult life, advised him to concentrate only on the issue of untouchability even if it meant ignoring other issues. He replied:

I can't devote myself entirely to untouchability and say, "Neglect Hindu-Muslim unity or swaraj." All these things run into one another and are interdependent. You will find at one time in my life an emphasis on one thing, at another time on another.  But that is just like a pianist, now emphasizing one note and now (an)other.

It is important to concentrate on what Gandhi did rather than what he said. Most politicians are radical in what they say but conservative in what they do. But Gandhi was the opposite: he was conservative in what he said but radical in what he did. What he said was due to strategic reasons tailored not to antagonize the audience that he was addressing. So when he addressed an audience of orthodox Hindus, he would make noises in favor of the caste system. But in his actions on the ground, he had no hesitation in breaking rigid caste rules.

He said that the 'most effective, the quickest, and the most unobtrusive way to destroy caste' was for reformers to practice what they preached in their lives. 'Reviling the orthodox' was not the best way to go about getting rid of caste. The change had to be 'gradual and imperceptible'. He did not ask the colonial state to intervene because it was an alien institution. He instead wanted public opinion to create an anti-caste outlook. He would attack the caste system indirectly rather than confront it directly. He was of the opinion that people ‘cannot be made good by law’. He said in Young India on July 9, 1925, ‘The evolution of public opinion is at times a tardy process but it is the only effective one.’ One of his strategies was to start by attacking untouchability rather than take on the whole caste system. 

Nietzsche claims, that a philosopher, to deserve our respect, must preach by example. Gandhi tried to make Sabarmati Ashram a model of a caste-free society. The members of  the Ashram did not believe in varnashrama dharma and carried out their responsibilities out of a sense of duty without adhering to their prior caste affiliations. He wanted his ashrams to reflect the kind of society that he wanted the whole of caste-ridden India to have. They were laboratories of the future. Moreover, much to the chagrin of upper-caste Hindu society, Gandhi displayed absolutely no qualms in picking up a broom and sweeping toilets, work that in Hindu society was considered fit only for the “lowest of the low.”  

On April 24, 1947, Gandhi publicly said in Patna that for some time he had made it a rule to be present or give his blessings’ only for a wedding between a Dalit and a non-Dalit.  Gandhi utilized the Dandi Salt march to breach some things other than the salt laws as well. One of these was the caste divide in the villages en route. On his arrival in some villages he headed straight for the so-called ‘untouchable' quarters and drew water from the well there for his wash, making his village hosts, often from ‘higher' castes, to cross those ancient and hurtful divides. He was under no illusions about the enormity of the task he faced.  He said that it would be like 'Dame Partington with her mop, trying to push back the Atlantic Ocean'.

Gandhi led a campaign for dalit rights in the 1930s, undertaking a nine-month tour of some 12,500 miles in 1933, campaigning for the opening up of wells, temples and roads to dalits. For a short time this appeared to have a remarkable impact. But Gandhi also encountered much resistance from orthodox caste Hindus. They disrupted his meetings and in June 1933 a bomb was thrown at him in Pune. Gandhi's colleagues in the Indian National Congress questioned his action. Gandhi, they argued, was spending far too much of his energies on a 'religious issue to the detriment' of political activity.

Gandhi's soft approach towards the orthodox was due to his wanting to reform Hinduism from within rather than attack it from the outside. His aim was to bring about a gradual delegitimization of various pernicious social practices by upper caste Hindus. About his soft approach to the Brahman priests during the Vaikkom satyagraha, David Hardiman writes in Gandhi: In His Time and Ours, "In Vaikkom, the latter [the priests] had showed themselves up when their representative had pleaded before him pathetically, 'Mahatmaji, we beseech you to prevent Avarnas [untouchables] from depriving us of our old privileges'' The heart of the matter thus stood revealed - theology provided no more than a cover for social privilege."

All along, Gandhi grounded his struggle against injustice in love, tolerance, and forgiveness. Ambedkar, on the other hand, chose to take Hindu orthodoxy head on. In purely rational terms, it made sense, but given the pervasiveness of the caste system which cut across all strata of Indian society, not just caste Hindus, Gandhi's approach merits attention. While Ambedkar relied more heavily on formal politics and religious separation as a mechanism for change, Gandhi, without ignoring the political dimension, emphasized personal example and the change of heart of a broad mass of caste Hindus. He said, 'I believe that it is impossible to end hatred with hatred.' 

Yet caste-based oppression remains after all this time. Although Dalits now have political voice, caste Hindus dominate the institutions. Horrific acts of violence continue to be perpetrated against Dalits even though there are laws to deal with the same. This has made the sociologist Andre Beteille to suggest that both leaders failed. Gandhi failed because the change of heart did not go far enough or deep enough. Ambedkar failed because conversion to Buddhism or any other religion has rarely led to escape from the stigma of pollution. Both failures testify to the weight and pervasiveness of hierarchical values in Indian society.

Friday, January 15, 2021

An unexpected break

On Christmas day last year, my father-in-law, who had been unwell for 3-4 days, was taken to the hospital where he was diagnosed as Covid positive. The next day my brother-in-law, Unni and Uma (who looks looks after me 24*7; she is younger than Sujit, has been with us for over 3 years, helps Jaya a lot and has become like a daughter for us now) went to the hospital since they were unwell. Uma tested Covid positive while Unni tested Covid negative but was admitted in 'suspected Covid ward' since he was showing certain symptoms. 

On the next day, my mother-in-law was showing a lot of weakness and couldn't move or eat anything so she was taken to the hospital by Sujit. (He had come a couple of days earlier and was staying with my mother because people were sick at home and we did not want him to catch an infection.) Although she was diagnosed as Covid negative, she was admitted in the 'suspected Covid ward' since she had certain symptoms. 

This meant that Jaya and me were the only ones at home. Sujit spoke to his branch manager who agreed to work out some way to take a long leave during his period of probation and asked him to stay on in Coimbatore. (All three of us had tested negative.) We hadn't expected his bank (Federal Bank) to be so accommodating and his stay proved very helpful. He continued to stay with my mother who made the meals and sent them to Jaya through him.

Thus passed a couple of tension-filled weeks. Jaya had always stayed with people around with whom she could talk so she found it tough to stay alone. (Conversing with me is not the same as conversing with a person who can talk.) Expectedly, my father-in-law, who is 84, had the toughest time. It was an emotional roller coaster ride for all of us till he was shifted from the ICU to the ward after 10 days. Another cause for worry was Unni who had a persistent cough for many days which made it difficult for him talk or sleep peacefully. 

My mother-in-law and Uma were discharged after a week and they were then quarantined in a hotel room. After another week, Uma tested negative so both were brought home. Uma was almost back to normal which made Jaya and me very happy. My mother-in-law is still weak. Moreover, about a month before Covid struck, she had had a fall which caused multiple  fractures in her right palm. The fractures have healed but the fingers have less flexibility now so she is more dependent on Jaya than before. 

My father-in-law and Unni were discharged on 12th. The former is on two liters of oxygen and is very tired. They have  been quarantined in another room for a week and I have not yet met them. This is being done mainly to ensure that I don't get any infection because that would greatly complicate matters. 

This domestic disruption caused by Covid again illustrated one of Gandhi’s concerns about modernity: the focus on the universal while ignoring the particular. (I see Gandhi everywhere these days.) When I came across Covid only in the news, it was all about disembodied statistics like positivity rates, recovery rates, etc. But when Covid came home, I became more aware of the tensions that people go through, the suffering, the long road to recovery, etc.

There seems to be a dangerous sense of complacency surrounding the vaccine. People seem to feel that once the vaccine is administered, it will be business as usual. Governments at the moment are still ostrich-like, thinking, lets just go back to the same old ways of printing money. Kickstart lending again to get capital flowing. People will be able to borrow again, people will be able to buy things again. It's all going to be fine. 

There doesn’t seem to be a realization that there will be new viruses causing worldwide pandemics due to widespread travel. Due to continuing habitat destruction, humans and wild animals will keep coming into contact causing more virus jumps across species. I heard the science writer Carl Zimmer say that he is reluctant to make any predictions but there is one prediction that he can make with a fair degree of certainty: there will always be some sort of flu caused by some sort of virus. 

PS: I will resume my regular posts about 'Arundhati Roy on Gandhi' from next week.