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Moral ambivalence in the midst of darkness

24 Jan 2021 at 22:30hrs | Views
OH, what a sad, heavy and dark week! The COVID-19 pandemic has eventually stamped its indelible wound on our nation. It has been with us since the first quarter of last year, though. But it was hitting the "unknowns" or "us the people" albeit prominent faces here and there. The nation is grieving, but hasn't it been since March last year?

The death of few prominent faces last year may not have triggered the required sense of urgency within the echelons of power than it did this time. The pandemic was handled lackadaisically as part of routine work not so much a global problem. For an arrogant, plunderous and autocratic system that finds comfort in the safety and security of money and guns, who would blame them for thinking that way.

In this, our land, it only becomes a problem when it hits the elite. The same elite is above its own laws. Healthcare workers, who are risking their lives everyday, protested asking for better salaries. They were ushered by force into or out of their jobs. They are labourers anyway, they were told. Reports of COVID-19 resources being plundered splashed across the media divide. No arrests, yet resources vanished. This is despite that COVID-19 messages were very loud and clear right from the onset - it respects no boundaries, race, religion or status and, therefore, stay safe, mask up and sanitise.

The past two weeks plunged the nation into mourning after the pandemic claimed lives of several key political figures with reports of some struggling for life. But, the people have been mourning, sick and recovering since March last year including calling on authorities to up their game. Maybe the pandemic had not laid bare its ferocious face on the doorsteps of power. Current statistics show that as of January 21 2021, the country had recorded 30 523 cases, 21 080 recoveries and 962 deaths amid reports that these numbers may be lagging behind what is unfolding on the ground. And indeed, we have been grieving since March.

I will leave the rest on the unfolding COVID-19 scenario for others to decipher as I attempt to focus on the moral ambivalence that greeted the demise of some of our folks.
From a neutral and African ubuntu standpoint, it is morally wrong to celebrate the death of someone no matter the circumstances.

In religion, ethics and law, the inviolability of life, or sanctity of life, is a principle of implied protection regarding aspects of sentient life that are said to be holy, sacred, or otherwise of such value that they are not to be violated. Every human life is equally important regardless of whatever circumstance.

But then history is replete with episodes of people crossing that moral line by celebrating the demise of those perceived to have compromised the principles of the greater good, sanctity of life or put others' lives in danger.

The determinant factor is the perceived risk posed by the deceased on others. Perhaps this is best explained via examples.

By the way, this is not to justify or glorify what appears to be lack of ubuntu among some social media users but to highlight that their story, rather source of angst too must be understood within the current context.

In July last year, the media in South Africa reported that villagers from Shongane in Limpopo celebrated throughout the night after the sudden death of a man who attacked women before raping them.

On February 23 2002, wild celebrations erupted in Luanda, Angola's capital after reports of the death of rebel leader Jonas Savimbi.

On May 2 2011, spontaneous celebrations erupted near the White House in Washington and ground zero in New York when news of Osama bin Laden's death was reported.

In Venezuelan, President Hugo Chavez had to step in in May 2008 to stop people from celebrating the death of Colombian rebel leader Manuel Marulanda, saying that he regretted not having met him to explore peaceful ways of addressing their differences.

The move by Mr Chavez demonstrated the importance of leadership in polarised and emotionally charged situations where the majority are aggrieved or suffer because of a few individuals.

Nonetheless, there are critical aspects to note in the examples above and so are moral and greater good points to take away.

For starters, the deceased are human beings who must enjoy their right to life.

They are important as parents, brothers and beloved to their families and friends.

On these accounts and others, the sanctity of human life must prevail and be observed.

The problem arises when their existence poses a threat to the great good - when they become or represent danger or risk or become the source of grief and suffering to the society.

In the examples given above, the death of the Shongane man meant an end to rape and murder and the end of fear in the village.

In Angola, Savimbi was seen as the face of the long-drawn conflict and the people's protracted suffering, and for that reason people did not have any regrets.

In the case of Osama Bin Laden, his death was seen as the beginning of a gradual decline in global terrorism.

Perhaps with this tragedy, it is time to reflect, to be better, to unite and reembrace ubuntu.

It is a basic social transaction.

Tapiwa Gomo is a development consultant based in Pretoria, South Africa. He writes here in his personal capacity.

Source - newsday
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