Politics and religion mess up Covid war

ANY careless mixture of religion, politics and race amidst the Covid-19 pandemic brings disaster and death. One nation that has been severely traumatised is the United States.

We in Malaysia need to heed this tragic lesson from across the Pacific Ocean. Ten per cent of Americans (34 million out of 333 million) caught the virus and 620,000 died. These high figures put America at the top of the world chart.

Brazil, with 510,000 deaths, actually scored worse as its population at 214 million is 35% lower than America’s. It too has a dangerous brew of religion, politics and race.

Malaysia has been compared to India, and that is not to our credit because at its height the number of Indian cases hit 400,000 daily infections. At our height, we reached 9,000 daily infections – a rate matching India’s when calculated as ratio of population.

What is it about the melding of religion, politics and race that can bring down a nation under siege by the virus? From this careless brew emerges a hazardous style of politics that fosters a sense of national identity centred on religion and race.

Political parties sway their voters to overlook a candidate’s lack of qualification, integrity or competence so long as he champions their corner. It is a disturbing feature of modern democracies and has become glaringly prominent in several countries.

A direct spinoff is that key jobs are given out on the basis of political allegiance and the consequence is that many of the best brains are deliberately excluded from government.

When mediocrity trumps meritocracy, governments invariably stumble in their response to the Covid-19 virus and are saved only by the vaccine. Without the vaccine rollout, humanity’s destruction at the hands of the virus would have been certain.

Modern democratic nations are monopolist as political parties or coalitions desire a monopoly of power and control over their nations. They do not want all the best brains available, only brains affiliated to the ruling elite.

Religions proclaim their worship of God, but in all modern democratic nations the religious authorities are monopolist whereas God is universalist. Religions want to monopolise salvation – you can only go to heaven with a passport issued by one particular religion, this one or that one. You have to decide which is the right one for the world.

Positions and privileges are distributed according to racial criteria. How is this game played? It plays on your egoistic desire for exclusivism and superiority. Its clever message is that all who believe in God must demonstrate their faith by supporting the political party so appointed to carry out the divine will.

Imbued with a sense of religious purity, fanatically-loyal voters are blind to any wrongdoing perpetuated by their own cluster members and at the same time are contemptuous towards the “out” groups.

Do you identify yourself by your religion, race, nationality and your political party? If you are doing that, it means you are a monopolist. You are clearly not a universalist, the way you are made.

A universalist identifies himself firstly as a creature of the earth and as a human, and then by his ethnicity. If you can change your religion, nationality and political allegiance, it means these are not products of nature.

Why did God hand the vaccine to science and not to any particular religion, political party or race of people? It is because science is universalist, whereas our dangerous brew of religion, politics and race is monopolist in character. If any particular religion had gotten the formula for vaccine development, its followers would be the only ones to get vaccinated. All others will have to convert to qualify for the jab.

Many religious influencers play negative roles in that they either turn into anti-vaxxers because God did not hand the vaccine to them or they tell their followers that the power of prayer is sufficient to give them immunity. These influencers cannot face the fact that the virus has exposed the fraudulent claim that God has designated one religion – whichever it is – to hold a monopoly over the truth, a monopoly on the way of salvation.

If any religion enjoys monopoly, why are its followers not spared the affliction? Why does the virus attack them as well? The victims who have been killed by this virus cannot be differentiated by religion. There were victims from all 12 world religions and they died the same way. They went through the same suffering.

The Covid pandemic has created a level playing field where the followers of all religions find themselves standing on the same ground, facing the same threat and taking the same defensive measures. They are also getting the same vaccine shots. There is no vaccine just for Christians, another one for Muslims, one for Hindus and one for Buddhists.

The virus is teaching us a lesson that we must learn fast: We must become universalist and remove the killer brew of religious, political and racial monopoly. The price of this lesson has been four million lives lost around the world. If we still do not learn, the next price could be 40 million deaths.

The writer champions interfaith harmony. Comments: letters@thesundaily.com