World order is on trial. Early on in what some still refer to as the “Chinese Coronavirus” outbreak last month, when it truly was thought to be a local Chinese issue, there were ample amounts of criticism and even condemnation coming from various western officials. Their posture was one of talking down on China’s “draconian” measures and control of information. By all accounts the virus is on the decline now in China, as of writing, and they’re now working to keep the international pandemic out. Ironic to a degree. Back then, there were officials in the West boasting that such an outbreak couldn’t get as bad in their countries because of the existing open communication, free exchange of thought, and free press. All of which would theoretically offer a better chance to contain it. You don’t hear that sentiment expressed anymore. The major Western countries are now the epicenter of the contagion, and they now have the chance to walk the walk, while cases spiral out of control in Spain, Italy, the UK, and so notably in the United States.
The long lasting effect on humanity from this virus may or may not be the death toll. It is World order itself that is at stake. The scourge wrought upon the world one hundred years ago by influenza disproportionately took the young. Luckily that is not what we are facing today. But that’s not an argument for complacency. The situation could mutate at any time, and has already proven exceptionally dangerous to people of my parent’s generation.
In one aspect, for many years the United States has been competing with China; one great system matched against the other, in all realms. At the end of this outbreak, people may be left to decide, and observe, which system of governance provides the best for its people. China could be in the process of making one of the greatest cases for itself if the virus continues to dwindle there, and simultaneously explodes in the US and the Western European democracies. It could come down to which way of life actually keeps you alive at the end of the day.
In another realm, President Reagan once argued in front of the United Nations General Assembly that an unmistakable and open overture to our species by extraterrestrials would result in immediate world peace. It could be the answer to all of our problems, he said. Our border squabbles and racial biases could suddenly be revealed as extremely petty, small minded, and inconsequential indeed upon the arrival of an interplanetary species, millions of years more evolved than our own. I’d like to believe that could potentially unite us as human beings.
Perhaps this virus, or yet another of its cousins lying in wait in the near future, is that alien arrival. Could it be the outsider that draws us to work together, to overcome our differences, to survive and thrive in the face of it? For example, we’ve seen the open and high level of coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority in their efforts to confront the outbreak. It may have even just forced the yearlong Israeli political standoff to a resolution.
I fear another reaction is more likely, as we witness our systems of order, health care, finance, education, entertainment, travel, supply, and beyond tested and altered by this event. In this world of competing orders, from the mighty US and massive China, to the opposed forces of revolutionary Iran and upstart, resilient Israel, within the current disorder, there’s room for one to exploit against the other. Opponents are finding new ways to maneuver. Especially when the superpowers of the day are quite obviously distracted with their own societies in breakdown, we must be on watch for those looking to overturn the order in their favor. Mainly, it is time for us to not forget each other, and work together to save the world we cherish, as it all comes into focus, and under threat.