Ivan Zahradka
Ivan Zahradka

Never ask for whom the bell tolls

When the virus crossed our frontier in March last year we were one people. We set out to defy the virus by means of our collective creativity and wisdom in order to hold back its advance. And really, we stopped it by the force of our sewing machines and our women’s skilled and loving hands producing badly needed masks. And it seemed that the whole world should be impressed by our togetherness.

By mid-summer, there were arguments raging about this all over our country. Some, economists and the elite political class, in particular, were shouting that we were fools and that we needed to be reasonable and tolerate the virus for economic benefit. With help of the mainstream media, a stand was taken against the proven strategy of the elimination of the virus. We became complacent. It is a matter of a sad fact that in terms of the number of infected, serious cases and deaths from covid, we are now number one in Europe. The Czechs are “best in covid” once again. And the whole world has the right to be impressed again, this time around by our complacency and its consequences.

The chief reason however why our numbers appear to be so ugly is that the state seems to have chosen a “controlled way of arriving at herd immunity” instead of sticking with the already proven virus elimination strategy. This was despite the unavailability of anti-covid medicines and vaccines, despite the voice of medical experts and despite the calls of many who pointed out that we hadn’t been such fools at the beginning of the epidemic. If everybody has taken a stand against the virus, it would have turned bad out for the virus again. In the absence of this, the number of people dying from covid is running at a rate of one thousand in six days, and this has been the case for quite some time now. Two hundred and seventy-eight people died from covid so far yesterday, in a nation of ten million people.

Since we began to appease the virus many have become victims of this unarticulated strategy. Thousands of my fellow citizens could still have a long and happy life ahead of them, could still be working long hours and bringing something to the state. Our medical staff are on the verge of complete exhaustion, sacrificing their own lives in the quest to save the lives of others. And we have become accustomed to this and take it for granted, so why not continue demonstrating “for the protection of the constitution, our rights and freedoms, for the repeal of measures?”

We became two peoples since we began to appease the virus. Our society stopped behaving as one organism and lost its self-preservation instincts. It all began with spreading a cynical contempt for the lives of old and sick fellow citizens. As a society, we have decided not to adequately protect their lives. We are now paying and will continue paying a very high price for this moral failure. Now, because of this, everyone will be at risk. Now, there are no more risk groups, absolutely everyone is at risk, including children. The appeased virus appears to be fairer than we were. This is what the end of moral failure looks like.

When a foreign army crossed our frontier more than eight decades ago yesterday on a gloomy day, and was advancing in the direction of Prague, no one went out to meet them. It was too late to hold back the advancing tanks. Some were shouting that we had failed miserably, for if everyone had taken a stand against the evil, only with the weapons available to us in our hands, who could say how history would have turned out?

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were: any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee.” (John Donne, 1571-1630)

About the Author
Ivan Zahrádka is a citizen of the Czech Republic. He was born and lives in central Bohemia. He graduated as a mathematician from the Charles University of Prague and soon devoted himself to teaching and scientific activities. However, he spent the greater part of his career as an investment management specialist working for a few domestic and foreign private financial institutions at home and abroad. He currently works in Prague as a civil servant in the area of the financial market regulation.
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