WhatsApp is a pun on What's Up, in case you didn't get it yet - actually, that was a sudden but rational guess made whilst dreaming up the title for today's write up; now it is knowledge confirmed from WhatsApp web page. Cool!
To be honest, beyond the tragic loss of human lives and the economic disaster in the offing, the Virus Wars have left those of us who incessantly use WhatsApp scared stiff - and stiff was a word used because the other one gets censored during publication.
Fear is the worst input for rational thought.
The other day I got a clip on WhatsApp that claimed that Madagascar had found an herbal cure and that no less than their President was marketing it. Obviously the clip had to be conspiratorial as well, otherwise it would have had a short life on the social media - the WHO was deliberately ignoring the miracle cure to protect the interest of Big Pharma. For the record, the official position is that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is in touch with Madagascar over its herbal drink Covid Organics (CVO).
My obvious immediate reaction was: where the hell was Madagascar, did they have an embassy in Pakistan, and were they selling the stuff in Islamabad? Imagine the level of fear that has been created, rightly or wrongly. By the way, the Home Minister at my residence, who also holds every other portfolio that any governance structure can dream up, already has the populace on a strict diet of lime, honey, dates and kalonji. Not counting the other frustrating precautions.
So right about now, if Madagascar was to suddenly start exporting the miracle herbal tonic, it may soon become one of the richest countries on the Globe, per capita! If only Rooh Afza were the wonder cure!
Right about now, don't you wish you had been in the business of manufacturing masks?
But I digress. The latest controversy, courtesy WhatsApp again, is that some top expert in China is warning about the second wave, and apparently he was the genius who caught the first wave in Wuhan, and is much respected in China for that.
This is ominous since we, apparently, as I understand from the extremely confused, highly polarised and worryingly ill-informed discussion on the idiot box, are yet to reach our peak, and on top of that have already come out of the lockdown. Phenomenally, as soon as the lockdown was lifted, Pakistanis were partying, with the biggest crowds not stocking up on bare necessities but in line for luxury clothing. Evidently, either we are a very brave nation, or are very stupid or very ill-informed.
On the other hand, we might even be very well informed and possibly in agreement with the two foreign looking English-speaking doctors making the rounds on WhatsApp. According to them, most of the Virus Wars is a scam and the casualty rates are not high enough to be alarming, and we should not wash out hands since it marginalises the immune system. Or maybe we side with the Nurse, who argued that ventilators were a death sentence and that this protocol was being pursued to make money. And let's not forget the video clip in which a lady accuses Anthony Fauci of being the mastermind behind this entire episode; and much more. Undoubtedly, some of the clips on WhatsApp from healthcare professionals carry serious messages and make a lot of sense, much of which is unfortunately probably lost in all this noise.
Or we are the trailblazers who know more about herd immunity than anyone on the Globe? The gist of being treated as a herd is: whatever will be, will be. If you think you are amongst the two percent at high risk, stay home, let the rest move on. Refer to last week's column, the value of life.
Finally, perhaps the reason we came out of lockdown is because we have confirmed news that the conspiracy theories were right and that out Best Buddy started the pandemic to take control of the global assets and economy, and since we are best buddies, we will get the antidote.
This is one of those times when ignorance is bliss, and perhaps one of those rare instances when ignorance is also a great defence!
So how will things get to normal and economic activity revive when the majority of the population is ignorant, and the rest is petrified?
And on top of all that, this was a funny time to open a front with all the mafias, barons and tycoons, and to rile up every other association to go on a strike including transporters, small traders and flour mills. While the Government perhaps knows best about the rest, the need of the hour is to take the miscellaneous misinformation circulating on WhatsApp head on.
Some sort of credible forum needs to be established which clarifies, or at least attempts to clarify, the variety of news floating on the social media, which would at least alleviate the confusion and perhaps encourage people to take educated decisions in these challenging times.
If economic life is indeed to get normal!
So Doc, what's up!
(The writer is a chartered accountant based in Islamabad. Email: [email protected] The views expressed in this article are personal. The views are not necessarily those of the newspaper)