For all governments, especially the resource poor third world countries, the basic issue of public policy is to establish a pattern of participatory communication with the citizenry through the mass media that provides adequate freedom of the press, which is by now a nationally stated objective of the press, in which the press has the ability to respond to what its government sees as its national objective. As we are undergoing an unexpected catastrophe in which the government is expected to commit itself to spontaneouspronouncements/reforms/strategies, highlights the difficult problem of balancing the freedom of the press with the responsible responses of the citizenry. These difficulties are clearly evident in our national response to coronavirus disease 19 (Covid-19).
If there is any lesson and/or need Covid-19 has demonstrated, incontrovertibly, I think it is that up to this point in time, people tested and found positive, those under treatment, those in isolation and the rest of the citizenry are in need of a strong – yes, even a temporary authoritarian governance system – for our survival.
We can argue as much as we can over some details – for example, that we have a huge youth population, which makes us less vulnerable to the disease – the data stares us in the face: it is not a license to be indifferent. All we need at this crucial time of our history is discipline, more discipline and respect for authority.
It is nations with strong, authoritarian (not necessarily dictatorial or undemocratic) states – mainly People’s Republic of China and the Russian Federation – that have so far beaten back this pandemic. Nearly overwhelmed in February with 77,016 cases, China now has just 3,947. Russia has only 626 cases.
One could even include in that list some Asian nations that have had a long history of authoritarianism: Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and, yes even Japan – which appear to have the pandemic under control within their territories, with cases only by the hundreds, in contrast to some democracies with their tens of thousands.
While we may never again have a dictatorial regime, we surely need a strong democratic leadership for an authoritative implementation of spontaneous pronouncements/directives during this crises period.
In contrast to authoritarian democracies, several nations that have been steeped in the notion of individual choice as the highest human value – that is, extremely liberal democracies – have had their Covid-19 cases, and deaths from it, unbelievably soar in a matter of weeks: the US now (March 31) has 100,000 cases from 79; Spain, 28,570 from two; France, 20,002 from 12; and the United Kingdom, 8,929 from just nine.
The World Health Organisation experts who studied how china beat back Covid-19 had emphasised one particular lesson: the government should act fast and decisively. How can democracies, like us, really do that, burdened with so-called “due processes”, parliamentary requirements and some ignoramuses undermining the honest and round the clock working efforts of our young innovative health leadership?
When Wuhan started to be deluged with cases, The Chinese Central government took over the city government. Can that be done in a democratic system like ours or in the USA, where for instance the New York State Governor, Andrew Cuomo, is squabbling with President Donald Trump, blaming him for not delivering the respirators New York needed when the Federal Emergency Management Agency had boasted it had 2,000 in its warehouse? Can you imagine any of our so-called democracies, simply order the appropriate factories to operate 24/7 to produce as much as they can of the necessary protective masks, the personal protective equipment and even the ventilators? We may have to sing paeans to authoritarianism if our Covid-19 situation goes out of control. Ordered by the central government, Chinese factories have produced so much of these items that they have now been giving these out to democracies severely hit by the pandemic.
Strong states Weak states
Covid-19 Active Cases As of:
S. Korea 946 4,996
China 77,016 3,947
Japan 132 952
Russia 2 626
Ph 3 572
Singapore 47 469
Taiwan 24 204
USA 35 66,995
Italy 79 57,521
Spain 2 40,501
France 12 20,002
One of the key responses to curb the Covid-19 pandemic is to deny individuals many of their rights under a democratic system: to socialise, travel and even work. It is the total denial of those rights by a state that can save the collective that is the nation. After all, how can humans exercise their rights, if they are dead?
Liberals, who mostly belong to the comfortable, never-starved social classes, find it difficult to understand the advantages of authoritarianism because their idea of a nation is where they usually live: in demarcated villages of people of the same thinking.
Nations are far from being people of the same level of thinking. The best analogy for a nation is to imagine it as a group of people travelling through a jungle, where there is danger all around them that could wipe them out. They don’t have the luxury to vote what their response would be if, say, a pride of lions suddenly emerge from the bushes. They can only rely on the orders of their leader, who would have to be a strong man.
Under the leadership of our young, intelligent, hardworking Minister, Allah (SWT) will save this country from the clutches of Covid-19. We have to religiously rely on his orders because he is a strong man.
Suruwa B. Wawa Jaiteh