Darwin, Covid-19 and the Philippine setting The New York Times

Darwin, Covid-19 and the Philippine setting Featured

WITH the introduction of a vaccine at this time when Covid-19 is running out of control, speculation is rife as to who should be benefited first – with the rest of the global population queuing up.

Based on wealth, it is a no-brainer for the richer countries to have prior access with the surplus, if any, allocated to whoever offers the better deal, economically or politically. Historically, countries per se are never altruistic. Their own citizens come first, and within each society, segmentation exists between those privileged versus the disadvantaged. This is simply how it is; the world following the dictates of political economy highlighted by the imperatives of the Malthusian catastrophe (“Revisiting Covid and the Malthusian trap,” The Manila Times, Dec. 2, 2020). If there are no interventions in the exponential progressions towards overpopulation and the earth’s capacity to produce the equivalent resources, a disequilibrium will eventually be breached – a worldwide catastrophe.

Darwin and natural selection
Complementing Malthus’ postulates is one that may decide for society where all these will lead to. At some point, Charles Darwin’s theory of natural selection will kick in. Darwin, the English naturalist, stated that all species on earth – even man – develop, over a great expanse of time minute, inherited variations, subsequently imprinted in its DNA that increase the species’ ability to compete, survive and reproduce or replicate itself. This is the basic concept of evolution. Darwin further suggested that the species or organism that best adjust to its environment survives.

Inevitably the fittest of these species/organisms survive and flourish, and those that don’t, perish. Thus, the dictum “survival of the fittest” coined by another scientist, Herbert Spencer, hews closely to Darwinism: “Survival of the form that will leave the most copies of itself in successive generations.” Only this time, the slow process of evolution will, in fact, be accelerated tremendously.

Nature’s triage
In battlefield hospitals where wounded soldiers are taken, they have a system of priorities, designed to maximize the number of survivors. A “triage officer” must sort out and decide which of the wounded has the best chance of surviving.

Over the millennia, man deliberately intervenes on what is perceived to imperil man’s immediate existence. On population control, national policies are encouraged as in family planning, late marriages and celibacy – the solutions of choice spearheaded by the Christian churches and evangelicals. A drastic approach is one imposed by totalitarian regimes. China’s one child policy distorted population patterns with preference for the male species, resulting in an unforeseen and unwanted consequence – mass abortion of female fetuses.

War and societal conflicts are offshoots of the disparity between the haves and the have-nots with the former having greater access and control of the earth’s resources – the negative effects of globalization – not to mention genocide and ethnic cleansing all over the globe; all for the survival of the few and fittest.

But in her own peculiar way, nature intervenes when things get out of hand and she or her creatures are imperiled. Man’s abuse of its environment over the recent 100 years on the untrammeled march towards industrialization has, for instance, increased average global temperature, causing melting of ice in the poles and glaciers, contributing to the sea-level rise, inundating low areas and cities and distorting weather patterns; causing hurricanes, floods and tide surges.

But the more deadly sanction nature visits on her dominion is the pandemic. The deadly ancient and Middle Ages diseases, known then as plagues and the “black death,” have decimated up to half the world’s known population. Man’s advances in technology has, thus far, mitigated these pestilences. But can man survive the lethal combination of the pandemic and the Malthusian catastrophe? Nature has the final word in terms of an accelerated Darwinism: the elimination of the unfit, resulting in the survival and flourishing of the remaining homo sapiens – a more healthy and fit population.

The Philippine setting
It has been touted lately that the Deegong has caused government to set aside P73.2 billion for the vaccination of 60 million Filipinos. Finance Secretary Dominguez has these amounts available. Well and good. But for 2021, only 20 percent of the population will be vaccinated, building up to 60 percent for the next years toward achieving “herd immunity” – a concept pushed by Secretary Duque that failed in Sweden.

But the availability of the vaccine is not only the critical question. The more fundamental consideration is who will benefit first while the rest of the Filipino population are continually being ravaged and the economy in shambles. The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF-EID) has to come out with priorities. And this is key to the continued survival and well-being of the community and the continued legitimacy of this government.

Alternative scenario
It is obvious that the frontline workers have top priority. These are the people in direct or indirect contact with the Covid-stricken patients that are at risk and in a very real danger to contract the disease themselves. There are also the people, who assure the populace of continued production and delivery of the basic necessities for communities to thrive food, medicine and sundries and, more importantly, those that maintain peace and order and enforce the law.

After these people are those that must be weighed in against their contribution to society. This involves confronting ethical conundrums. Logically, the question of the needs of the many must outweigh the needs of the few. But for scarce resources, whose needs are preponderant? Over the ages, utilitarian judgments for the greater good in moral dilemmas have always confronted individuals. But one of the raisons d’etre for the existence of governments and its leadership is the burden of decision-making.

What are the basic principles prioritizing scarce vaccines to beneficiaries while advancing societal and cultural imperatives? Aren’t we obligated to ask a series of collective questions that Philippine society and our political leadership must ask for the greater common good?

Are we going to allocate vaccines for the pasaway (irresponsible), who put other people at risk by not wearing masks and not practicing physical distancing? How about those suffering terminal illnesses?

Do our political leadership and their families have precedence? Do we need to allocate vaccines to the hardened criminals now imprisoned in our congested prisons? What level of priority must society assign to the deprived, the disabled and those that could not contribute to society, but instead be a burden at large? Will we allocate some to the New People’s Army? The Abu Sayyaf? Will our political and civic leadership even face these questions dispassionately and create public awareness to at least confront these questions and shape the debate?

On a universal level, among the one percent that holds half of the world’s wealth, this is a foregone conclusion. It is to its interest that the pandemic runs its course and wreaks havoc among the world population. It still has the one-third and whoever survives among the two-thirds with whom to work.

Perhaps, as in every country, the Philippines not excepted, these questions are now timely and may be mirrored. Mother Nature is neutral and will not make choices. Man will have to.

Read 160 times Last modified on Friday, 11 December 2020 11:05
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