Mon | Jan 18, 2021

Letter of the Day | COVID-19 has reminded us that 2+2 is not equal to five

Published:Tuesday | October 13, 2020 | 12:13 AM


As we were reminded by the eventful United States presidential election debates, COVID-19 has ravaged the world and forced us into sober reflection. With the recently confirmed infection of famous global politicians who have disavowed the value of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, no longer can we pretend to live in a world where action is not married to consequence. George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984 spoke to the danger of false dogma. He illustrates the challenge of deciphering whether falsehoods, metaphorically displayed by 2 + 2 = 5 – declared by an authoritarian state – can evolve into being considered fact.

In its earlier days, the threat of COVID-19 was met by varying levels of urgency. Expectedly, countries – such as Taiwan, South Korea – that have heeded early warnings and sought proactive and timely risk mitigation have found themselves in a fortunate position. Delayed responses appear to have been the consequence of either outright disavowal or blasé, dismissive reactions stemming from a misguided understanding of COVID-19. From blatant falsehoods to undermining prevarications that mischaracterise its severity, these shortcomings in leadership have been costly.

It is plausible that many decision-makers that have failed their states were accustomed to circumnavigating unfavourable situations with distortion and spin and assumed that COVID-19 was simply another threat that could be managed. However, as the recently confirmed infection of famous global politicians reveals, viruses infect without discrimination and remind us that there are rules to our existence that no amount of triangulation will nullify.

Increasingly, we exist in a world where facts are blatantly denied and entitled ideologues assume the power to design truth. We should reflect on the possibility that we may have been disconnected from reality for far too long and have been calling shovels spades for such a long time that we have failed to recognise that they are indeed not the same.

Perhaps, like Icarus, our societal progress has taken us too close to the Sun, and this pandemic has reminded us of our collective humanity. It is hoped that this traumatic global experience begets a new spirit of commitment to truth and a resolve to boldly acknowledge when the emperor wears no clothes. As we move forward as a rehabilitated human race, may we be reminded that no matter where we go, the rules of mathematics still exist.