In my earlier articles, I indicated that this pandemic has allowed us so much to see about our societies by casting a bright torch into our strong and weak points.
But in the fear and panic that it has brought forth, together with our exaggerations, a sort of darkness has been caused where a lot goes in the name of Covid-19 without being noticed or without the possibility of sounding an alarm.
Even when sounded, there might be no one to listen as many are in fear of being accused of encouraging the spread of the disease. Oversight international bodies and civil society organisations that are ordinarily feared a bit in their demands for accountability are mostly silent and immobile.
That is the darkness. British historian Richard Evans says that it is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars. And we have seen some of those. But we also know that it is in the dark that night dancers, thieves, and all sorts of evildoers come out.
Of course, some bold thieves won’t wait for the dark, they might find darkness in other kinds of covers that they utilise to outsmart their victims. It is easier for a thief to invade when they can take control of the light in the house, determining who sees or not.
In the darkness, they tend to keep lights off and carry torches which they only cast where they want to see or in the eyes of their victim to blind them. Under Covid-19, torches have been taken away from us by government.
This is in the sense that they have seized more control of what we can do or not; whether we can move or not; whether we can ask for accountability or not; whether we can protest or not.
This is supposed to be for everyone’s good, and that is how it is presented. But it is the kind of power that British philosopher Thomas Hobbes’ absolute Sovereign wielded as people were desperate to run from the ‘state of nature’ and its risks.
Too much freedom can be dangerous, just as unchecked power is prone to abuse. Through what political scientists call the ‘rally around the flag effect’, the pandemic has afforded governments too much power that they can use for the prevention of Covid-19, but also for smuggling in their other political and financial interests.
This is bound to be worse in societies that were already sick with greed, corruption and weak institutions. Where there were tendencies towards presidentialism, there is now opportunity for entrenching it deeper with less public questioning. All in the Covid-19 darkness.
Sometime in our childhood, we used to play a naughty game at home when our parents would not be watching. Whenever there was a sudden power blackout at night (and it was common), one would target someone they had an issue with and pinch or knock their head.
The victim would then scream, ‘Ayayaaa, who has hit me?’ And everyone would deny, as if there was a ghost in the room! Because the act was done in the dark, even if the culprit could be seen by the look on their face when lights went on, it was hard to pin them. Isn’t this how MP Francis Zaake tortured himself in the Covid-19 darkness?
Isn’t it how Kakwenza Rukirabashaija, author of The Greedy Barbarian’, was beaten for the book but later accused of acts that could lead to the spread of Covid-19?
So, whenever there was a blackout, some of us that had either reported someone or angered them in some way would simply hide. Some opposition politicians have gone silent, not only because the already limited stage was usurped by the state in the fight against Covid-19, but also because they are aware of the possibility of being hit without protection in this darkness, for ‘spreading Covid-19’.
Our childhood game of darkness came to its worst when it came at meal time, especially if meat was on the menu. You had to immediately cover your plate; or else, by the time light returned, all the meat would be gone!
Even the one that had more pieces on their plate than had been served would boldly defend them as their legitimate share! Sometimes, when you covered your plate in the dark, some aggressive ones would try to pull your hands off with untold entitlement. All you did was shout, ‘leave my meat’.
Similarly, under the Covid-19 darkness, all we can do is scream in our houses as the Executive and Parliament dip their hands into our national plate.
At this rate, I don’t know how much we will be left with by the time normalcy returns. With the current appetite for borrowing in the confusion, how much weight will our already obese national debt have added? Now that this darkness has become attractive to some of the powerful, shall we see normalcy any time soon?
If our childhood game had not been banned by our parents when they got to know, perhaps the next step would have been turning off the main switch for more darkness.
Now that ‘aid’ for it has started flowing in, shall Covid-19 end? Will the issue of truck drivers accept a solution? I am no military strategist, but wasn’t this partly the reason why the horrible war in Northern Uganda lasted so long?
It is said that when there is a dead body in the lake, fish catches increase around its site. Hence, it is not in the fishermen’s interest to immediately retrieve the body.
They will thus go searching it everywhere apart from where they suspect it to be. Meanwhile, the bereaved are at mourning longer. May this night get more stars! May the moon shine over parliament and the executive! May we not emerge from our hiding places to find an empty house!
The author is a teacher of philosophy.