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COVID Omicron, The Silk Road And The Future

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on December 1, 2021 15:24

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After a hard week metaphysics kick in. We are entering a fourth wave of the virus with a new variant that has upset many plans. It comes at a bad time for me, but a historic conjuncture raises an interesting question about the future.

Omicron. Most have heard of the latest COVID 'variant of interest' that was first identified in South Africa. Reaction was quick: international borders slammed shut, cutting us off from anticipated visits to relatives after a too-long separation. Stock exchanges worldwide crashed. Recriminations began: Why even announce this? Indications, two weeks later, suggest that the Omicron variant had been in circulation in Europe already a week before it was identified in South Africa.

So what were scientists to do? Clam up, pretend there was nothing new? Allow a potentially dangerous variant to spread silently, as was the case in Wuhan? Suppress the truth? 

The highly esteemed Dr. Angelique Coetzee, Chair of the SA Medical Association, felt the need to explain her actions in the media. 

Unidentified press cutting, Facebook. Was also reported in Mail Online, 30 November 2021. 

News just in suggest that the European Union is considering an alternative to the Belt and Road initiative of China. The latter has been criticized for debt-trapping poor countries, the latest claim being that Entebbe Airport in Uganda was about to be seized for non-payment of debt. This claim was soon dismissed but questions remain in the air. Now Europe is seeking to develop an alternative, a Global Gateway.

 

Let us step back a bit, a few centuries, in fact. There was a time when trade and the exchange of ideas between East and West was well established, although, due to constraints, limited. Marco Polo, as a young apprentice trader in Venice, visited China and returned a few years later with many stories. Pasta came from China to Italy, as did silkworms. Gunpowder probably followed the same route. Many western ideas flowed the other way together with trade goods. The fabled Silk Road, also termed the Golden Road to Samarkand, was romanticized in many takes of adventure and riches. Yet Rudyard Kipling foretold conflict: 'East is east, and West is west, and never the twain shall meet." 

 

We have at base two fundamentally different philosophical foundations. The eastern world view, impenetrable to most westerners, seems to be based on a mysticism that deifies experience, age and monolithical stability. Recent developments in modern China suggest a return to a hierarchical state with rigidly uniform culture, controlled exchange of news and information, and foreign relations based on differentiation between subjects and enemies. Some periods of astonishing innovation and creativity intersperses deserts of conformity and bureaucratic uniformity.

On the other hand we have the often anarchic western conglomerate of ideas, loosely based on the ethics of often contending Abrahamic religions. A thread that runs from the thinking of Zeno, the Greek thinker, promotes the sovereignty of the individual, a concept that has driven democratic reform, scientific development and technological innovation, but also anarchy and destruction. 

So what will the future hold? A Wuhan style controlled reality, or an Omicron-style free-for-all debate? Or are the Belt and Road and the Global Gateway compatible?

 

Coen Van Wyk

Posted on December 1, 2021 15:24

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Source: Politico

Ursula von der Leyen will unveil the spending plan on Wednesday.

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