Picture this. A healthy man, the most powerful in the world, facing elections, sits on a table counting his money at the end of a working day. His grown son is watching TV with his diabetic wife and elderly parents.
Bandits burst in and hold his wife and son hostage with a gun loaded with a lethal virus which has rapidly razed through 360,000 people worldwide. The virus bandits say "your money or your family and any number of the community you can spare."
The man looks at his ill daughter, wife, and elderly parents and then at his money which he holds dearer than life.
He knows with this choice, many will die, but not those he cares about.
What does he save, who or what does he sacrifice? How the man responds with a gun to his head depends on who he is. His mask slips. The leader says,
"Leave me the money and the healthy boy and freedom to make more money. I will need the support of both to get re-elected, to maintain my power and my army of white supporters. In exchange, I will give you many people of the community non-whites mostly, the Africans, Indians, Hispanics who make up most of the poor, the seriously ill, the obese and the elderly. Take my parents, take the sick girl, take my diabetic wife. I am contemptuous of the frail. They could go to their deaths."
Do these headlines remind you of a specific time in history? Certain men in history?
The US President, Donald Trump: four months after the first case, the US death toll from coronavirus has passed 100,000. The UK's Prime Minister, Boris Johnson: 'With nearly 39,000 dead, the absolute number of excess deaths in the UK is the highest in Europe, and second only to the US in global terms, according to data collected by the Financial Times.'
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro: 'Brazil's steep fatality rate and an increasing number of daily deaths indicate it is rapidly becoming the new COVID-19 hot spot with over 25,000 since late February.'
These three leaders are responsible for more than a third (165,000) of the global dead of 360,000 as of May 28. Faced with the dead and grieving around them they have taken off their masks to reveal their hideous unapologetic power-hungry faces, their authoritarianism and self-interest.
Now take the threat of this virus to leaders in developing countries without resources of the UK and the US.
The International Labour Organization reveals that COVID-19 has affected almost two billion people living in the margins of the world economy who may never get their jobs back. This does not include the 100s of millions of jobs worldwide put on hold by coronavirus shutdowns ( 30 million in the US alone).
'The World Bank estimates that national lockdowns and the global economic collapse will push at least 49 m people into extreme poverty, eliminating nearly all the gains made since 2017.
A team at Johns Hopkins University calculates that across 118 poor and middle-income countries, disruption to health systems and hunger could kill 1.2 m more children and 57,000 mothers over six months. Some kinds of lockdown could cost more lives than they save.
A report by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine estimates that if restrictions prevent vaccinations, in Africa 140 will die for every COVID-19 death prevented.' (The Economist)
The leaders of the free world who have historically colonised, exploited and pillaged valuable resources of developing countries (not excluding slavery), and continued to interfere in the post-colonial world by selling arms, sending troops with their fraudulent and undeserved moral authority owe not just their countries but the entire world a debt. They have failed deplorably in their duty on all fronts.
But their masks are off, and whether it's the virtual lynching of black men in America, the Trump twitter call to shoot protesters (You loot, we shoot) or the cynical decision to let a disproportionate number of non-white, old and ill people die from coronavirus, we see the face of evil for what it is.
We may not call this a holocaust, but what else is this, as the vulnerable die to provide herd immunity for those giving out shooting and lockdown orders while holed up in Cabinet rooms.
If the powerful feel they are invincible, they better think again. The uprising across America over a black man, George Floyd, who was killed by a cop who put his knee on Floyd's neck in broad daylight is just the start. The political is intensely personal to each one of us inhabiting the pandemic world. The people will hit back at all kinds of authoritarianism. The head of Marie Antoinette was nothing to what is to come. A truly civilised society will continue to be defined by the way we treat our most vulnerable citizens.