Sober assessments in crisis | Daily News

Sober assessments in crisis

Crisis is not necessarily a spur for evolving solutions and the pandemic proves it, states an internationally known newspaper columnist. The Sri Lankan experience with Covid has proved that though those who are trained to function under extreme circumstances prevail well in crisis situations, others don’t. The Armed Forces have in a certain sense, saved the country twice, once during the war and then during the pandemic. This is not to say that frontline health workers are to be forgotten. The health sector has also had some background in functioning under conditions of extreme stress. These personnel were the silent workers that tended to a traumatized nation during the war effort.

But other sectors have not necessarily been able to shine during times of crisis. The restrictions have taken their toll, and it is ridiculous to expect that Work From Home policies would spur growth. Not that anybody expected that in Sri Lanka. But, the international columnist has mentioned that “environmentalists such as Greta Thunberg should make a greater contribution than being angry.” He is alluding to the expectation that placing everything on a crisis footing does not necessarily yield results.

In this country, more young people are being drawn into working against Climate Change, a recent survey revealed. It is a good augur that these younger folk have approached climate issues from a very humane standpoint.

They are aware that calling for drastic cuts to fossil fuel emissions would engender blackouts and cause untold suffering among consumers including owners of fledgling industries. In other words, they seem to be aware that being angry alone is not a solution.

The transition to green technologies should necessarily be phased in, and it is not a problem that can be addressed on a crisis footing. Not many challenges can be addressed on a crisis footing including the multiple repercussions from the pandemic. The vaccination drive launched in a very organized manner gave the country some hope, and it was clear that a strategy to ensure a successful inoculation campaign was much more important than panic-induced closures.

There are many more issues in the country that require such sober appraisals even though certain disruptive elements want the regime to lapse into crisis mode at the slightest inkling of trouble. The economic crisis too has to be seen in this perspective. However, the country does not have to prostrate itself before lending agencies that would impose strict conditionalities for aid disbursement. The Government has stood for steady handed management of the forex issue which would of course necessarily require import control measures but would not disrupt the economy in such a way that it would leave ugly scars that damage the body politic.

Policy-makers have to plan for the long term, but most quarters in which opinion is dished out liberally on everything under the sun rely on the myopic short-term vision. The people may as a collective be made up of crisis managers as the Army personnel are, but the citizens have shown a capacity to adjust during challenging times especially if they are of a long-drawn nature.

For example, though the reactions to the initial terror attacks by the LTTE in the early ’80s were of panic and were in fact overreactions, all this changed over time and the people learnt to go about their business even though there was a continuous backdrop of hostilities. 

Ordinary people learnt fast that the panic-driven adrenalin-pumping mode was more the stuff of the movies than of real life. It is true that there were some very drastic repercussions from bomb attacks in the cities which should never be trivialized. The Sinhala and Tamil villagers in remote areas of this country were even more badly hit, with attacks on the so-called – misnamed – border villages, etc., posing an existential threat to rural dwellers who were not used to guns and bombs, but had traditionally enjoyed bucolic lifestyles.

But the resilient villager did not panic. Instead, most of these hapless folk ended up sending at least one able bodied young man to the Army. They made the dispassionate decision to tackle the problem at its source.

That paid off. Today’s issues including the climate crisis should be addressed through a concerted effort to systematically focus on the causative factors of Climate Change. But anger is not the solution, because any drastic measures would have the effect of alienating the ordinary folk whose support is the most essential factor that would determine the outcome of the battle against the effects of Climate Change.

Young people in particular are in a hurry but in this country we have the good fortune of seeing rational young minds focus on issues – and it is probably because the youth demographic too have had a baptism of fire having growing up in the traumatic era of war-related carnage.

There are different battles ahead of them now that they are adults, but there is more than mere anger that they can contribute to tackling the current crop of formidable challenges we face as a nation.

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