Published May 29, 2020
For an Icelander, with almost no historic ties to war, to analogize the fight against COVID-19 to a war seems not only absurd, but flat out wrong.
It’s an analogy most often used by male leaders, and perhaps first employed to better help themselves understand the gravity of the situation. It’s a very alpha way of understanding the world.
But when you look at the current state of affairs, it becomes pretty clear that war and pandemic have almost nothing in common. COVID-19 is not an enemy that you can win by force, but by patience and knowledge.
In the pandemic, you have nurses and doctors on the frontline, and it’s nothing less than insulting to call people that have sworn an oath to save human lives, but certainly didn’t sign up for the long and difficult slog they’re currently on.
Secondly, if you are going to simplify the Coronavirus as an enemy, you are essentially saying that nature is our enemy. With the same logic, you could say that we are at war with a flood or an erupting volcano. Even if we put current events in the context of extreme weather, then even then it is not simply an act of nature. We are in some ways battling our own behavioural patterns and our invasive behaviour when it comes to nature.
Another important difference is in how we fight the virus versus how we’d fight a flesh and blood enemy. Here, our minds are our strongest weapon. You have to take responsibility for yourself, for the good of the society. Adhere to social distancing regulations, wash your hands and respect healthcare guidelines. Nothing could be further away from the chaos of the war.
For those countries that have done well in the fight against the virus, they all have one in common—their governments have trusted science and knowledge from the start. On the other hand, more militaristic countries, like the UK and the United States have been harder hit by the chaos of it all. We see the same situation unfolding in Russia, the rising epicentre of the pandemic, and in Brazil. It doesn’t take a political scientist to ascertain what these countries have in common.
We will beat this thing with science, knowledge, flexibility and keeping the public well informed so they can protect themselves and others. Nothing is further from the reality of the wars of the last centuries, which have relied upon “shock and awe” and covert tactics. In war, the human toll is often hushed, while in fighting the coronavirus death rates are broadcast daily to keep the public informed and involved.
It would seem that Iceland has gotten the better of the virus. This has been achieved by trusting science and listening to specialists. Our reward is that we are now, after almost three months, slowly reclaiming our daily routines. The borders are even opening again soon—on June 15th, to be precise.
Perhaps because of Iceland’s lack of an army, not once did we ever consider this as a war. It’s been more like a long-lasting storm; nature taking charge again. Which is something that Icelanders know very well, living on a volcanic island that can be life-threatening if underestimated.
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