Sunday, March 8, 2020

The fight against COVID-19 calls for national unity and collective responsibility, not blame game

At around 05:00 in the morning on 6th March 2020, I was skimming through my Facebook Newsfeed when I suddenly came across the news of the first positive case of Coronavirus in the country. It instantly sent a chilling wave of panic and fear along my spine. I immediately went on to check the official Facebook pages of concerned agencies to verify the information and when I realized that the report was true, I was left shaken. Within no time, the news stirred up the entire population and triggered all sorts of debates and discussions on social media, mostly blaming the Hon’ble Prime Minister for not shutting down the tourism industry. This sudden shift from panic to hatred was more worrisome than the actual situation. More than the virus, I began to worry about our social harmony and national unity as Bhutanese.

While healthy debates and discussions are good for a healthy democracy, the culture of blame-game can’t get us anywhere especially at a time when our nation needs us as one family. This is the time for all of us to come together and support each other to stay safe from the epidemic, not to step back and point fingers at one another. It is really sad to see so many people taking to social media to defame our leaders through fake accounts and creating unnecessary social disharmony in the country. I feel that the complete closure of tourism in Bhutan as suggested by many social media users is easier said than done considering the implications it would have on the lives of hundreds and thousands of hoteliers, freelance tour guides, travel agents and those working in the national airlines. Moreover, not all countries affected by the epidemic have afforded to ban tourists. If India, for instance, had closed down its tourism sector, perhaps we would not have got the virus at this point of time. But this does not mean that we would be safe forever. After all, the tourists are not the only potential carriers of the virus.

Another equally dangerous trend we have been seeing on social media over the past couple of days is the creation and circulation of fake news with the intention of causing additional panic in the society. As advised by the Media Council of Bhutan, we need to follow only the official sources for authentic information. We have been seeing many contradicting stories on social media which can mislead us if we can’t analyze them objectively. When the nation is going through such a critical time, it is a crime to take advantage of the situation to promote one’s own propaganda. This is the time for solidarity, not differences. This is the time for collective responsibility, not blame-game. While we have the right to voice our opinions, we also should not forget our responsibilities as Bhutanese. At the end of the day, we all are part of the same family under the leadership of His Majesty the King. The culture of respecting our leaders and supporting each other in times of need despite our differences is imbedded deep in our blood. Let us try to cherish these great social values that define us as Bhutanese forever. May we continue to be blest by the guardian deities of Bhutan!

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