Thursday, January 7, 2021

The Other Side of 2020 Pandemic

2020 has found a snug place in the annals of the world history for its sheer notoriety. The 2020 global outbreak of Corona Virus has claimed over a million lives worldwide. According to WHO, the death toll stands at 1,848,704 with 84,474,195 active COVID-19 cases as of 5.47pm CET, January 5, 2021. 

    The onslaught of this virus has upended the world throwing it deep into the irremediable crises and any attempt to restore the world order has proven disappointingly futile. As the world still hunts for a combative gear against this deadly virus in the form of vaccines, there is this tiny dot in the world map called Bhutan where a lot is going on lately. 

    It is not that Bhutan is COVID-19 free. Bhutan does have it. There are 456 active cases with no death as on January 4, 2021, according to the Ministry of Health. Despite the ongoing COVID-19-induced pain and panic looming large, 2020 has made Bhutan come together as one formidable unit in a fight against the pandemic. The nation is small, so is the population. But the fight Bhutan has put up is no small. With His Majesty at the helm, the Bhutanese lots come forward and contribute in various ways possible towards this fight. What makes me wonder is about the spirit of ‘voluntarism’ people harbour—where does it come from altogether? 

    Generally speaking, Bhutanese folks are good-natured and kind. So, is kindness responsible for ‘voluntarism’? If that is so, what is the shared denominator of ‘kindness’ across cultures and religions? Professor Nielson* thinks that it is “that of being something to others” which he beautifully consolidates in the act of ‘giving’ or ‘volunteering’ for that matter. In this sense, there is no greater volunteer than His Majesty the King Himself, particularly during such unprecedented times. He who forgoes His own safety and comes out to lead by example is no ordinary king. More than the kindness that the Bhutanese lots exude; it is His Majesty’s inspiration that draws the nation into ‘voluntarism’. Dasho Karma Ura** also corroborates that His Majesty “conveyed the warm sentiments he has about unity, cooperation, spontaneous sacrifice, and voluntarism that the people have shown” in His 113th National Day address on December 17, 2020. Besides, His Majesty the Great Fourth, the King in retirement, also travelled extensively in the south to reach out to the army of outreach workers and front-liners and boosted their morale. So, when Bhutan has Their Majesties doing all they can, it is only natural that Their subjects come out volunteering for the larger good of the country, kindness or not. 

Their Majesties the Fifth and the Fourth Kings
PC: Kuensel

    However, it is indescribably heart-warming to see youth around garbed in orange as ‘De-Suups: The Guardians of Peace”—a group of volunteers under the direct command of His Majesty. Unlike other better-offs, they have nothing much to offer to the nation around this time. But, they have something better that does not even have a price tag and that is their time. I am confident when I say that they come forward on their own volition to partake of this fight not because they are kind, but because they have understood His Majesty’s golden words to the core. Let me also hasten to add that this does not rule out them being kind. 

Their Majesties the King Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck and  the Queen Jetsun Pema Wangchuck with De-Suups
PC: Google images

    In sum, the chaotic COVID-19 climate has indirectly bolstered ‘voluntarism’ in the Bhutanese youth, the most important of all. The fact that they have volunteered only reassures that the country is in the good hands for the future, in the hands of those who can look at the adversities eyeball to eyeball and overcome them as long as this spirit (of ‘voluntarism’) lives in them strong. 

*Thomas Nielson is the Professor at the University of Canberra, Australia.                                                                           http://www.thomaswnielsen.net/giving-key-solving-problems/

**Dasho Karma Ura is the President of The Centre of Bhutan and GNH Studies, Bhutan.                                                     https://kuenselonline.com/a-delightful-wonder-the-113th-national-day-address/

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