Little else could have achieved as much in as short a time as the coronavirus.
Within weeks, a microscopic organism has laid the world low and shown us all that is ugly about humanity.
It did not take long for the Chinese government to try isolating Wuhan province, the “epicentre” of the disease. However, it had already spread outside the province, and with healthcare workers looking after patients inside Wuhan, the government should have known complete isolation is impossible.
People travelling the world for pleasure and work began to come down with the virus, and not long into the outbreak, Italy was competing with China both in terms of rate of spread of infection and number of fatalities. In Greece, police have arrested nearly eighty residents for breaking curfew. Despite government advisories issued across the world, people seem far more preoccupied with evading the checks than actually taking care of themselves or others.
In practically every country, there is a shortage of products used for sanitation and protection, from face masks to hand-sanitisers to toilet paper, because millions of people made panicky trips to the supermarkets and bought out the stores. This has had such a ripple effect that Oregon police have had to ask the public to stop calling 911 because they are out of toilet paper.
For reasons that make little sense, there has been a break in the supply chain at a time when it could be most inimical.
As if people stockpiling essential items were not bad enough, companies have decided to cash in on demand by disproportionately increasing the prices of sanitary products, and spurious products have begun to appear on online stores.
India has not been too badly hit by comparison, but given the behaviour of most of those affected, that situation could change quickly.
People who have tested positive for the virus have slipped out of hospitals, the latest incident occurring in Mahe where a woman diagnosed with COVID-19 left the hospital along with some of her relatives in a taxi, exposing the unwitting taxi driver and all his future passengers to the virus.
Others have evaded health checks and security measures at the airport, or lied about their travel history in order to avoid quarantine. Take the case of the victim in Maharashtra, who hid the fact that he had just travelled to Dubai. A person in Telangana who has tested positive for the virus was found to have arrived from the United Kingdom.
Many have acted against medical advice.
The foolishness of people has often been proven before.
The only real solution is to enforce social distancing in order to contain the virus to the extent possible.
Contrary to popular belief, it is not simply the immuno-compromised or aged populations that are at risk. Younger people are not just carriers, but can also fall very sick or even die from the virus.
Absurdly, the sports authorities were keen to persist with the IPL Twenty20 tournament, even proposing the idea of closing the stadiums to the public but telecasting the games. They believe there is too much revenue at stake, and neither the teams nor the telecaster is keen on losing the money that will come in from advertisers.
The cricketers, who stand to make tens of millions of dollars over a few weeks – and this is more money than anyone who plays the game outside India, England and Australia can reasonably expect to see in a season – can’t be too happy about the possibility of the tournament being cancelled either.
But does a cricket tournament count as “essential travel”?
With sportsmen coming in from all over the world, transiting through various airports and meeting hundreds of fans on the way – several of whom might lean in for a selfie – any gathering, with or without spectators, would be no short of a petri-dish.
The Central Board of School Examinations has been tweeting jokes and puns about the coronavirus instead of postponing the remainder of the exams, or getting students to take the exams online.
Most companies have been twiddling their thumbs over allowing their employees to work from home.
Perhaps this is a good time for us to reflect on all that is wrong with the way we function, at least in terms of education and employment.
I have often wondered at the immense stupidity of one final examination in lieu of continued assessment of performance through the year. So much of what we have to show as students is based on three hours of our time, and hardly on what we have done through the academic year, how much we really know, and whether we are capable of applying the concepts we have learnt to anything pragmatic.
Students would learn a lot more if they had to submit assignments which require actual primary and secondary research rather than memorise their textbooks and random sample papers to reproduce in examinations, which are marked based on whether they have used key words that the teachers correcting their papers must find.
Companies are willing to spend enormous amounts of money on overheads to maintain a large office space simply in order to keep an eye on their employees – at a time when our entire problem with Facebook and Google and Amazon and iStore is that they have been remotely spying on us in the privacy of our homes.
And in the middle of a global crisis, there is talk of patenting cures and gaining exclusive access to medication.
If nothing else, the coronavirus has done us a service in teaching us just how puerile we are as a species.
More Columns by Nandini Krishnan:
Nobel for economist, tailspin for economy
Why the Diaspora has so much love to give
Hindi debate: We are all obsessed with homogeneity
We are choking the earth
When Kamal Haasan endorsed harassment
The Dalai Lama and the death of humour
The delusionary Indian intellectual
India's culture of worship has to end
Nandini is the author of Invisible Men: Inside India's Transmasculine Networks (2018) and Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage (2013). She tweets @k_nandini. Her website is: www.nandinikrishnan.com