The paradox of borders

BUSINESS MATTERS BEYOND THE BOTTOM LINE - Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - March 29, 2020 - 12:00am

I envy this kind of lifestyle. Going roadside cafes, eating leisurely lunch or sipping espresso watching the people go by admiring their fashion sense. Makes me wish to go back to Paris or Italy and repeat the experience. It is now possible as airfares are cheap, and I have all the time in the world since most of my engagements have either been canceled or postponed indefinitely. But it is now impossible for me to go back there today now that the virus has hit the world and borders are set up all over the world.

The tourist-frequented streets are empty, museums closed and sports stadiums empty. And so are New York City’s famous bars, and Michelin star-studded restos. While the coronavirus infections in China are dwindling, it seems that those in the Western Hemisphere are just starting to infect societies with a sense of insecurity and fear.

A more profound and philosophical view of the situation is that the virus had disrupted man and humanity from its seat of control and conceit. The dreamy promises of technology and science and even democracies have exposed its vulnerabilities. They are not invincible after all.

Social distancing will put a stop to even in our own country's beautiful gesture of “beso-beso” and hugging. Anybody who coughs or sneezes is a suspect. Somebody made a meme that says: “It is more embarrassing today to cough than to exhaust body air from the back part of the human anatomy...” I am trying to be polite for the sake of this medium, but the Filipino version of this is more graphic and poignant.

We are witnessing a virus that has no respect for borders. It doesn't care about your belief system, prejudices, custom, nationality, creed, or color. If it hits you, it hits you (end of discussion). Now here is what a journalist calls the paradox of borders. While the virus knows no borders, you and I need borders as a solution to curb the spread of the virus. This kind of borders applies not to nations but to individuals. Social distancing has a sweet sound to it but it merely means we set up borders.

While there is a tremendous amount of complaints from the citizenry regarding the lockdown, the truth of the matter is that you and I inevitably turn back to our government and authorities for expertise and control that would make us gain some sense of reassurance. Yes, they are “not doing enough,” but at least they are doing something. They will have to learn new things every day and make the necessary adjustments.

Though many young and brave mayors are displaying excellent leadership skills and are doing great work. The public admires them and is thankful. Others are still doing the same dumb thing of pasting their names and pictures on alcohol bottles or gift packs, thinking that people would be pleased and remember to vote for them in the next election? Dense and duh! But social media exposes. And the public despises them for it.

If this pandemic were an actual war between countries or people, the enemy could not be identified. The enemy could be the person you know who carries the virus, the neighbor or, even your kid's classmates who may be carrying the virus. That person may not even know he or she is a danger to you and your family. The only way to wage this war is not to arm yourself and face the enemy. Strangely, the only way to curb this virus war is to stay isolated in your own homes and wait until the war is over.

When will things go back to normal as it always does after a major crisis. This one has still had no end in sight... yet! Though there is a glimmer of hope. China is where everybody is focusing. They seem to be on the road to recovery, they even have the confidence to send their doctors and experts abroad to help other countries cope with the virus.

Meanwhile, I stay home with my family making the most of these times during isolation. I write more. I prepare more lessons. And what keeps me calm is praying that God would heal this land and people, reassuring myself and my family that we may not know what the future holds, but we certainly know Who holds the future. It's an old line but very helpful in times like these. And one last thing - God is not limited by any border(s).

(Connect with Francis Kong in Or listen to “Business Matters” Monday to Friday 8:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. over 98.7 DZFE-FM “The Master’s Touch’, the classical music station.)

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