It’s easy to say that a shortage of condoms is not a big deal, but as it turns out that’s not quite so. Malaysia is on lockdown because of the virus, and that’s where the world’s biggest producer of condoms is. The 3 factories of Karex Bhd have opened up again but are working at only 50% capacity. They produce condoms for many brands including Durex, also for the UK’s NHS as well as for the UN’s Population Fund. When at capacity, they make 100 million condoms a week, so the closures mean a shortage is looming. It will be a while for the factories to come up to capacity and be able to fill the demand. Factories in China, India and Thailand are also on lockdown as of this writing. For countries like Africa and the many NGOs through which the condoms are distributed, it will not take a week or a month but may take at least several months before the shortage can be made up, thus creating another kind of humanitarian crisis, forcing people to have children before they are able to care for them, or perhaps be unduly contaminated by diseases. And it’s doubtful the issue of unwanted pregnancies and disease contamination will be confined to Africa and is bound to also manifest closer to home. A shortage of condoms, inconsequential as it first appears ends up demonstrating how the long arms of the coronavirus reach far and wide, showing us once again how interrelated we are, and how what happens in one distant country can affect all.
It’s no secret by now that ever since most of us are being sheltered in place there has been a run on gun stores throughout the country. A couple a miles from my home, for instance, the line in front of a gun store went around the block. Gun right activists and lobbying groups explain it as part of the essential services which attend to survival. If I understand their argument, it is not enough to have groceries one must also have a gun in order to feel safe. In fact some of these groups have petitioned the White House and other parts of the federal government to declare gun stores essential businesses not subject to closure during the current shutdowns. Different states have applied different standards, Pennsylvania has upheld the right to bear arms, so has New Mexico. In California the governor has delegated the power to local sheriffs and in several counties gun shops have been closed.
It ought to be predictable that gun rights groups would link guns with being essential and with safety, it is nevertheless disturbing. The issue of safety is of course moot, because to someone like me safety means less guns, gun stores closure, and it certainly entails not equating guns to groceries as a means of survival. The argument linking guns to safety may underlines our divide, still illustrating how far the gun lobbies are willing to go is a necessity.
Please Note: The Corona virus crisis is changing so much of our lives, we need certain things to continue as they are, and so we are.
The Trump administration is reviving the use of landmines. The state department’s cable announcing it said that it would only consider landmines with “technologically advanced safeguards” meaning mines which could self-destruct or mines which can be detonated by remote control. With the exception of Afghanistan in 2002, the US has not used landmines since 1991 and has not produced any since 1997. The treaty banning landmines was signed by 164 nations including all of the US NATO allies. The US however did not sign the treaty wanting to reserve the right to use them in the Korean peninsula. Nevertheless since 1997much progress was made towards destroying the stockpile. Rob Berschinski who worked on landmine policy in the Obama administration and who is now with Human Rights First says that “…they’re not only massively harmful to civilians after war’s end, but they’re also of very negligible military utility.” Landmine Monitor, an organization which monitors landmines, estimates that between 1999 and 2018 there has been 130,000 casualties, mainly civilians.
This may be another instance of the administration rolling back the policies of its predecessor, but it is also a way to erase progress that was made toward creating a more harmless more humane world.
In Maduro’s Venezuela one out of every three is malnourished and hungry, among those who may be considered more middle class it’s one in five. In Northern Syria, there are over 900,000 people caught in the war there, and 13 million Syrians have already been displaced. The near one million refugees have no place to go, no one to turn to. It’s been so cold, several children have frozen to death. In Kashmir, the government continues its limited Internet access and other restrictions against the mainly Muslim state, not to speak of the recent riots in New Delhi which is causing many to flee because Muslims are no longer wanted in those areas. In China the Muslim Uighurs are being put in so called reeducation camps for the slightest action, such as growing a beard. In Yemen war rages, in Libya, anarchy continues, in several countries, refugees keep coming and find no refuge, no let up to their angst and difficulties, no escape from poverty, sometimes no way to survive. I could go on about the suffering of the world, and yes these are man-made problems, and because they are man-made they are even harder to resolve, because the human imperfections that caused them still exist. There may be very little we can do, but we can remember these lives, learn from their courage, their fortitude, be inspired by how they endure and handle their suffering, be humbled by their strength and bravery and most of all remember them because their problems dwarf ours no matter how serious ours may be.