Learning from Hardships: Wars and Pandemics

Learning from Hardships: Wars and Pandemics

War and violence, and pandemics, equally bring negative pictures into one’s imagination. It seems they have contributed nothing other than significant harm to the world. But as controversial as it may sound, once they are viewed from a different perspective, it’s clear that there are positive outcomes of both war and pandemic. They remind us of the things we have forgotten, the things we have misunderstood, and the positive changes we have to make within ourselves.

The general perception of war

War is often seen in a negative light due to its violent and disastrous effects. It becomes violent with genocides or massacres, and bombardments, but more than physical violence, the long term psychological hardships are severe and dangerous since they can turn into links of a future war. Also, war is a drawback in the development that a country has achieved for a long period. It ruins the progress a nation has acquired throughout its journey of civilization. It stigmatizes the history of any nation, disfiguring the glory and majesty it owns. The present outcomes of Germany’s involvement in the second world war can be exemplified here. Hitler is not the same divine personality that  Germany used to see during the Second World War, as he is hated not only by Germany but also by the entire world for conducting a Nazi genocide campaign.

War and violence is a result of brutish, evil and arrogant human nature. The birth of war is an outbreak of the persistent hunger for the acquisition of power or establishment of the dominance of a  particular entity over another.  According to Realists, everyone has the thirst for power. Impeding or exercising one’s power over the other, is an end they expect to achieve within their un-stoppable struggle for power. So, the responsibility of preventing war lies in the hands of people.

Negative picture of the pandemic

Compared to war, the pandemic is much more serious and fatal, because we have to combat against an unseen enemy. A  microbe becomes the unseen enemy of any pandemic. Though an actual arms race is absent, violence, threat and uncertainty reside everywhere. This conflict can be prevented only if people follow healthy habits, take proper medication and ensure immunity themselves. SARS, Ebola, Influenza H1N1 are some of the epidemics had been challenging human existence over the last few decades but not certainly to the extent that COVID-19 pandemic does now. It is a global threat of which an end cannot still be foreseen.

This enemy takes our beloveds away so mercilessly.  Countering the socio-economic and political upheaval created within the society is also a  big challenge. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the International Labor Organization declared that, approximately, 114 million people around the world have lost their livelihoods by 2020, and the number of working hours lost in 2020 had been equivalent to the loss of 225 million in labor income. This has lead to a loss of  $ 3.7 trillion in global income. Extreme economic hardships in a country predispose to civil unrest, and they begin revolting against the existing governments demanding subsidies.

War, as a catalyst of social transformation

But once the impact of war on human evolution is reviewed, war has been the driving factor for major transformations in society. Ethnic disputes, border issues or religious disputes are the main reasons that lead to war. Here, I hope to justify my argument by reflecting on the Marxist analysis on war: “The Dialectical Materialism”. Marxists consider war as the driving factor of human evolution presenting the evolution of human history in relation to pre-historic society, slave society, feudalistic society, capitalistic society, socialist society and the scientific-communist society respectively. Conflicts that occurred within each society has kicked the existing society upwards to the next level. The interpretation given by Marxists to war is a positive overlook. Moreover, conflicts never allow the society to remain stagnant. Revolutions are necessary for the evolution of human history.

On the other hand, a conflict screens the long-lasted but hidden disputes of a society. The post-war period of any conflict is a retrospect in to those disputes and measures are taken in order to resolve them. The famous Rwandan genocide between the Hutu and Tutsi can be brought in relation to this. Prior to the genocide, the two main clans; Hutu and Tutsi had been sharing  Rwanda as their common homeland for centuries ago. Under Belgium imperialism, their ethnic identities were introduced to their national identity card irritating the harmonious living of the two clans. During the post-war, the Rwandan government prioritized the importance of cooperation and initiated development projects employing both Hutu and the Tutsi to regain the country. By now Rwanda is fairly stable in its economy and peace.

The positive effects of the pandemic

Similarly, a pandemic instills another school of thought into one’s life. It awakens our mind in order to recollect how productive our life had been. From a spiritual perspective, life is transient and this was well depicted during the COVID-19 pandemic with the sudden unexpected mass of deaths. No matter how strong our relationships are, there comes a day to leave the world forever. Therefore, the present moment is the best moment we are spending, and it is vital to make this moment effective.

Furthermore, people started to think carefully about their hygiene. The human lifestyle was refurbished with a set of health protocols. Besides, valuable discussions came into the limelight. One of them is environmental pollution. Most human beings do not reflect the care they receive from mother nature back on her. Contamination of the air affects directly on spreading of diseases. BBC Earth recently announced that the melting of glaciers has an impact on spreading viral infections.  The microbes which had once threatened the world centuries ago are waking up. Human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels accelerate the melting of glaciers in the polar regions. The breathing, lively changes that were once seen in the now withering environment and the beauty that free locomotion of animals brought about have convinced the selfish man that there is another life struggling to live but often restrained by human activities.

New chapters began within the lives of people. The long homestay paved the way for people to engage in new inventions. Especially in Sri Lanka, locally manufactured products became abundant. The rapid development of the market for local products benefited the self-employed. Government policies were also introduced on behalf of promoting the local products, enhancing entrepreneurship: the areas which had never been looked at. The role played by social media on this was praiseworthy. The same awakening could be seen even within arts and literature. More and more people became interested in reading and writing. Many could be seen working out their innate skills and giving out creative outputs. A new gateway to the human resource development of a country could be identified here. The development of innate skills of a person is as important as giving a theoretical education since it can benefit both the personal as well as the national. economy.


Both wars and pandemics are life-changing events. They change the trajectory of human evolution from time to time. It is true that they often leave us painful reminders but how can we realize the matters in life without experiencing them, really? Schools, universities impart theoretical knowledge through books. But life is so mighty that it teaches us practical life through experiences. If a catharsis is needed for great enlightenment it is readily given. However hard the circumstances are, once we look into the matters positively, we always discover an opportunity to change, and prosper.

– Rtr Hasanjalee Adikari

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