THE effects of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have pushed the world’s refresh button, something that happens once every century. Testimony to that fact is that the world, one century ago after the end of the First World War which had claimed millions of lives, went on to battle the “Spanish Flu” that took the lives of more than 60 million people all around the world.
However, people managed to coexist with this virus after a period of time. In fact, this deadly flu had sparked a major economic renaissance in the 1920s due to the reconstruction of Europe. People eventually started to experience better living standards and financial well-being that gave them the appetite to spend. It is said that automobile factories used to produce a car every ten seconds during the period between 1920 and 1929.
At that stage, the demand for expensive goods and the construction of palaces and houses increased. However, all this changed with the economic setback suffered by the United States of America in 1929 when stock prices stumbled and the so-called “The Great Depression” or “the year of depression”, as the Americans call it, began due to the frenzy in making quick profits through stock trading fueled by consumption craze.
The effects of the Great Depression in the US had extended to Europe, rendering the world to change its popular mood and political trends, and causing extremist movements to emerge. This facilitated the rise in power for people like Hitler’s Nazi in Germany and Mussolini’s fascism in Italy, let alone the surge of racism and anti-semetic rhetoric that, after ten years, ignited the Second World War during which millions lost their lives and countries were ruined.
The effects of that war reached such an extent that Europe was unable to reconstruct what was destroyed without the help of the Americans. It was at that point the victors set in motion the project to establish a Jewish state in Palestine in a bid to come up with an historic solution to solve the crisis between Europe and the Jews.
After the war, and with the 1948 Marshall Plan (US foreign aid to Western Europe), a new economic renaissance began. Productive sectors in urgent need of energy expanded and the oil industry flourished, especially in the Arabian Gulf region.
This renaissance helped change the region where great financial prosperity was witnessed. It changed the way of life in the region, and developmental projects started increasing significantly in Kuwait, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the rest of the Gulf countries that were not affected much by the Second World War.
During the current COVID-19 crisis, there are many reasons for optimism. This is because, despite the great losses in all aspects and in the absence of a vaccine for eradicating coronavirus that continues to take lives, there are signs of a change for the better.
It is true that the price may be exorbitant, but since when did humanity fail to pay such a price at every historic turn in the world?
Since the beginning of this pandemic, we have been witnessing changes at the level of international relations, new alignments, and various economic alliances. Societies have started seeking their safety by relying on themselves. This invisible virus has led individuals to alter their ways of life and even spendings.
However, despite all this, the changes that ended yesterday’s crises will not be a replica of the variables of today. There will be no fall of empires, as in the case with the Ottoman Empire. There will neither be division within the Arab world similar to the 1916 Sykes-Picot Agreement nor religious wars. Also, there won’t be another Hitler or another Mussolini in this planet.
There is no doubt that international relations are changing; health and medical technologies have become a greater area of human concern. This brings to mind the saying: “Prepare yourselves and catch up before you find yourselves outdated, more greater is yet to come.”
By Ahmed Al-Jarallah
Editor-in-Chief, the Arab Times