• Ken Baeza

COVID-19: A Metaphorical War

I was recently asked if the world was in a war against COVID-19.

After thinking about it, my unorthodox answer is yes.

The Merrian Webster Dictionary defines war as "a state of usually open and declared armed hostile conflict between states or nations." While this traditional definition of war doesn't accurately describe our fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, an alternate definition of the word might do a better job: The Merrian Webster Dictionary also defines war as "a state of hostility, conflict, or antagonism."

Right now, the world is in a state of antagonism against the virus. So yes, we are at war against COVID-19. But as the journal "The Conversation" argues, it's not a conventional war - it's a metaphorical one.

If we think about it, all elements present in a conventional war are present (again, in a metaphorical way). Modifying and adding a bit to what The Conversation's article mentioned: the enemy in this war is COVID-19, our troops are health workers and all those people who risk their lives to take care of the infected, hand sanitizers and face masks are the protective gear, ventilators and beds are the equipment, our intelligence in the enemy's movements are the statistics on how fast the virus is spreading, the security advisors are scientists and experts on pandemics, and while we haven't developed a weapon to directly fight COVID-19 (a vaccine) - in the same way the US was developing the Manhattan Project, the world is doing its best effort to develop a vaccine against the virus.

Now, of course, our metaphorical war has its limitations when being compared to conventional wars. For instance, there is no way to communicate with the virus, there is no way to negotiate with it - our speeches, treaties, or peace agreements have no impact on COVID-19. The virus has no mercy - it affects everyone in the same way. However, when being contrasted with the similarities that the war against the virus has with conventional wars, the result is interesting.

There are many similarities between traditional wars, and our metaphorical wars: both types of war have moved governments to take once again an active role in their societies, leading to states doing their best to protect their people. Additionally, both types of wars came in a very unexpected way - no one expected the Japanese to suddenly attack Pearl Harbor, and in the same way, no one expected a virus to take over the world. Finally, the third and last similarity is that in both wars, world leaders have had to face tough decisions, having had to choose multiple times things that went against what they were aiming to achieve while being in office: many world leaders have had to get their country involved in wars against their personal values, and in the COVID-19 pandemic, many have had to sacrifice economic development for the health and well-being of their people.

So, in conclusion, yes - our fight against COVID-19 is indeed a war. While I insist that it's a meaphorical war, after having compared it to conventional wars, I believe it is safe to say that it is definitely close from being more than a metaphor.

As in all wars, the only way we can all win is by joining forces against our common enemy, and the best way for us "average" people is to stay home, practicing social distancing, and showing our support of health workers.

Stay safe,

Ken Baeza

PD: this is the link to look at the article I talk about: https://theconversation.com/coronavirus-if-we-are-in-a-war-against-covid-19-then-we-need-to-know-where-the-enemy-is-135274 the use of this article is considered fair use, given that it's for comment/criticism/news