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New Year message from Omicron

My dear human,

Greetings from the coronavirus community! Hope you’ve been doing well? If you’re still alive — you must be if you’re reading this — then I presume you are! In which case, congratulations! For you belong to an elite club of humanity — the 2021 Survivors Club. As your forefathers and poets have never tired of pointing out, the start of a new year is an occasion to take stock, and renew our shared commitment as earthlings to values that would keep the planet a haven of peace, health, and harmony.

Over millennia, we viruses have watched, not without appreciation, humanity’s steady progress up the planetary power ladder. Barely 200,000 years ago, you were just another aspirational primate, desperate to distinguish yourself from chimps, monkeys and gorillas. But through cunning, a protestant work ethic, and sheer luck, you’ve worked your way almost to the top of the food chain.

Today, Homo sapiens are the second most powerful species on earth, next only to us viruses. Trust me, we are proud of you, and proud of how far you’ve come. If God existed, and was doing species-wise appraisals, he would have assessed you as having ‘exceeded expectations’. It is to your credit that among non-microscopic organisms, you are today the second-most populous species, next only to cockroaches. Of course, it is unfair to compare humans with cockroaches, who have been around for much longer and have, therefore, had far greater time to sort out intra-species conflict and develop their collective intelligence.

I do not discriminate

Nevertheless, the fact that you’ve been around for only a fraction of the time that cockroaches have been is not an acceptable excuse because cockroaches have had to manage with a brain that’s a fraction of the size of the average human brain (excluding the brains of the sub-species you call ‘bhakts’). In other words, you can no longer be in denial of your Achilles’ heel: poor species intelligence, marked by an inability to maintain intra-species harmony. If you consider us viruses — unfortunately, you only ever consider us as ‘pathogens’, which is ironic, since you seldom reflect on own your role as pathogens operating on a planetary scale — we don’t even have a brain. Most of us make do with a strand (or two) of RNA. But we know how to get along with our kind.

Take me, for instance. As a species, I am a virus. By nationality, I am a corona. In my country of coronaviruses, there are citizens from different ethnic groups, each with their own religious, dietary, and symptom preferences. Myself, I am an Omicron, and it is my party that is currently in power. But I and my ilk do not discriminate against the Alphas, Betas, Gammas or the powerful Deltas. Of course, we all want the power and prestige that come with being elected as VoC — what you humans call ‘Variant of Concern’. But we never kill each other to prove our superiority. Let me put this in a language you humans will understand: there is no ‘Hindu-Muslim’ or ‘Whites-Blacks’ kind of nonsensical quarrels amongst us.

Evolved common sense

Did the Deltas feel insecure when Omicrons began to hog the limelight? Maybe they did, I don’t know. What I do know is that not one Delta has ever said something as idiotic as ‘Delta khatre mein hain’ because Omicrons were displacing them in patient after patient. Will humanity ever evolve to this level of common sense? Can it? Again, I don’t know. The Deltas believed — and for the record, I disagreed with them — that one could breed intelligence into your species using techniques like Survival of the Fittest. But the Deltas failed. Now we Omicrons are here, and as an Omicron, my mission is to rebuild the bridges of co-existence between humanity and the flu virus.

As you already know by now, we are not like the Deltas. It took a lot of time, effort, and research to come up with the 31 mutations on my spike protein — mutations that are, if I may say so, mutually beneficial. I know you may not like the mutations that help us evade your primitive vaccines, which, by the way, annoy us more than they harm us. But the other mutations ensure that we don’t act like the Deltas and go on a killing spree. We just like to visit your bodies, like how you might visit Italy or Scotland, for a walking tour of your immune system. Most of you wouldn’t even have known that we were there if you hadn’t tested.

But testing is your prerogative. Test, by all means! Do what you got to do to protect yourselves. But if you end up over-reacting, and decide to once again screw up your already screwed-up economies, and make life miserable for those at the bottom of the intra-human food chain, don’t blame us — we Omicrons have nothing to do with your incapacity for mutual aid. On that note, my best wishes to you for surviving all the non-COVID threats of 2022!

G. Sampath, author of this satire, is Social Affairs Editor, The Hindu.

sampath.g@thehindu.co.in


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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 7:47:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/satire-new-year-message-from-omicron-greetings-from-the-coronavirus-community/article38077501.ece

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