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Moral philosophy, pragmatism, and the larger cause: why “war” metaphors are needed during pandemics

Soumyadeep Bhaumik , Sambit Dash , Kamna Kakkar

DOI: 10.20529/IJME.2020.067


Abstract

Coronavirus disease (Covid-19), which originated in China, is now a full-blown pandemic which has thrown governments and societies off-track in an unprecedented manner. War metaphors have been used widely to describe the scenario, but many critics decry them as harmful narratives. In this piece, we discuss the utility of the war metaphor to build solidarity and fraternity, which will be essential to get through the crisis. We also explain how concerns regarding increased authoritarianism and state excesses due to the use of these narratives are misplaced. We then tease out the colonial era concept of war that guides the arguments against the use of war metaphors in pandemics. We argue that in the post-modern world and in South Asian and African philosophies, wars are seen through the prism of the larger cause of dharma or ubuntu and that individual losses or gains in these contexts are part of a larger cause. The use of war metaphors reflects the need to get together for a societal cause. These metaphors are largely understood across societies while other alternatives are exclusionary, poetic and tangential in nature.

Keywords : Covid-19, pandemics, war metaphors, communication, philosophy, SARS-CoV-2

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