Course: Ethics 111 Paper 2
Assignment Topic: The problem of the Coronavirus pandemic (South African context) and the need for the emergence of an appropriate moral vision to address this problem.
Task reference: Test 1
Department of Religion and Theology, Faculty of Arts and Humanities, UWC.
There has been much discussion about the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic that forced South Africa to make difficult decisions, it is now common to acknowledge that COVID-19 has highlighted South Africa's inequalities. This essay focuses on the problem of the Coronavirus pandemic, and I will discuss the need for an appropriate moral vision to effectively address this problem.
A good society is typically a moral vision that envisions society's well-being. It also captures the good life and expresses a vision for the common good. A society in which we must learn to treat all people with the same dignity. A good society would be one with less poverty, violence, and better education and healthcare services to name a few characteristics (Conradie, 2006:16).
An unacceptable present is often the cause for the emergence of such a moral vision for society, this is the result of large human recognition that reality does not correspond to what reality should be. In times of struggle and need, such consciousness emerges and develops, resulting in the emergence of a moral vision to comprehend the essence of the problem and the moral imagination to consider reasonable solutions (Conradie, 2006:18).
A moral vision for society does not necessarily emerge by itself, it requires vision. It is necessary to see clearly, that something is wrong. Such a moral vision requires the ability to articulate the vision in a clear and imaginative way. The vision must be realistic in this regard, and it must consider the realities of a specific situation. Martin Luther King's (jr)?famous "I have a dream..." speeches are an excellent example of this (Conradie, 2006:18-19)
People with vision are perceptive, they can see what lies beyond the present moment. They see new possibilities for a society that has changed. Martin Luther King's vision was also imaginative, as it vividly described some important first steps toward changing society in terms of this vision. Such a future vision has both a critical and inspiring component, those who believe in the vision and, expect it to come to fruition in the future find inspiration in the imagined society (Conradie, 2006:19).
The good vision is considered attractive, it expresses something that is regarded as desirable, and beneficial to all. It entices people to share the vision and to imagine about a world in which the vision is realised. For example, slavery have been assumed to be inevitable and necessary for centuries, people were only able to see their current situation in a new light after a vision of a different society emerged. (Conradie, 2006:19)
In the eighth century BCE, Amos, a Hebrew prophet, lived in Israel. He was a vocal critic of the oppression and exploitation of the poor in his time. His vision influenced several Hebrew prophets, who emphasised the dignity of all people regardless of their status. In South Africa, a human rights culture is still shaped by this vision. It continues to raise awareness about human rights violations in many modern societies (Conradie, 2006:21).
The lockdown was generally respected, even though serious food shortages soon arose in informal settlements, resulting in strikes and clashes with security forces. (Gumede, 2020) The constant fear of the poorest not having enough money to pay rent and buy food, and of finding less and less work, was mirrored by the fear of those privileged losing their jobs ((HSRC), 2020).
The realities of living in one of the world's most unequal countries were easily overlooked prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the pandemic brought this reality to light and is allowing society to address it as a social justice imperative. These issues include access to water, housing conditions, and people's high reliance on social grants and the informal economy for income (Graham, 2020).
The living conditions within the informal settlement were not suitable, people living in informal settlements did not have access to water in their homes, there was a shortage of consistent access to clean water and basic sanitation. The settlements were overcrowded, and this made social distancing or quarantining nearly impossible (Graham,2020).
Moreover, members of society at the top end of the wage scale have worked relatively easily remotely, with little impact on their living. However, for months the owners of small businesses have been under severe pressure. By contrast, casual workers like many domestic workers, self-employed people and those working in the informal economy were not protected by legal contracts. In contrast, the workers most vulnerable had to struggle unassisted (Stiegler N, 2020).
Furthermore, inequalities in education became immediately apparent, while private schools and many suburban public schools found it relatively easy to transition to technology-supported learning, most public schools did not. The Department of Basic Education aimed to keep learning going by making workbooks and worksheets available online, but many parents were struggling to support their families in a tight economy. This, as well as other issues such as limited access to technology and data (Graham, 2020).
The issues raised by the pandemic have revealed how the solutions taken, reflect an understanding of how existing inequalities will continue to affect the most vulnerable people. To become a good moral society, the country must work toward providing consistent basic services to its most vulnerable citizens, such as clean water, electricity, and sanitation, that are of sufficient quality to protect people from the effects of a pandemic while promoting their right to dignity (Hara, 2020).
The issue of data access must be addressed further by providing citizens with low-cost, reliable internet access that allows them to learn and work. This pandemic emphasizes the importance of addressing the fundamental need for the emergence of a good society; if a social justice imperative isn't enough to inspire us, perhaps the recognition of mutual connections forged by a pandemic that knows no class or race boundaries will (Hara, 2020).
Conradie, E.M. 2006. Morality as a Way of Life: A First Introduction to Ethical Theory. Stellenbosch, South Africa: African Sun Media.
Gumede W. WITS; 2020. SA faces food riots and breakouts from the lockdown. http://www.wits.ac.za/covid19/covid19-news/latest/sa-faces-food-riots-and-breakouts-from-the-lockdown.html (accessed 16 April 2021).
Hara M., Ncube B., Sibanda D. PLASS, University of the Western Cape; South Africa: 2020. Water and sanitation in the face of COVID-19 in Cape Town's townships and informal settlements.https://www.plaas.org.za/water-and-sanitation-in-the-face-of-covid-19-in-cape-towns-townships-and-informal-settlements/ (accessed 21 April 2021).
Stiegler N, Bouchard JP. South Africa: Challenges and successes of the COVID-19 lockdown.?Ann Med Psychol (Paris). 2020;178(7):695-698. DOI:10.1016/j.amp.2020.05.006.
The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC). http://www.hsrc.ac.za/en/media-briefs/general/lockdown-survey-results (accessed 16 April 2021).