In 1918 what was known as the Great War, now World War I, ended, with around 10 million military casualties, around half of all those involved in the fighting. After 4 years of conflict the peace was welcomed but no-one realised that humankind was about to face a much more lethal danger, an epidemic of the Spanish ‘Flu or influenza.
By the time the virus stopped its spread, at least 35 million people worldwide had died from the disease, representing around 1.5% of the global population. In most influenza epidemics, the elderly, infirm and very young make up the bulk of deaths but with this , many of those who died were healthy young adults. The pandemic possibly originated in Austria in 1917 but manifested itself first on the battlefields of the European theatre of war.
The mixture of crowded soldiers, animals and 24 types of war gasses – many of which were mutagenic – might have been the cause of the first outbreak between December 1916 and March 1917. The first in the United States was in spring 1918, in several military camps, almost certainly spread by troop movements at the end of the war. The waves that occurred in 1918 and 1919 were deadlier than the first and the strain so virulent that medical experts at the time were not sure it was influenza but might be a form of cholera or typhoid because of the high infection rate and severe symptoms.
The Spanish flu was a more lethal form of ‘flu virus, but it was not very different from other strains circulating at the time or since then. Interestingly, almost all cases of influenza A except avian strains are caused by descendants of the Spanish ‘Flu virus. From bodies found buried in permafrost in Alaska, subsequent testing found that it was an H1N1 strain of flu, a strain which recurred in many guises in the ensuing century.
I reference this pandemic to try and put some context into the current panic over the emergency of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China. As I write, the death toll stands at 170, all within the city itself, including the doctor initially treating sufferers. So far, only isolated cases have been reported in the US, Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia, France, Finland, Vietnam, and Nepal. This is in no way to downplay its seriousness, simply to put in some sanity and perspective.
Juxtaposing the two related strains of ‘flu, perhaps what is most interesting about the global spread of the 1918 epidemic was that it occurred at a time when there was no commercial aviation. This meant that unlike today, there was no question of carrying it from one continent to another overnight. Instead, it travelled at the speed of the slow, ocean-going passenger ships.
Indeed, had it not been for the end of the war and the repatriation of soldiers from the Americas, Australasia and Asia, the disease might easily have been contained within a small area in Europe, since global travel in those days was unheard of for the masses. But the bigger problem came not from the migration of former combatants but the fact that at the time medicine was not advanced enough to have any effective response.
By contrast Australian scientists and bio=chemists are already working hard on identifying the form of the coronavirus and formulating a treatment. But their work still has to compete with the potential global spread of the new ‘flu in the era of cheap air travel for all. British Airways has suspended all flights to and from mainland China till March which will probably safeguard its staff members but is unlikely to have any other influence since those determined to fly in and out of China will simply find another carrier (airline, carrier, that is, not disease, though possibly both!).
So presumably the only effective counter-measure would be for other countries to inspect passports pre-check-in and refuse passage to anyone who originated from, or had recently visited, China, but that would be both panicked and Draconian. The population of China is estimated at around 1.4 billion, compared to the total of 7,783 confirmed coronavirus cases, (7,678 in mainland China and 104 cases outside).
Taken into context with the 170 deaths, it is clear that the strain is by no means lethal and more importantly, nowhere is the potential spread of the disease taken more seriously than in China itself. Workers whose jobs involves interaction with members of the public are donning Hazmat (hazardous materials) suits plus face masks and gloves. Many communities have taken the initiative of blocking off their neighbourhoods with hastily-erected barricades, manned by local residents to keep out visitors. And the Chinese government has isolated the city of Wuhan itself, placing it on full lockdown, public transport at a standstill and no travellers or vehicles allowed in or out.
Some governments are warning against all but essential travel but bear in mind that that there are approximately 1.399999999 billion unaffected Chinese nationals there so the odds on not coming across an infected person are pretty good. One cautionary note. Your chances of infection flying in or out, should you be so unfortunate as to travel with a carrier, is extremely high, owing to the poor air quality and proximity to other passengers inside a modern jetliner.
Curiously, a few years back, when smoking on board was still permitted, that would not have been the case since air filters were required to be much finer, filtration more frequent and air quality much cleaner than today. As the Alanis Morisette song says ‘And isn’t it ironic?’
Seventy-seven years ago, on the evening of December 2, 1943, the Germans launched a surprise air raid on allied shipping in the Italian port of Bari, which was then the key supply centre for the British 8th army’s advance in Italy.
The attack was spearheaded by 105 Junkers JU88 bombers under the overall command of the infamous Air Marshal Wolfram von Richthofen (who had initially achieved international notoriety during the Spanish Civil War for his aerial bombardment of Guernica). In a little over an hour the German aircraft succeeded in sinking 28 transport and cargo ships, while further inflicting massive damage to the harbour’s facilities, resulting in the port being effectively put out of action for two months.
Over two thousand ground personnel were killed during the raid, with the release of a secret supply of mustard gas aboard one of the destroyed ships contributing to the death toll, as well as subsequent military and civilian casualties. The extent of the later is a controversy due to the fact that the American and British governments subsequently covered up the presence of the gas for decades.
At least five Batswana were killed and seven critically wounded during the raid, with one of the wounded being miraculously rescued floating unconscious out to sea with a head wound. He had been given up for dead when he returned to his unit fourteen days later. The fatalities and casualties all occurred when the enemy hit an ammunition ship adjacent to where 24 Batswana members of the African Pioneer Corps (APC) 1979 Smoke Company where posted.
Thereafter, the dozen surviving members of the unit distinguished themselves for their efficiency in putting up and maintaining smokescreens in their sector, which was credited with saving additional shipping. For his personal heroism in rallying his men following the initial explosions Company Corporal Chitu Bakombi was awarded the British Empire Medal, while his superior officer, Lieutenant N.F. Moor was later given an M.B.E.
Remember: bricks and cement are used to build a house, but mutual love, respect and companionship are used to build a HOME. And amongst His signs is this: He creates for you mates out of your own kind, so that you may find contentment (Sukoon) with them, and He engenders love and tenderness between you; in this behold, there are signs (messages) indeed for people who reflect and think (Quran 30:21).
This verse talks about contentment; this implies companionship, of their being together, sharing together, supporting one another and creating a home of peace. This verse also talks about love between them; this love is both physical and emotional. For love to exist it must be built on the foundation of a mutually supportive relationship guided by respect and tenderness. As the Quran says; ‘they are like garments for you, and you are garments for them (Quran 2:187)’. That means spouses should provide each other with comfort, intimacy and protection just as clothing protects, warms and dignifies the body.
In Islam marriage is considered an ‘ibaadah’, (an act of pleasing Allah) because it is about a commitment made to each other, that is built on mutual love, interdependence, integrity, trust, respect, companionship and harmony towards each other. It is about building of a home on an Islamic foundation in which peace and tranquillity reigns wherein your offspring are raised in an atmosphere conducive to a moral and upright upbringing so that when we all stand before Him (Allah) on that Promised Day, He will be pleased with them all.
Most marriages start out with great hopes and rosy dreams; spouses are truly committed to making their marriages work. However, as the pressures of life mount, many marriages change over time and it is quite common for some of them to run into problems and start to flounder as the reality of living with a spouse that does not meet with one’s pre-conceived ‘expectations’. However, with hard work and dedication, couples can keep their marriages strong and enjoyable. How is it done? What does it take to create a long-lasting, satisfying marriage?
Below are some of the points that have been taken from a marriage guidance article I read recently and adapted for this purposes.
POSITIVITY Spouses should have far more positive than negative interactions. If there is too much negativity — criticizing, demanding, name-calling, holding grudges, etc. — the relationship will suffer. However, if there is never any negativity, it probably means that frustrations and grievances are not getting ‘air time’ and unresolved tension is accumulating inside one or both partners waiting to ‘explode’ one day.
“Let not some men among you laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor let some women laugh at others: it may be that the (latter) are better than the (former): nor defame nor be sarcastic to each other, nor call each other by (offensive) nicknames.” (49:11)
We all have our individual faults though we may not see them nor want to admit to them but we will easily identify them in others. The key is balance between the two extremes and being supportive of one another. To foster positivity in a marriage that help make them stable and happy, being affectionate, truly listening to each other, taking joy in each other’s achievements and being playful are just a few examples of positive interactions. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “The believers who show the most perfect faith are those who have the best character and the best of you are those who are best to their wives”
Another characteristic of happy marriages is empathy; understanding your spouses’ perspective by putting oneself in his or her shoes. By showing that understanding and identifying with your spouse is important for relationship satisfaction. Spouses are more likely to feel good about their marriage and if their partner expresses empathy towards them. Husbands and wives are more content in their relationships when they feel that their partners understand their thoughts and feelings.
Successful married couples grow with each other; it simply isn’t wise to put any person in charge of your happiness. You must be happy with yourself before anyone else can be. You are responsible for your actions, your attitudes and your happiness. Your spouse just enhances those things in your life. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “Treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers.”
Successful marriages involve both spouses’ commitment to the relationship. The married couple should learn the art of compromise and this usually takes years. The largest parts of compromise are openness to the other’s point of view and good communication when differences arise.
When two people are truly dedicated to making their marriage work, despite the unavoidable challenges and obstacles that come, they are much more likely to have a relationship that lasts. Husbands and wives who only focus on themselves and their own desires are not as likely to find joy and satisfaction in their relationships.
Another basic need in a relationship is each partner wants to feel valued and respected. When people feel that their spouses truly accept them for who they are, they are usually more secure and confident in their relationships. Often, there is conflict in marriage because partners cannot accept the individual preferences of their spouses and try to demand change from one another. When one person tries to force change from another, he or she is usually met with resistance.
However, change is much more likely to occur when spouses respect differences and accept each other unconditionally. Basic acceptance is vital to a happy marriage. Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said: “It is the generous (in character) who is good to women, and it is the wicked who insults them.” “Overlook (any human faults) with gracious forgiveness.” (Quran 15:85)
COMPASSION, MUTUAL LOVE AND RESPECT
Other important components of successful marriages are love, compassion and respect for each other. The fact is, as time passes and life becomes increasingly complicated, the marriage is often stressed and suffers as a result. A happy and successful marriage is based on equality. When one or the other dominates strongly, intimacy is replaced by fear of displeasing.
It is all too easy for spouses to lose touch with each other and neglect the love and romance that once came so easily. It is vital that husbands and wives continue to cultivate love and respect for each other throughout their lives. If they do, it is highly likely that their relationships will remain happy and satisfying. Move beyond the fantasy and unrealistic expectations and realize that marriage is about making a conscious choice to love and care for your spouse-even when you do not feel like it.
Seldom can one love someone for whom we have no respect. This also means that we have to learn to overlook and forgive the mistakes of one’s partner. In other words write the good about your partner in stone and the bad in dust, so that when the wind comes it blows away the bad and only the good remains.
Paramount of all, marriage must be based on the teachings of the Noble Qur’an and the teachings and guidance of our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). To grow spiritually in your marriage requires that you learn to be less selfish and more loving, even during times of conflict. A marriage needs love, support, tolerance, honesty, respect, humility, realistic expectations and a sense of humour to be successful.
The past week or two has been a mixed grill of briefs in so far as the national employment picture is concerned. BDC just injected a further P64 million in Kromberg & Schubert, the automotive cable manufacturer and exporter, to help keep it afloat in the face of the COVID-19-engendered global economic apocalypse. The financial lifeline, which follows an earlier P36 million way back in 2017, hopefully guarantees the jobs of 2500, maybe for another year or two.
It was also reported that a bulb manufacturing company, which is two years old and is youth-led, is making waves in Selibe Phikwe. Called Bulb Word, it is the only bulb manufacturing operation in Botswana and employs 60 people. The figure is not insignificant in a town that had 5000 jobs offloaded in one fell swoop when BCL closed shop in 2016 under seemingly contrived circumstances, so that as I write, two or three buyers have submitted bids to acquire and exhume it from its stage-managed grave.