by Anila Dias Bandaranaike, Ph.D.
The world has changed significantly since COVID-19 hit humanity less than a year ago. This virus has brought human activity as we knew it pre-COVID-19 to a halt and shown no respect for race, religion, wealth, social status or geographical location. In fact, global statistics have shown that infection and fatality rates have been higher in the “developed” countries in North America and Western Europe, than in the “developing” countries of Asia and Africa.
I believe that the most important quality in life is contentment. If one accepts that premise, whichever the country and whatever its state of “development”, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a strong impact on our lives. It has made people realise that only a few things in life really matter – interaction with families and friends, nutrition, physical and mental health and hygiene, and a clean and safe living environment. These essential human needs can be translated into three simple pillars of emotional, intellectual and material well-being. Life under COVID-19 has made it clear that most other “needs” are actually “wants”. These wants are not really essential for our overall well-being, but fuelled by strategic marketing over decades in a global environment of rampant rising consumption.
Going back 70 years in history to the end of the last world war (WWII), the planet held a population of 2.5 billion people, abundant plant and animal life, water resources and fossil fuels. Simply put, the need at that time was to maintain international peace and security and rebuild the world, more specifically the Western World, destroyed by war. In that historical context, global institutions such as the United Nations, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were created to achieve these objectives and to fund and stabilise nations and their currencies towards this end. From that initial need, an economic model was developed to promote consumption. The new economic model would encourage factors of production—land, labour and capital—to produce goods and services that would rebuild those countries from the destruction of WWII. That model worked well for some time, improving for many, their access to basic needs such as food, clothing, housing, education and health services.
Then, measures of “development” were entirely economic, focussed on the production, distribution and consumption of goods and services. Gross domestic product (GDP), GDP growth, GDP per capita, consumption, investment and savings were the key indicators used to measure a country’s “development” over time and relative to other countries. Individual “development” was also measured in terms of ownership of money and physical assets. 70 years on, “success” has become even more tied to money and what it can buy – houses, cars, clothes, i.e. material well-being, and even people, positions and fame. The pursuit of intellectual well-being, education and employment, also became tied to money, i.e. education for employment that would provide higher incomes to purchase and consume more. Emotional well-being was neglected in the pursuit of money and all it could buy. While money is necessary for our survival, it cannot buy contentment.
A “development” model that encouraged consumption may have served well for a time in a world where the human population was low relative to natural resources. Yet 70 years later, on a planet now holding over 7.5 billion people, with greatly depleted natural resources slowly but surely being destroyed by human “wants”, that model has long reached its used by date. Meanwhile, financial markets, initially established to facilitate the production and distribution of goods and services, began to take a life of their own. Today’s values of financial instruments and businesses, with prices based on market sentiment and speculation, are no longer necessarily directly backed by real assets, real performance or reality. “Bubbles” have been created which have, and will continue to, burst anytime.
In a fast-changing world of rising inequality, climate change and volatility, humanity needs to rethink what “development” means. Publications of international organisations—UNDP Human Development Report (since 1990), World Development Report (since 1978)—record that development indicators, mainly measured income-related material well-being in the past. They have since been replaced by indicators of overall human well-being such as the Human Development Index (HDI), which measures GDP, life expectancy and education. Other more recent measures cover Gender Equality, Law and Order, Governance, Corruption and Happiness, to name a few. These changes recognise that material well-being, alone, does not bring contentment, peace and security and that environmental sustainability is essential for life on our planet to continue. The current concept of “Sustainable Development” includes all three pillars of human well-being and advocates simplistic, but relevant “Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)” for nations to aspire to.
Yet, old habits and constant brainwashing cannot be so easily erased. The mindset in many parts of the world unthinkingly continues to aspire to the goals of that Western-dominated Post-WWII consumption model. However, our planet cannot sustain it. Also, while higher material well-being could lead to greater intellectual and emotional well-being up to a certain level, beyond that, it does not ensure a better overall quality of life.
In our pre-COVID-19 world, with rising income disparities, there was great hardship at the lower end of the income pyramid, with poor access to housing, nutrition, health and education. At the middle level, incomes could not meet aspirations driven by consumption-led “development” successfully marketed globally through technological connectivity. At the upper end, money, which can only be used to make more money or consume more, had lost its value beyond a certain threshold. Think of high net worth individuals, of billionaires, of stocks and shares sky-rocketing in certain companies, that we read and hear about. In essence, the excess monies and the oft-accompanying fanfare become meaningless to those very individuals and businesses that make the most. With only one physical body and one set of the five senses, one can only be in one location, stationary or in motion, in one outfit, savouring one dish or feasting on one work of art at any given moment. Thus, unless an individual is to be forever discontented, however many his houses, vehicles, clothes or art works, his marginal utility of an added unit of consumption at that level of affluence will be negligible. When I commended a globally recognised retired billionaire entrepreneur who was trying to “make a difference” with his wealth to help the less fortunate, my son responded wisely, “Better if he had paid his employees more throughout”. So true. There is really no rationality in aspiring to endless wealth.
In today’s globalised COVID-19 world, the global economy as we know it is in lockdown. At both national and international levels, most income-generating activities are virtually at a standstill. Many individuals, businesses and governments are unable to meet their financial commitments. Banking and financial institutions, domestically and internationally, are facing new challenges on their portfolios. At individual level, there is great hardship without employment and income at the lower end of the income pyramid. Incomes are down at the middle. At the upper end, money is of little use, with consumption of goods and services, especially travel, limited during a lockdown. Yet, much of humanity who were trapped in a consumption-driven pre-COVID world, are re-discovering simple pleasures of human interaction in the enforced lockdown. One hears of families reconnecting and of neighbourhood communities reaching out and helping each other. Individuals are finding time to read, to learn new skills, to reconnect with friends across the globe (thank goodness for technology and global connectivity), and most importantly, to reflect and reassess life’s priorities.
The COVID-19 world war has forced humanity to realise that a new “development” model has to be found to meet our planet’s needs in the 21st century. Humans have to replace overt consumption with realistic use and re-use of available, but depleting resources and prioritise a more holistic concept of human well-being. Money, finances and business value have to be reinvented; global and domestic debt and debt repayments have to be rethought; new business models of reduced profits and higher employees’ wages need to be considered. If all three pillars of human well-being are important, a new global “development” model should prioritise two interconnected goals—improving overall human well-being while preserving the natural environment.
It is because nations cooperated and collaborated and built international institutions Post WWII to meet common needs and help each other that they were able to rebuild a broken world. 70 years on, will geopolitics and humanity’s greed and arrogance allow us to recognise that we are off-track? Will we ever see that we need each other, individuals, communities and nations, to share knowledge, skills, experiences and efforts to save ourselves and what is left of our planet for future generations?
(The author is a former Assistant Governor and Director of Statistics of the Central Bank of Sri Lanka)
Hair Growth and Thickness
LOOK GOOD – with Disna
Oiling is an old home remedy for hair growth and thickness. Oiling is also used for the strength, shine, and length of hair, from ancient times. The use of coconut oil, especially, is very effective when it comes to the amplification of hair health. Additionally, there are many essential oils for faster hair growth which you can use, too.
* How to Use: Generally, hair oiling works best when applied overnight. You could use this therapy every night, or after each night, then wash your hair, in the morning, before heading for studies, or work.
* Aloe Vera:
Aloe vera has long been used as a home remedy for hair growth, thickness, and treating hair loss problems It contains vitamins A, C, and E. All three of these vitamins are known to contribute to cell turnover, supporting healthy cell growth and shiny hair. Plus, vitamin B-12 and folic acid are also included in aloe vera gel. Both of these elements can keep your hair from falling out. Aloe vera plants can be easily grown indoors. A leaf can be plucked, occasionally, and cut open to reveal its gel. This gel needs to be applied on the scalp, basically, to provide nourishment to the roots.
* How to Use:
Rub this gel on your head properly, leaving no area dry; wash after half an hour or so. Keeping this massage as a part of your weekly routine will eventually make your hair thick and long.
* Green Tea:
Green tea is often consumed as a home remedy for weight loss. Surprisingly, it has many other benefits, including hair-related benefits.
* How to Use:
Consuming green tea once every day can add to the strength and length of your hair. If your body is extremely comfortable with green tea, then you may even consume it twice every day.
* Onion Juice:
A bi-weekly application of onion juice can relieve you of your tension, regarding hair health. The smell can really torture you, but divert your attention in doing something else for a while, like making a puzzle or washing the dishes. From an early age, onion juice has been used as a home remedy to control hair fall. Research has shown that onion juice has been successful in treating patchy alopecia areata (non-scarring hair loss condition) by promoting hair growth .
* How to Use:
Take half onion and blend it. Apply the mixture on every nook and corner of your scalp and let it sit for some 60 minutes, or so. Shampoo it off when it’s time for the hair-wash.
Fun-loving, but… sensitive
This week, my chat is with Nilu Vithanage. She is quite active, as a teledrama actress – having done four, already; her first was ‘Pavela Will Come In The Cloud, Mom’ (playing the role of a nurse). Then Came ‘Heavenly Palaces’ (student), ‘Black Town’ (a village character Kenkaiya), and ‘Wings Of Fire,’ currently being shown, with Nilu as a policewoman. You could checkout ‘Wings Of Fire,’ weekdays, on Swarnavahini, at 7.30 pm. Nilu is also active as a stage drama artiste, dancer…and has also been featured in musical videos.
And, this is how our chit-chat went…
1. How would you describe yourself?
Let’s say, I’m a bit on the playful side, and I like to have a lot of fun. But, I do find the time to relax, and, at home, it’s dancing to music! Yeah, I love dancing. Oh, I need to add that I’m a bit sensitive.
2. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
I get angry quickly. Fortunately, that anger doesn’t last long – just five to 10 minutes. But I wish I could get rid of anger, totally from my system!
3. If you could change one thing about your family, what would it be?
Nope, can’t think of anything, in particular. Everything is fine with us, and I’m proud of my only brother, and I feel safe when he is around. Or, come to think of it, if I did have another brother, I would feel doubly safe…when going out, in particular!
I did my studies at two schools – C.W.W. Kannangara Central College, and Panadura Sumangala Girls’ School for my higher studies. Representing my school, I won first place in a speech competition and dance competition, as well.
5. Happiest moment?
When my husband comes home, or talks to me on the phone. He is stationed in Hatton and those calls and home visits are my happiest moments
6. What is your idea of perfect happiness?
I really find a lot of happiness feeding the fish, in ponds. I love to see them rush to pick up the tidbits I throw into the pond. That’s my kind of happiness – being close to nature.
7. Are you religious?
I would say ‘yes’ to that question. I like to go to the temple, listen to sermons, participate in meditation programmes, and I do not miss out on observing sil, whenever possible. I also find solace in visiting churches.
8. Are you superstitious?
A big ‘no.’ Not bothered about all those superstitious things that generally affect a lot of people.
9. Your ideal guy?
My husband, of course, and that’s the reason I’m married to him! He has been a great support to me, in my acting career, as well in all other activities. He understands me and he loves me. And, I love him, too.
10. Which living person do you most admire?
I would say my Dad. I truly appreciate the mentorship he gave me, from a young age, and the things we received from him
11. Which is your most treasured possession?
12. If you were marooned on a desert island, who would you like as your companion?
A camel would be ideal as that would make it easier for me to find a way out from a desert island!
13. Your most embarrassing moment?
One day, recently, with the greatest of difficulty, I managed to join a one meter distance queue, to withdraw money from an ATM. And, then I realised I didn’t bring the card along!
14. Done anything daring?
I would say…yes, when I ventured out to get involved in teledramas. It was a kind of a daring decision and I’m glad it’s now working out for me – beautifully.
15. Your ideal vacation?
I would say Thailand, after reading your articles, and talking to you about Amazing Thailand – the shopping, things to see and do, etc. When the scene improves, it will be…Thailand here I come!
16. What kind of music are you into?
The fast, rhythmic stuff because I have a kind of rhythm in my body, and I love to dance…to music.
17. Favourite radio station:
I don’t fancy any particular station. It all depends on the music they play. If it’s my kind of music, then I’m locked-on to that particular station.
18. Favourtie TV station:
Whenever I have some free time, I search the TV channels for a good programme. So it’s the programme that attracts me.
19. What would you like to be born as in your next life?
Maybe a bird so that I would be free to fly anywhere I want to.
20. Any major plans for the future?
I’m currently giving lessons to schoolchildren, in dancing, and I plan to have my own dancing institute in the future.
Snail-napping sets the stage for CGI road trip
The SpongeBob Movie:Sponge on the Run
By Tharishi hewaviThanagamage
Based on the famous and one of the longest-running American animated series that made its debut on Nickelodeon in 1999, created by marine science educator and animator Stephen Hillenburg, ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run’ is the latest addition to the SpongeBob movie franchise, coming in as the third installment after ‘The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie’ (2004) and ‘The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water’ (2015).
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