As of today, March 2, 2020, global health officials report that Iran is one of the worst-hit countries in the world regarding the coronavirus (Covid-19). Also today, news media reports show that the virus is not just a health but perhaps a political threat in Iran. As reported in the Vox:
“Mohammad Mirmohammadi, a member of a top council that advises Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, died Monday of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. His death follows those of two other Iranian leaders — a former ambassador and newly elected member of Parliament — who also succumbed to the illness.
Reports indicate there are a total of about seven top officials who are sick, including Iraj Harirchi, the head of the regime’s coronavirus task force, and Iranian Vice President Masoumeh Ebtekar.
The disclosure of Ebtekar’s illness last week was particularly troubling for Iran’s leadership, as it came only one day after she attended a Cabinet meeting where she was in close proximity to regime officials, including the 80-year-old Khamenei. That he and other Iranian leaders are elderly means they are at increased risk of dying from the disease, though there is currently no evidence to show Khamenei is sick” https://www.vox.com/2020/3/2/21161670/coronavirus-in-iran-seyed-mohammad-mirmohammadi-death.
Universally, human fear is a sense of powerlessness and the unknown. At it’s worse state, according to the imminent scholar Ernest Becker, we fear death (The Denial of Death, 1973). And so, like all of us, Iranians are turning to the web to find power and knowledge in the face of Covid-19’s death rattle.
Using the algorithm of the Google Trends free online software we can see where the greatest global internet searches in Iran are for information about Covid-19. Right down to sub-region and city. Are these people most afraid, most curious, most anxious for news? Probably all the above. Below is a Google Trends map of Iran with the darker blues showing sub-regions with the highest Internet searches about coronavirus over the past 24 hours.
In order of web searches the top 10 are the sub-regions of: Tehran, Qom, Gilan, Semnan, Golestan, Hormozgan, Hamadan, Qazvin, Ardabil, and Bushehr. That’s Tehran with it’s population of more than 15 million. Google Trends show this sub-region with the maximum 100 out of 100 in terms of a weighted rating for internet searches about Covid-19. Now let’s check out the cities of Iran.
Again, the darker the blue the higher the percentage of web access to information about Covid-19 the coronavirus. In order, the top 10 cities are: Kish, Ammameh, Tehran, Asaloyeh, Gorgan, Babolsar, Bandar-e Kangan, Rasht, Sabashahr, and Semnan. Kish, according to Google Trends, has a rating of 100 out of 100 on the weighted index of all web searches. Kish has about 40,000 residents, Tehran City has about 8.7 million and on the weighted index shows 67/100.
What does all this mean health-wise and political-wise? Again universally, how we view our leaders whether at the political, organizational, or corporate level has a lot to do with our sense of safety and security. Maslow wasn’t wrong when he wrote that our base needs are physiologcal and then human safety including health and personal security. What happens when those base needs are eroding, when the erosion is filled with the fear of powerlessness and unknown?
I have a feeling that whether it is Iran or other countries bedeviled by Covid-19 the answer may be sooner than later.