By Diana Johnstone
Special to Consortium News
As time goes on in close confinement, even people bound by love may start to find each other unbearable. On a larger scale, in this crazy mass confinement, people brought together by a common rejection of the lies of our criminal rulers may find themselves at each other’s throats because of conflicting interpretations of why who is doing what.
This is happening on alternative media – especially in Germany. It seems that many anti-conformist political analysts believe that the Coronavirus crisis is a fake, perpetrated by media and governments for sinister reasons. They are actually calling for protest demonstrations against confinement.
I can’t help seeing this as an obsession of certain dissidents to prove to themselves that they are good “anti-authoritarian” Germans who would never have bowed to Nazism. But is this assertion of individual freedom appropriate in the midst of a public health crisis?
The Limits of Power
Very clever people naturally want to find motives behind whatever happens. At one time such people might have been theologians, who explained the extremely mysterious ways in which God carries out His cosmic plan. A flood, a plague, an earthquake? There had to be a reason for it, a motivation in human terms. The All-Powerful was punishing his sinful flock and reminding them of who was boss.
Today, quite a number of alternative media commentators are ready to believe in the absolute power not of God but of Mammon, of the powers of Wall Street and its partners in politics, the media and the military. In this view, nothing major happens that hasn’t been planned by earthly powers for their own selfish interest.
Mammon is wrecking the economy so a few oligarchs will own everything. Or else Mammon created the hoax Coronavirus 19 in order to lock us all up and deprive us of what little is left of our freedom. Or finally Mammon is using a virus in order to have a pretext to vaccinate us all with secret substances and turn us all into zombies.
Is this credible? In one sense, it is. We know that Mammon is unscrupulous, morally capable of all crimes. But things do happen that Mammon did not plan, such as earthquakes, floods and plagues. Dislike of our ruling class combined with dislike of being locked up leads to the equation: They are simply using this (fake) crisis in order to lock us up!
But what for? To whom is there any advantage in locking down the population? For the pleasure of telling themselves, “Aha, we’ve got them where we want them, all stuck at home!” Is this intended to suppress popular revolt? What popular revolt? Why repress people who aren’t doing anything that needs to be repressed?
What is the use of locking up a population – and I think especially of the United States – that is disunited, disorganized, profoundly confused by generations of ideological indoctrination telling them that their country is “the best” in every way, and thus unable to formulate coherent demands on a system that exploits them ruthlessly? Do you need to lock up your faithful Labrador so he won’t bite you?
If anything, the trauma of this situation might actually awaken a somnolent population to the vital need for basic transformation of society. The notion that this lockdown threatens to be permanent is totally unrealistic, against all evidence from previous lockdowns. On the contrary, prolonged confinement is most likely to lead to explosions. The question is, can these explosions be constructive.
Blinded by Hubris
Rather than deploring the all-powerful nature of Mammon, it would be more constructive to look for the flaws in his armor, for his weaknesses, for the ways he can be massively discredited, denounced and defeated.
Mammon is blinded by its own hubris, often stupid, incompetent, dumbed down by getting away with so much so easily. Take a look at Mike Pompeo or Mike Pence – are these all-powerful geniuses? No, they are semi-morons who have been able to crawl up a corrupt system contemptuous of truth, virtue or intelligence – like the rest of the gangsters in power in a system devoid of any ethical or intellectual standards.
The power of creatures like that is merely the reflection of the abdication of social responsibility by whole populations whose disinterest in politics has allowed the scum to rise to the top.
The lockdown decreed by our Western governments reveals helplessness rather than power. They did not rush to lock us down. The lockdown is disastrous for the economy which is their prime concern. They hesitated and did so only when they had to do something and were ill-equipped to do anything else. They saw that China had done so with good results. But smart Asian governments did even more, deploying masks, tests and treatments Western governments did not possess.
Western governments called for confinement when experts explained the exponential curves to them. They didn’t know what else to do. There is at least enough sense of social responsibility left in our societies to oblige governments to take the basic, classic quarantine methods usual during pandemics.
Of course, in every crisis some are well placed to take advantage of disaster. The vultures didn’t cause the cattle to die so they could eat the carrion. But they will gobble it up when it’s there. Wall Street financial powers could quickly get Congresspeople to vote laws to bail them out while small businesses sink and working people are plunged into despair.
But in the long run, without the small businesses, without the workers now being deprived of income to spend, without normal economic activity, Wall Street itself will have no one to bleed, nothing to exploit. It makes absolutely no sense to believe that dominant economic powers sought this ruinous crisis for some mysterious benefit to themselves.
In the European Union, creditor countries like Germany and the Netherlands refuse to let the European Central Bank issue “Coronabonds” to finance economic recovery of hard-hit countries like Italy and Spain. That means those countries will have to borrow from the private financial system, at high interest rates leading to bankruptcy.
That sounds like a boon to international finance, which, however, will find itself holding an infinite amount of unpayable debt. And the European Union may split apart as a result – not in the interests of any of these powerful masters of Mammon.
Public Health Is Not an Individual Choice
In the West, “human rights”, are conceived in terms of the “rights” of the individual, or of a minority, to go against what we call “the regime” when speaking of countries other than our own. The United States uses the absolute value of “human rights” as a pretext to impose its will through sanctions and bombing on nations that reject its global domination. The defiance of authority is celebrated as resistance, without necessarily examining the details.
However, virtually all key aspects of any civilized society go contrary to the absolutism of individual rights. Every civilized society has some sort of legal system, some basic rules that everyone is expected to follow. Most civilized societies have a public education and (except for the United States) a public health insurance system designed to benefit the whole population. These elements of civilization include constraints on individual freedom.
The benefits to each individual of living in a civilized society make these constraints acceptable to just about everybody. The health of the individual depends on the health of the community, which is why everyone in most Western countries accepts a single payer health insurance system. The only exception is the United States, where the egocentricities of Ayn Rand are widely read as serious thought.
The arrival of a plague or an epidemic suddenly calls for totally abnormal, extremely unpleasant constraints, such as quarantines. This is a case where the freedom of the individual is sacrificed for the general good: the individual is confined not merely for his own good but for the good of his community and indeed of all humanity.
The paradox of our highly technological societies is that the greater the impossibility of the general public (all of us) to understand crucial functions and issues, the more we depend on experts and authorities, and the more we distrust those experts and authorities and suspect them of using their position to advance secret agendas. There is thus a sort of built-in paranoia in our societies where the power of invisible forces becomes constantly more inscrutable.
This paradox operates forcefully on issues of medicine and public health, all the more in that the authorities themselves are frequently divided in their opinions. In Germany especially, where the crisis has been relatively mild, one can hear a doctor claiming that fear of Covid-19 is artificially created and that nature should be allowed to take its course, since healthy people will be spared and the few who die would have died anyway.
Stay Home and Take a Pill
This opinion is readily accepted by those who suspect every government measure of being an arbitrary assault on personal liberties. But it is hardly a majority opinion in the world medical profession.
Personally, I’ve been there. I’ve seen this virus in action. This is not simply a bad cold, or a seasonal flu. Yes, there are light cases, but there are fatal ones as well. It does not just kill off superfluous elderly people that some commentators seem satisfied to get rid of.
Still, it is quite reasonable to question the usefulness of confinement alone. Here in France, authorities turned to confinement with some delay, only because the illness was spreading and they had nothing else to do about it.
There were no masks; a factory in Brittany that provided the domestic market with masks and other medical equipment had been bought up a while back by Honeywell and closed down. This is an aspect of the deindustrialization of France, based on the assumption that we in the West can live from our brains, our ideas, our startups, while actual things are made for low wages in poor countries.
So there were no masks and no immediate capacity to make them. There was also a shortage of ventilators, even of hospital beds – in fact there was no ability to deal with the epidemic other than to tell people to stay at home and prescribe paracetamol.
Surely there are better ways to deal with it, and one inevitable explosion after confinement will be an outpouring of criticism of the way the government has handled the crisis and demands for drastic improvements in the public health system.
The argument that “oh well, even more people die of ordinary flu, or cancer, or something else” is not valid because this illness comes in addition to all the others that are anticipated: it pushes already largely saturated health facilities over the top, into collapse.
In Italy, Covid-19 has killed off a hundred medical doctors in just over a month. They would not have “died anyway, of something else” without the epidemic.
In France, in normal times, dial the emergency service SAMU 15 and usually a team is there within minutes. During the Covid-19 crisis, you could dial 15 and wait an hour or more for an answer, whatever your health crisis might be, and help might never come.
The main purpose of the quarantine is to reduce the pression on overburdened systems. Without the confinement, the overload would have been even worse. This crisis is exposing the inadequacy of existing facilities and the crucial need for major programs to strengthen public health systems.
Irrational Fear of Vaccination
Mass vaccination has always been the surest way to wipe out deadly diseases. It is also an instance where individual freedoms need be sacrificed to the general good. It is deeply disturbing that many intelligent people are more afraid of the vaccine that may be developed to combat this virus than they are of the virus itself.
One objection is that profit-oriented Big Pharma takes advantage of every illness to make money. But the answer is not to reject pharmaceuticals. The main problem with Big Pharma is unleashed neoliberal capitalism in the United States, combined with the absence of a government-run single payer health insurance, which allows pharmaceutical companies to charge outrageous prices for their products, as well as to focus on production of the most profitable rather than the most generally useful medication.
The answer to this is not to give up medication but to demand greater public supervision and price control.
Finally, the pharmaceutical industry should be considered a public utility rather than a business and nationalized so that revenue can be used to finance research rather than to pay dividends to Big Finance.
The prospects are different from one country to another. Achieving social control in the United States looks practically impossible because of the overwhelming belief that “free enterprise” is the only way to do things. In France, which has positive experience of a mixed economy, it could be politically possible to nationalize pharmaceutical companies – if France were not under the domination of the European Union and, less directly, the United States, which is always prepared to do what it can to block socialist measures anywhere in the world.
No Longer the Center
But the West is no longer the center of the world. The Covid-19 crisis has demonstrated the rising capabilities and more human attitudes of East Asia. There will be vaccines developed in China, in Russia, in other countries outside the NATO sphere. Their achievements will break the monopoly of Western “Big Pharma.”
In Europe, and notably in France, Italy and Spain, the total disillusion with the European Union is strengthening the trend toward return of national sovereignty. And sovereign nations, able to respond to their people’s demands can be able to break away from the dictates of Big Finance in order to renew democracy in more appropriate forms.
In France, labor unions and progressives are demanding better protection of the population, starting with all those essential service workers, in hospitals and grocery stores, bus drivers, deliverymen, all those who are increasingly appreciated by their confined compatriots and who need to reap the benefits of their public service.
Perhaps because of the long tradition of social struggle in France, including the Yellow Vest movement which is not dead but only on hold, one can be sure that after confinement there will be an explosion of demands to abandon the fantasies of neoliberal globalism and build a system where the welfare of the people comes first.
In contrast, in the context of the corona virus crisis in Germany, someone supposedly “on the left” has initiated a petition calling on persons over 75 to declare that if they are sick, they renounce medical treatment, in order to give preference to younger people. This is a new twist of identity politics, of classifying people by groups, and a step toward revival of the worst eugenics of Nazism.
Which is civilized and which is barbaric: insisting on a system that gives equal care to all, or deciding that the elderly be sacrificed for the others? What is this but a suggestion to resort to human sacrifice to please Mammon?
Sounding the alarm about how horrible our ruling class is gets us nowhere unless we have an idea of a real alternative – not just “resisting” but proposing and fighting for something different and better.
Let’s start with a most concrete practical issue and work from there: vaccination. Like other aspects of public health, this is an issue of collective welfare rather than individual rights. It is an element not of “resistance to oppression” but of the construction of civilization.
The coronavirus has not illustrated the need to get rid of vaccines – on grounds that “they” want to use them against us – but on the contrary, of the need to make sure that vaccines are developed under proper supervision for the public welfare and not as a means for Big Pharma to make bigger dividends for BlackRock.
So the problem with vaccines is not vaccination but American capitalism that has gotten completely out of hand. Once upon time, the Food and Drug Administration was a reliable monitor of pharmaceutical innovations. In recent decades, such control agencies have increasingly been taken over by the companies they are supposed to control and transformed into rubber stamps.
Alarms are also raised about the alleged role of billionaires like Bill Gates whose philanthropic institutions are suspected of manipulating vaccines for hidden nefarious purposes.
The remedy is not to flee medication and vaccination, but to dismantle these overgrown dictatorial powers and build a society that can properly be called civilized because it is balanced between collective and individual welfare. Of course, to say what should be done is very far from knowing how to do it. But without an idea of what should be done, there will not even be any effort to figure out how.
A Mixed Economy
In the United States, it would be necessary to accept the fact that certain essential activities must be considered public services. This requires a wave of reforms equivalent to a revolution, not as prescribed by Marxist revolutionaries to situations that no longer exist. Pharmaceuticals and hospitals are public services and must be socially controlled. Internet has become a public service.
How should that be treated? Innovators who used free market mechanisms to gain virtual monopoly control of their sector should be invited to choose which of their mansions to retain as residence as they are retired to the role of advisor, while their disproportionate accumulated earnings should become part of the public treasury.
What I am advocating is not a “communist revolution,” certainly not for the United States. I am advocating a mixed economy, which can take various forms, from France in the 1960s to China today. The commanding heights of the economy should be under social control, to ensure that major investment has social purpose.
The forms of this control can vary. In the United States, the first task of the commanding heights should be to shift investment away from insanely wasteful military production to domestic infrastructure and measures to integrate all citizens into a genuinely civilized society. Such a mixed economy creates a favorable environment for the proliferation of small independent enterprises free to innovate.
Free from fear of illness and homelessness allows more real freedom than the polarized lottery that passes for capitalism in the United States today. Such a project of civilization should win support from decent and lucid people in all classes of society.
I am perfectly aware that the United States today is ideologically light years away from such a sensible project. But developments are underway in other countries to meet the threat of Big Pharma and meddling American billionaires. The word that sums up these developments is “multipolarization.”
This is the slogan launched by Vladimir Putin in 2007. It drove Western champions of unipolar globalization into a frenzy from which they are far from having recovered – witness the insanely provocative “Defender Europe 20” military games practicing nuclear war right up to the Russian border, stalled temporarily by Covid-19.
The United States and its European satellites are in effect waging war against the Free World – that is, countries free of U.S. domination, in order to perpetuate an imaginary global regime along the lines of neoliberalism: rule of finance approved by manipulated elections.
Nevertheless, unipolar globalization is in the process of disintegration. All the slander against China cannot change the facts. While U.S. propagandists blast their rising rival, most of the world sees that China handled the epidemic with more professional know-how than the West. The United States control of international agencies is being threatened by growing Chinese influence – in particular, the World Health Organization.
This is the greatest threat to Big Pharma: a multipolar world. Bill Gates and U.S. pharmaceutical companies will have no monopoly of vaccine development to combat Covid-19. A dramatic shift from neoliberal globalization to multipolar national sovereignty will restore genuine competition – not only in production of vaccines but in social organization.
Let Western countries look to their own problems and find solutions. Let other countries develop according to models that suit their history, philosophy and popular demands. It is obvious that the vaunted U.S. “free market democracy” is not a model that should be imposed on every country on earth, nor even on the United States itself.
Mixed economies can take various forms. Some could evolve toward something that could be called socialism, others not. Let every small country be as independent as Iceland. Let the world explore different paths. Let a hundred flowers bloom!
Diana Johnstone’s latest book is Circle in the Darkness; Memoirs of a World Watcher, Clarity Press, 2020.
Iceland is not so independent. The rest is more-less ok.
You never let the reader down, Ms Johnstone. This is the first time since the start of this sorry comedy that I could read my own thoughts, worded much better than I would have done, and with an impressive grasp of the medical aspect (whereas many a qualified colleague, especially if belonging to the so-called medical establishment, is at sea.) I have to add my congratulations for your un-put-downable memoirs, just published. They should be read by everyone.
“Let the world explore different paths. Let a hundred flowers bloom!” Every states is different than any other state and a single system as one size fits all will never work.
An interesting article, with some sections stronger than thers. There are some great comments which address its failings, but none have returned to the derided subject of ‘Human Rights’.
Surprisingly, I find many people with a strong interest in politics, society and the like have never read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.It’s a very easy to read. If you got this far, why not give it a go? Let me explain why.
Ironically, in view of its instance on a free education “directed to the full development of the human personality and to the strengthening of respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms”, few know the UHDR’s actual contents.
Yes, those in power have misused the phrase ‘Human Rights’ for decades. They want to use it as an excuse for actions motivated by other concerns, or to avoid its full implications for their own countries. The popular press in many countries has derided Human Rights whenever they can, often with falsehoods, and occasionally with a genuine critique of an unbalanced poor decision taken by some court.
And sadly, that misinformation has seeped into the ‘left’ – and not just those who see totalitarianism and its abuses as a price worth paying for some other goal, one that is more important than human suffering and death. It has become rare to hear the left use the enormous power of the UDHR as part of its arguments.
But is it relevant to our discussion onCOVID-19? Consider just one sentence: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control”.
The UDHR is of its time and, while we might make a few amendments, it remains the greatest document of the 20th century. It doesn’t prescribe the means, the ‘how’, that’s up to us. It’s clear that capitalism cannot deliver beyond a certain point, and then only for privileged minorities (which includes people with the time to read and discuss articles like this).
Any ‘solution’ or development that ignores the principles of the UDHR will not be beneficial overall.
This essay seems to be saying we’re on the right road, it just needs some paving.
I find that ahistorical right down to its inattention to our destruction of our life giving planet.
I don’t say “we’re on the right road”. I say, look for it!
This is by far the best and most comprehensive article I’ve read in a very long while. Pragmatic and yet still hopeful. Thank you Diana Johnstone and CN. Thank you.
Good article! I’ve liked DJ’s work in the past, esp her collaborations with the late Ed Herman, on of my favorite left writers.
I really agree with her critique of the conspiracy theories surrounding the Covid19. It’s just too far out to believe that a government or business would do something like that because it would be SO uncontrollable and so ‘vague’ in its targeting. And the belief that just because a business somewhere gains financially from a certain large-scale world event, that they therefore necessarily CAUSED that event, is seldom true. There’s always going to be a business somewhere that will make a buck (pound/franc/Euro/whatever) on virtually every event, good or bad, because that’s what they focus-on, devote their energies/resources to, and which societies (especially the US) celebrate them for. While some of them no-doubt would LIKE to be able to control world events in their favor, they just aren’t that smart nor that powerful, and there are competing institutions that may even have antithetical goals and can make it virtually impossible to control something as broad in scope as a world-wide event. Hell, look at the problems the UN has, or even the imperialistic US (with our 700+ bases and ~$1 T/yr budget) trying to control regional events (be they good or bad).
“they just aren’t that smart nor that powerful, and there are competing institutions that may even have antithetical goals and can make it virtually impossible to control something as broad in scope as a world-wide event.”
Although not deemed by some to be plausible belief – that is a good thumbnail of some ongoing lateral processes.
To perceive within the binary smart/not smart, even if inferred, detracts from your illumination.
Smart/not smart is a comparative and comparatives are points within a linear spectrum of “smartness”, which within some social relations has a significant assay of good-suit-polished-shoes-good-teeth-nice-smileness; for example compare and contrast Mr. Bolsonaro, Mr. Guido, and Mr. Obama.
Some are drawn to a saying that you can’t compare apples and pears, when you can, if the linear spectrum is one of fruit and their characteristics.
Omniscience is never an option for reasons including, but not restricted to, those that you outline.
“Knowledge” is lateral process of transcendence and consequently “differences” are qualitative not quantitative, although one aspect of hiding in open sight is facilitated by that belief that qualitative change is quantitative, whilst the opponents tend to rely on the belief that quantitative change is qualitative – the sleight of hand of “reform”.
Hence some think themselves to be ignorant collegial practitioners using doubt as catalyst since control/”full spectrum dominance” is neither attainable nor desireable, where as some believe they are “smart” and hope that control/”full spectrum dominance” is achievable/conceivable since their roles and social relations are predicated upon and facilitated by that hope, including the hope that others share their belief – like the US dollar for example.
“can make it virtually impossible”
The word virtual is very malleable facilitating “virtual reality” for example.
The resort of some to “virtual reality” facilitates opportunities for others to affect “reality” with the complicity of those immersed in “virtual reality”, to which some of some react by increasing and widening their resort to “virtual reality” – some practitioners refer to this process as revolutions around a fixed point.
I agree with much of this article, but I do question our COVID-19 response.
There’s no vaccine for COVID-19, and there isn’t likely to be a vaccine any time soon.
COVID-19 is spreading in both hemispheres. Tom Hanks caught it in Australia during the summer. The virus has spread to all 50 states and it’s in more than 200 countries. It’s here to stay.
Telling everybody to stay at home would be a rational response if this were something we could wait out, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.
The only way the pandemic will end is for the public to gain immunity to the virus. There are only two ways to gain immunity to a virus and that’s to get vaccinated against, or infected by, the virus.
Since there’s no vaccine, the only way the pandemic will end is for enough people to get infected by the virus that it can’t spread anymore and that means we have to let people catch the virus.
We don’t have to let everyone catch it at once, but we do have to expose people to it so they can gain immunity. Perhaps a phased lifting of the lock down orders, with lock downs lifted last for high risk individuals, so that we minimize the loss of life and don’t overwhelm the healthcare system all at once.
But asking people to spend at least the next year and a half sequestered in their homes while we wait for a vaccine just isn’t practical. We’ll ruin the economy, and then we won’t have the resources we need to do anything when this is all over.
It’s not about getting immunity, but about slowing the spread rate so healthcare systems aren’t be overwhelmed.
One would expect everybody to understand this already by this time…
This is one of your best Diana. The multi-polar world is on the way. Not least because mammon laid a dinosaur sized egg in 2008. There was a bail-out but not a recovery.
The people of the European countries want the mixed economies they had before Margaret Thatcher and before the EU went over to the financial oligarchs. People in the US are ready for the same. The one-size-fits-all of finance works only for finance.
China and East Asia’s superior response to COVID-19 shows that capitalism’s slow, grudging response has been simply to moon the people of the US and Europe.
Single Payer Health care (MFA) is now a must. And “Never Again” legislation that puts a 2 month supply of protective equipment in the hands of medical people. If militiamen “keep” rifles at home, medical personal must keep personal protective equipment at home in case pinch penny capitalists keep production outsourced. The next virus may be more deadly. Never again should Doctors, Nurses and hospital workers and their families be put at risk because of ideological budget cuts.
The democrats have proposed giving medical personal and grocery clerks hazardous duty pay. If anyone ever deserved hazardous pay they certainly do.
The author asks, to what end would a robust Mammon seek to lockdown all mankind when mankind is already sufficiently subdued?
It embarrasses me to remind her that Mammon’s lust for “more” (profits, wealth, power, control) is patently and demonstrably insatiable on par with the most hopelessly addicteds’ lust for another fix, regardless the risks and the costs. It is the very nature of the beast.
Thus, it is, quite simply, to that end which Mammon would elect not to be satisfied with the status quo – however sufficient it might appear to us non-addicts – but to pursue yet other ways to extract ever more juice, ever more efficiently, from his prey.
Likewise, it embarrasses me to point out that her attempts to identify The Powers That Be in personages such as Mike Pompeo and even Bill Gates fall risibly short of the far more apt mark. Instead, she should be citing those to whom such human “fronts” are answerable and to those above them, still.
Finally, it sorrows me to have to remind her that power recognizes and responds only to power, not to arguments raised by those subservient to it, however articulate, well constructed and articulate said arguments might be.
Therefore it ought come as no surprise to this article’s readers that its gauzily-promoted solution is as facile as its purported “analysis.”
These are times requiring the clearest of clear eyes, not those that would see the tunnel’s rapidly approaching light as a serendipitous opportunity to check our watches once that light is close enough.
Apologies for my (in)articulate redundancy, above.
Anecdotal evidence carries no weight. I realize this. Nevertheless, I can state categorically that in my particular case The Lockdown has increased rather than decreased my risk vis-a-vis COVID-19. Because of my age and certain cardiovascular concerns, I’m just on the cusp of the “vulnerable” demographic. Consequently, every year during flu season I “self-isolate” as much as possible – only going out when necessary, never dining out, avoiding large gatherings.
The Lockdown has skewed that. Because people have been driven to a frenzy of panic and are hoarding en masse, I must go to the store more, not less, frequently – where I am exposed to more, not fewer, other people. In a word, my normal sensible routine has become fraught with hidden dangers I never had to worry about before. In the past, I could expect to encounter very few other shoppers; could get what I needed; then return home. Not this season.
“To whom is there any advantage in locking down the population? For the pleasure of telling themselves, “Aha, we’ve got them where we want them, all stuck at home!” Is this intended to suppress popular revolt? What popular revolt? Why repress people who aren’t doing anything that needs to be repressed?”
Absolutely brilliant. As Holmes noticed, the dog didn’t bark. It’s not too late. The system is having trouble staying afloat.
That’s the best article I’ve read all year. Johnstone covers all the bases quite comprehensively. I can’t find anything I really disagree with. Very nicely parsed deep evaluation of the current situation.
But no matter the means and motives of the leadership, this is a superb opportunity for an authoritarian dress rehearsal. They’ll be studying the behavior of the population under this situation for years.
I see this quite differently. What we have is, no matter how you slice it, civilization. Improving it is like asking a 4 legged animal to walk exclusively on 2. It’s not simply our health care system that’s abysmal.
I would go so far as to say civilization is the problem. Aside from wars, slavery, mass genocides, it’s given us engineered health “solutions” like vaccines, a cocktail of who knows what chemicals of which countless people have died or been maimed from. Our natural immune systems have evolved 9ver millions of years. Our processed foods, toxinated fertilizers, polluted air and water have weakened us to dysfunction, mentally and physically.
Almost all of our problems we created intentionally or not with our technologies, technologies in some cases to solve problems only to produce greater problems.
Homo sapiens are the most invasive species on the planet; a walking, talking pandemic. And much of this is due to our determination to conquer all of nature, our natural home through civilization.
Xlnt! Yes, from a higher level of view, we ARE the cancer, the invasive cell.
Very interesting article. Thanks for posting. I suspect that many aspects of the author’s suggestions rely on a benevolent mixed breed form of government, and I’m not certain that will ever be a possibility. Governments are a form of forced and potentially quite violent control systems of the people. As an old guy, I am quite interested in history, and have seen no situation where any group of people, large or small, has ever said to others ‘please control me with force and violence.’ Now I could have missed such a condition, and if I did, please correct me.
I suspect, however, that many governments may be started by people who ‘may’ want to do the right thing, but most, if not all governments, soon devolve into sociopathic organizations that tend to screw up everything they touch. I suspect that most governments are started up and run by sociopaths who simply want to control others.
“There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters” ? Daniel Webster
For me, this plantation mentality found in all governments is the root of many human problems. Even in the U.S., the original 13 sovereign states operated under a loose confederation for a few years (Articles of Confederation) but was then devolved into a 3-branch centralized ‘constitutional’ form of government in 1787. The Constitution was not written by ‘We the People,’ but were drafted by the 18th century’s elites. No one of the common man in the new states wanted anyone else to rule over them, and they did not ask anyone to rule over them. In fact, even the often praised ‘Bill of Rights’ came as an afterthought to the original Constitution in 1791. And the colonists and pioneers who went west were not going west looking for more government and controls over them – they were seeking individual freedom, liberty, and opportunity. Sadly, when the pioneers hit the Pacific Ocean, that was the wall that stopped the original freedom movement.
Individual mature adults don’t need someone else to control their actions with some government ring through their nose. Mature adults need to be allowed to wander through life seeking their own individual pathways. It is only through the efforts of the individuals that progress is made in life. Groups contribute no positive creative inventions. My point is that humans do not ever need control by others, except perhaps early in life when being raised as children in a family.
My message to the ever growing and increasingly onerous governments worldwide pretty simple – leave us the hell alone. Stop creating crises that you use to increase your controls over us. We don’t want to live as slaves to you or anyone else. Get out of our lives.
Agreed! You can’t blame capitalism when what we have in the U.S. is anything but. What we have is just the historically latest evolution of serfdom. We have a monopoly on printing money by an unelected group of private bankers who operate in criminal collusion with the Federal government to allow politicians to make endless promises and expand their own control. This system is then magnified by the fractional reserve banking system that allows ever increasing debt servitude from the masses. Add on inflation by design to systematically erode the wealth building opportunities for the individual and have the whole corrupt system enforced at gunpoint by the IRS.
Our elected officials serve the special interests of large corporations and the banking cartel. How can you call any of this capitalism? It’s only socialism disguised as capitalism. Give me a monopoly on printing money and I can rule the world too. But, you wouldn’t call me a capitalist.
I appreciate that the author made a serious effort at at analysis of the current state of play. Never-the-less there are things here that I find troubling.
“The power of creatures like that is merely the reflection of the abdication of social responsibility by whole populations whose disinterest in politics has allowed the scum to rise to the top. ”
I question the notion that the scum rises to the top because the populas does not pay enough attention. The scum rise to the top because the system for the past 500 years has selected for the pathology of absolute power. Yes, the people pay no attention which is hardly an accident, but if you want a job At Goldman Sachs you will not get it without showing ruthlessness beyond most people’s imagination.
What is going on now is change on a civilizational scale, this article is replete with half explanations and pop notions of society and is void of any historical perspective.
Platitudes about a “mixed economy” are useless confusions of some difference between “economics” and “politics”
For too long (500 years +/-) the church and wealthy elites have combined to to push propaganda about salvation and morality to be applied everywhere except in “economics” where the ultimate authority is not god but his substitute money.
The deep flaws of Western Civilization which have lead to the butchery and slaughter of hundreds of millions of people over the last 500 years are showing themselves.
The idea that there can be some superficial transition to a “mixed economy” (which means, I guess, that capitalists could still operate and do their best to monopolize markets) is a pipe dream.
An economic system that held sway across Western Europe from the end of the Second World War until the most recent neo-liberal and austerity times (and still exists in parts) is hardly a pipe dream.
The inability of capitalist nation states to preserve social reforms won by previous generations of the working class should make it quite clear where all this reformism ultimately leads. While the working class was able to force major concessions in the New Deal era, the capitalists waited patiently until they were in a stronger position. When they were ready (the dawn of neoliberalism), they systematically began dismantling all the major social welfare policies won by workers in the 30s and 40s. They did such a good job of it, that by the early 2000s Warren Buffet was bragging that there was indeed a class war and that his class (the ruling capitalists) was winning.
The “pipe dream,” assuming I understand the OP correctly, is that we will be able to reform capitalism without addressing the feature of capitalism that gives rise to antagonistic economic classes: private ownership of the means of production. Without addressing that problem, capital will continue to accumulate within the ruling class. They will use this capital to buy the government and spread propaganda for wars and austerity. This is precisely what happened in the age of neoliberalism. It may happen again if the working class is not armed with a clear historical perspective.
I would add to the article about the spectrum of all economic systems. On the left extreme should be the planned economy and all public ownership and right extreme should be the market capitalism with all private ownership. So a mixed economy will be in-between of the two extremes. What I find that China adopted market system so that it increased the incentives of individuals who want to improve their economic lot. However, the failures of market system such as increased disparity of income and wealth, externalities such as pollutions, predatory monopoly, shortness of provision of public goods should be corrected by an uncorrupted government which should use science, rules and laws to correct the system flaws. How can a government be uncorrupted, it has to be removed from special interests groups, it should have its monitoring system, it should also establish its moral standard backed up by a good, impartial legal system. What China did has been not really to suppress the incentives of people to get rich, rather to encourage the capable to follow the “moral” ways to get wealth and to help the incapables (the poors) to become capable and well off again. The “moral” ways are complicated, for example, to develop an economy which is sustainable, China is actively pursuing the green revolution by concrete steps and strict implementations which would result a lot of conflicts between individuals and the government. In such cases, the government will go out of their ways to resolve the problems by helping individual enterprises to change their locations and change their practices or if nothing works, shut down completely. The CCP’s ethos is to serve the people and to make people’s live better, correct mistakes, by leaning from its past and learn from outside and create new ways of doing things. So far, it is very successful in governing its country and will continue its progressive path. The day it stops learning, creating, and serving its people, it will be the start of its down fall. The identity politics in the West, like the author pointed out, is an old scheme, divide and conquer, and served as a diversion, “take peoples eyes off the balls”. The US government system is cluttered with the special interests groups, it is not functioning with its supposed goal of off the people, by the people, and for the people.
“in a crisis some will take advantage of disaster”
And that’s all it takes, especially if those ‘some’ have their hands on the levers of power.
Mammon is a straw man, and in whatever form he does exist, he is psychotic.
Accidents happen, in the face of which all may be helpless.
Something nefarious is going on in all those Level 4 bioweapons labs.
What comes out of all this remains to be seen.
Not a communist nor authoritian but believe in having a balanced society with a mix of capitalism and socialism, a bit like Sweden with concern for community and the individual. Australia is heading that way with its national health scheme Medicare, basic wage and welfare system but there needs to be a strong, federal government managing the unified states. At present too much mismanagement and confusion as shown here and in the US.
While the Chinese did a remarkably quick job of identifying and sequencing the coronavirus responsible (showing the power of molecular biology techniques), there is still so much we do not understand. The mild or asymptomatic responses observed in children and in some populations (nicely summarized in CEBM’s “COVID-19: What proportion are asymptomatic?”) suggest that genetic or perhaps previous viral exposures may be important in who lives and who dies (not just old males). When you have populations where 80% are relatively unaffected by the virus, you are going to get conspiracy theories. Lockdowns are critical only for those susceptible. Identifying the most vulnerable (again, beyond just the aged) is critical for protecting them.
The recent infection of the USS Theodore Roosevelt should, unfortunately, provide a great case study. A ship of about 4800 sailors, packed like sardines, infected by a small number of crew members on March 5-10 leaving Vietnam, has led to over 400 testing positive by PCR (not sure if antibody testing has been carried out to see who were infected a month ago, PCR positive patients is a transient phenomenon.) Maybe the few that get sick (so far one in ICU) can give better ideas as to vulnerability in “healthy” patients.
Great article that gives a little pause to the “theories” out there. Until you stumble onto Gem:atria Eff:ect Ne:ws on youtube, you have merely skimmed the surface of info you have been taught, completely missing the obvious once you learn the system.
Shakespeare said it best. “All the world’s a stage.”
And gem:atria is the key to seeing the directors. You will not be able to unsee this. Grab some popcorn. This might not be a fun rabbit.
Nice try, Funguy. Crazy con:spiracy channel made by statisticians with online degrees.
It reminds me of the proof that Winston Churchill is a carrot. What are those scrolling numbers (headlines?) at the bottom? This is where you end up when you weren’t smart enough to get into Bre:it:bart and Ale:x Jo:nes. Kind of funny but also pretty sad.
If you want to share more film recommendations, I’m on discord at socalbutterfly#7972. I would recognize you under a different name.
While “dominant economic powers” do not design crises for their benefit, they do deliberately cause major risks to others for personal gain. Banks created securitized mortgages to drive up housing prices and mortgage amounts causing the 2008 great recession. Irresponsible cutbacks by rich DemReps on medical research, emergency planning, and stockpiles, and keeping businesses running despite known hazards, dramatically worsened the epidemic in the US and Europe. Those “economic powers” take foolish risks because they know that their bought politicians will grant socialism for the rich at the expense of all others.
Those “economic powers” are also the reason that the US wages war against socialist democracies to perpetuate the “rule of finance approved by manipulated elections.”
I have found few who believe that “free enterprise” is the only way, but many who know that they must say that for career gains, because “economic powers” control mass media and elections, and thereby all branches of federal and state government. So the only way to enlighten the US people, that they can build a mixed economy where “the welfare of the people comes first” is to destroy economic control of mass media and elections. Because those are the tools of democracy, that cannot be done by democratic means.
It is unfortunate that the virus does not selectively take out the rich, but perhaps the poor will bring it to them.
Culling the weak in the form of ageism was most definitely not invented by the eugenics movement nor the Nazis. Right or wrong, it is even innate in some species of animal.
That bit seems a bit tone deaf when you consider that it is voluntary as well, while involuntary psychiatric confinement and subsequent abuse without any real form of due process is far closer to the mindset and practices of that era, yet it has “blossomed” (more fungus than flower, I’d say) ever since.
thank you- very profound, clear insights and proposed directions. I live in rural central Illinois and I’m not giving up on my neighbors or myself. Step one is always: “know thyself”. We Americans don’t. We (me too) are deluded, probably like the Brits, the Romans, the Spanish, all the peon citizens who sucked off their respective imperial tit and accumulated the addictions and learned the specific deferential behavior to pleas and placate their local alphas. We’re pathetic but we are currently really shaken by the covid shock— it’s a chance to change.
My plans: take more control and pay attention to my food– more wild mushrooms, greens, deer meat, grow more. Interact more with my rural neighbors, trade more, listen to them, draw them out, push my positions, offer help. Walk more. less time online. more and more time in the woods. Organize locally. Washington is less relevant now.
Best comment in my opinion. Organize locally. Dig up lawns and grow food. We are not helpless!
There are many creative people around. A few generations ago people made everything themselves, clothes, shoes, tools, gardens were everywhere. We did not ship in food from far away. Where I grew up nobody had a car nor did we need it. Everything was nearby, and if not,
well, then we walked. The air was clean. What we have now is supposed to be progress?
And we are submitting to brainwashing through the tv. Something definitely went wrong.
Above all, stop making wars. That insanity has got to stop. There is no excuse for tolerating it.
“Every civilized society has some sort of legal system, some basic rules that everyone is expected to follow.”
Yes. You could even take the civilized off and it would still be true. You could even take the words legal system out and it would still be true. The rulers of every society have had rules that the ruled had to follow. Even tribal societies had rulers that set the rules that the tribe had to conform to. If the tribal leader said that they weren’t going to be pagan wiccans anymore, they were going to be Christians, they had to suck it up and obey. The genius of the Magna Carta, the US Constitution, et al is that the proles got to say that the rulers had to also follow rules and not just the rules us unwashed masses had to obey. They got rules that limited what they could do in their capacity of MFWIC.
The thing that no document can do is to find honest people of good will who will apply the rules evenhandedly with, as someone has said, malice toward none and charity towards all. Without that all those words about rules are just so much dust in the wind. And your society, as ours is, will fall apart.
While the writer makes some valid points regarding otherwise reasonable, intelligent or knowledgeable people going full tin-foil hat over COVID-19, she undermines completely her case that this is a very real and increasingly desperate situation. If ever a potentially revolutionary situation was looming, especially in the belly of the beast, it’s now. The righteous fury of the (leaderless) US population very likely will soon explode in numerous ways, some reactionary and others in a revolutionary direction, as money and food run out and when masses of people are evicted thrown onto the streets or into latter-day Hoovervilles.
Strikes against the capitalists, who without compunction are throwing the lives of ‘their’ workers on the scrapheap to revive their profit flows, are becoming more numerous and likely will spread and coalesce into a series of general strikes. Workers seeking to protect their very lives certainly won’t lie down and die for ‘the economy’. Prosaic demands, like ‘Bread’, ‘Shelter’, ‘Healthcare’ will become revolutionary demands. And this much can be guaranteed: no-one will be chanting or carrying a placard reading, ‘For a mixed economy!’ Such ‘moderate rebels’ will be quickly swept aside, more likely ignored, and remain as much a figment as their neocon Syrian prototypes.
While the police baton can quickly teach even the most obtuse and most ‘educated’ about the essence of the state, a virus is teaching whole populations about the essence of the social system they live under — and whom their states and governments really protect. What is being made abundantly clear to all workers is that the whole capitalist class, not just the oligarchs, desperately wants them to return to work or to keep working, safety be damned. In such circumstances of a growing need for a general strike, when one occurs the question of who rules will be posed point blank. It will be the two main contending classes under capitalism in a showdown, and there won’t be much room for ‘moderates’.
It is thus ludicrous to claim: ‘This [situation] requires a wave of reforms equivalent to a revolution, not as prescribed by Marxist revolutionaries to situations that no longer exist.’ Situations meaning ever increasing impoverishment and immiseration? Or mass joblessness and homelessness? Or perhaps no healthcare? Have the periodic crises of capitalism itself disappeared?
The last ‘wave of reforms’ in the US were carried out by FDR to stave off a potentially revolutionary situation. And like all reforms under capitalism they can and will be taken away. They have been, in the US and in most other western countries. And what the hell else has Macron in France been doing? His express mission since assuming power has been nothing less than rolling back the hard-won gains of the French working class. Such reforms serve as a sop and when no longer needed, and more importantly, not effectively defended, they’re taken away.
But back to the question of ‘situation’, here is VI Lenin:
“To the Marxist it is indisputable that a revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; furthermore, it is not every revolutionary situation that leads to revolution. What, generally speaking, are the symptoms of a revolutionary situation? We shall certainly not be mistaken if we indicate the following three major symptoms: (1) when it is impossible for the ruling classes to maintain their rule without any change; when there is a crisis, in one form or another, among the “upper classes”, a crisis in the policy of the ruling class, leading to a fissure through which the discontent and indignation of the oppressed classes burst forth. For a revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for “the lower classes not to want” to live in the old way; it is also necessary that “the upper classes should be unable” to live in the old way; (2) when the suffering and want of the oppressed classes have grown more acute than usual; (3) when, as a consequence of the above causes, there is a considerable increase in the activity of the masses, who uncomplainingly allow themselves to be robbed in “peace time”, but, in turbulent times, are drawn both by all the circumstances of the crisis and by the “upper classes” themselves into independent historical action.”
This situation is really what’s fast approaching, a potentially revolutionary situation, a crisis as severe has any has existed in the US and in most other capitalist countries, one that looks very like that outlined by Lenin above. The rulers will not be able to rule as before and certainly those ruled will not endure being ruled as before.
Again, far from today’s situation being ‘one that no longer exist[s]’, it’s also eerily like that described in Trotsky’s ‘Transitional Program’, written in 1938. In this such prescient document Trotsky outlines a program that addresses all the circumstances wracking most capitalist countries in the 1930s — from mass unemployment to the rise of fascism, from the betrayals of labour leaders to addressing the needs of bankrupted small business and farmers, from the build up for war to the need to organise the economy on a new foundation (all these circumstances exist today) — in such a way as to take today’s ‘prosaic’ demands, reformist working class political consciousness and organisation, and forge these into a struggle for a socialist revolution that expropriates the capitalist class. We need a democratically planned collectivised economy. In today’s conditions of capitalist chaos and anarchy threatening human existence, nothing less will do and we deserve nothing less. ‘Mixed economy’ be damned.
” This is happening on alternative media – especially in Germany. It seems that many anti-conformist political analysts believe that the Coronavirus crisis is a fake, perpetrated by media and governments for sinister reasons. They are actually calling for protest demonstrations against confinement. ”
I suspect it’s no more prevalent in German alt-news than it is in the US and UK. Sources I’ve often relied on in the past , like 21Wire , Corbett Report , Cynthia McKinney and others have totally destroyed my confidence in their ability to perceive reality with their confused , conspiratorial take on this crisis. Not surprisingly , I suppose , the coronavirus deniers also tend to be climate change deniers.
I attribute it mainly to a severe lack of understanding of the hard sciences , and a failure to defer to those who have such understanding when necessary. Failure to acknowledge one’s own weaknesses is the most dangerous weakness of all for those who purport to analyze and interpret the news for the rest of us.
Will governments abuse this crisis to further surveil and enslave their citizens ? No doubt. Expect it and try as best you can to resist. That’s an entirely separate issue from the reality of the physical threat posed by the virus.
corona virus hype deniers.
why are deceptions and lies needed if effects of the virus are all they say?
James Corbett will finally get it when he himself comes down with fever of 103, a dry cough, and suddenly feeling like he can’t breathe. At all. A real blowhard, that one, dressed up in a nasal toned, wiener suit.
Diane says it all.
“I am perfectly aware that the United States today is ideologically light years away from such a sensible project. ” That is a succinct summary of the failed state that calls itself “exceptional”,as Obama bragged. If one searches for one word that does not describe the present US, it is “sensible”.
The so called progressive movement should realize this and take lessons from the Tea Party on tactics-not ideology- and start playing real hardball. No more of this “my good friend Joe Biden”. US politics is a blood sport. Nice guys or girls finish last.
When the current capitalist model is dismantled and the health care sector is no longer run for profit then come and talk to me about sticking a needle in my arm and injecting me or my family with chemicals. Otherwise make sure you bring a SWAT team with you.
Any business that is deemed as a societal need should be nationalised. Power, water, transport, education, communications. No necessity should ever be run for profit. This also includes news media. They control the stories that people are hearing, the public discourse. They are owned by a very small group of people. This is too much control for too few people.
Finally any organisation that is deemed “too big to fail” and classified as too important to be allowed to fail should be nationalised. End of story.
And yet it doesn’t even take a swat team. Your rights don’t exist, at least in America, if a cop wants to do a mental health check on you.
You should be more cautious with bold statements like that or you’ll find out as many others (self included) have.
Bit naive you are. As well as clueless. Every organization doing something has to make some degree of profit if for no other reason than to purchase/whatever new equipment to replace old, worn out equipment or old and obsolete equipment. Actually, anything an accountant would call property, plant, and equipment. You are unclear on the differences between nationalization and controlled companies. For example. Power companies. All controlled by the state – the Public Utilities Commissions in every jurisdiction determines rate hikes. They have veto power. You may not like all their decisions, I sure as hell don’t, but the PUCO isn’t the board of directors of the power company. But if the company was nationalized, then we’d own the company. All it’s losses would be our losses as well as the profits. And we or our surrogates would have to make those decisions. Which is pretty much what happens now.
I’m not going to talk about water. transport, and education but news media is something different. Originally, one organization could only own so many radio/tv stations. That went by the wayside, along with the fairness doctrine that the Republicans hated, all in the name of letting there be a multiplicity of voices on the airwaves. That should be brought back and extended to outlets on the internet. But that’s pretty much the exact opposite of nationalization.
You have the same problem with your mad desire to nationalize “too big to (be allowed to) fail” entities. They are still to big to be allowed to fail regardless of who owns them. The solution there is to break them up, not nationalize them.
Jeff Harrison: Every organization doing something has to make some degree of profit if for no other reason than to purchase/whatever new equipment to replace old, worn out equipment or old and obsolete equipment.
That is not correct. Nationalized, government run organizations need not be and almost always should not be run at a profit. That is a or the basic economic function of government, to run at a “loss”, to run deficits, to create money. If it did not, there could be no monetary production economy, simply because there would be no basic, universally accepted money.
Keynes noted the tendency of beneficial government expenditure and nationalized, socialized organizations to be too efficient. To have only small losses / deficits, to almost “pay for themselves”. Although again, the financial losses are inevitable and beneficial and indeed necessary to society. But Keynesian, rational finance is too “sound” for its own good! So much so that people judge things like nationalized health, power, transport by completely inappropriate and paradoxical “sound business” ideas, instead of looking at the immense real world bang they give for a trivial loss in bucks. Hence a definite bias toward destructive and foolish government expenditure that nobody would ever imagine could be “run at an [inappropriate] profit” like welfare for the rich, the military industrial waste production complex because the people judging hold logically impossible ideas about public finance.
“Every organization doing something has to make some degree of profit if for…”
Do they Jeff. Do they?