[ View menu ]

The New Virus Shows What Can Be Done… And What Isn’t

There are some good things generated by the crisis caused by the spread of the new coronavirus, proving that some things can be done after all. We’re seeing that working and studying can be done from home in a lot of cases. We’re seeing that traveling, and perhaps flying in particular, can be severely restricted, and that many can choose to avoid it even without being forced. We’re seeing that some goods can be rationed to ensure that the needs of as many people as possible can be met. We’re seeing that people can grasp and respect the concept of personal space even in public places. We’re seeing that wild animal markets can be closed and banned. We’re seeing that we can do without many existing businesses, in particular those having to do with tourism, restaurants, clubs and so on, and much of the service industry in general. We’re seeing that even production can be restricted or even stopped, because many branches aren’t actually necessary. We’re seeing that a state of emergency can be declared and strict regulations can be enforced when people recognize that a crisis exists. We’re seeing that money, personnel and other resources can be found, redirected or, if necessary, even created, in order to be used to solve a crisis. We’re seeing that health care must be a right, provided and guaranteed by the state. We’re seeing that the state can take back the power from the private sector, even requisitioning what’s needed. We’re seeing that continuing the current economic model can stop being the top priority and measures that harm it can be taken when something more important is at stake.
There are problems, of course, a huge one being the fact that measures to support the economy, or more specifically the current economic model, are nevertheless also taken, taking away massive amounts of resources that would be needed elsewhere and wasting this extraordinary opportunity to dismantle this system and replace it with one that would no longer destroy the planet and the people. And the masses do more than their share in that direction as well, with all the panic buying. That’s entirely expected, of course, seeing as the vast majority of people aren’t actually rational even at the best of times, and a crisis makes it much worse, since the herd mentality is at work and people panic easily, and the vast majority simply can’t think anymore in such a situation. But the specific problem here is that people have reduced themselves to mere consumers, and have been encouraged and pressured to do so, no longer thinking about what they can actually do, nor about what they should have the right to receive, and feeling most threatened when they perceive a risk of losing some of the freedom to buy whatever, whenever and as much as they want… Or at least can afford, because arbitrary restrictions imposed by individual wealth still seem to be seen as normal, while the common reaction to actual restrictions and guidelines that make sense, that are necessary and justified, is rejection.
Nevertheless, we’re seeing that some people can rise to such a challenge, and do what’s right. Of course, we’re also seeing that many won’t unless forced, and that they’ll try to avoid, hide or directly refuse to follow necessary rules, not to mention recommendations. But we’re also seeing that they can be forced, albeit with various degrees of success, depending on how harsh the authorities are willing to be. And I’d say that’s the main thing to take away, the fact that, if we are to get something done, we must do whatever it takes for it, use whatever methods work, focusing solely on the goal. Italy is in the situation it’s in because they were reluctant to take the necessary measures right away, and because Italians are used to find their way around restrictions and the authorities are used to turn a blind eye plenty of times, while China, once they realized that the problem was serious enough and stopped trying to sweep it under the rug, actually obtained excellent results by enforcing the measures by any means necessary, cutting through any bureaucracy and the squeamishness that prevents the Western world from doing something similar. There is also South Korea, of course, and that may be the best example, the excellent results being produced by a mix of advanced technology, enforced regulations and citizens that are used to follow rules and take responsibility for their actions and their effects on others. But the bottom line is that, when something needs to be done right away, you get it done right away, whatever it takes.
If only we’d also do this for the bigger, long-term crises. After all, the new coronavirus may be with us for a few years, and even if it’ll end up infecting the majority of the population, completely overwhelm the medical systems and cause hundreds of millions of deaths, it’s a short-term problem that will go away on its own relatively quickly, as most people will become immune to it, one way or another. That’s nothing compared to the environmental crisis we’re in, of which the climate crisis is but a small part, and it’s also nothing compared to some of the major social problems, including poverty, corporate power or marginalization. Those are problems that we ourselves create, maintain and worsen, continuing to do so despite knowing that we’re doing it and also knowing how to stop, and having the means to do so. We didn’t know about this new virus before it appeared, we didn’t create it, and at the moment we don’t have the means to stop it, there’s no cure and no vaccine, but we’ve known about the environmental damage we’re causing for at least several decades, and about the social problems pretty much since the advent of civilization, and we now have the means to solve them. We have the knowledge, the level of development, the technology, the communications, we have everything we need except the will… And perhaps the belief that it can be done, that those drastic but absolutely necessary measures can actually be enforced, in practice.
The current situation should show us that, with sufficient determination and lack of squeamishness, what needs to be done can be done… Unfortunately, I fear it will have the opposite effect. I fear that all resources will be directed towards solving this short-term crisis and maintaining the current social, economic and even political systems, so they’ll survive it without drastic changes. I fear that this will slow or even halt the progress towards something new, better and necessary. I fear that people will emerge from this crisis with a renewed aversion towards restrictions and regulations, however justified they may be, and adamantly demand to maintain their unfettered freedom to act and consume according to their own free will in the future. Regardless of how this particular crisis will, in itself, play out, I fear that humans will do what humans have always done, focus on the short term and the small scale, regardless of the long-term, large-scale consequences… But, of course: “There’s always hope. At least that’s what I tell myself when I awaken in the middle of the night and the only sound I can hear is the beating of my own desperate heart.”


No comments

RSS feed Comments | TrackBack URI

Write Comment

Note: Any comments that are not in English will be immediately deleted.

XHTML: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>