In just two weeks the world has been educated as to the incompatibility of free market neoliberal nostrums and the political and geopolitical order they support with the needs of humanity and the planet. On a national and international level coronavirus is ravaging not only the lives of its victims and those affected by its social and economic consequences, it has taken a bludgeon to a status quo that is now lies broken and blooded on the ground.
To watch Donald Trump and Boris Johnson address their respective nations to update them on the pandemic’s impact and their response is to watch yesterday’s men spouting yesterday’s solutions to the problems of today and tomorrow.
The diseased mind of Trump is now on full display as he heckles the press on a regular basis for daring to ask pertinent questions about his administration’s handling of the pandemic at a time when the body count in the US is rising exponentially. Millions without healthcare, countless thousands who have and who face losing their jobs and reduced to destitution, and Trump continues to debase himself and his office with press conferences at which lying and dissembling, buttressed by the shameless self-promotion of a man for whom the word narcissist could have been written, have been elevated to performance art.
As for Boris Johnson and his government in the UK, the British public have been awoken to the devastation wrought by years of systematic and chronic underfunding of the National Health Service. This in service to the long and cherished desire of the country’s Tory establishment to destroy the NHS as a public service free at the point of need and in its place roll out private health care across the country as a privilege of wealth. The fact that NHS doctors and nurses are now risking their lives just by going to work due to the lack of personal protection equipment is a national scandal, as is the failure to as yet introduce universal basic income as part of the package of measure required to place an economic floor under this crisis.
As I wrote on this platform recently, in dealing with coronavirus Johnson has from the outset been faced with a choice between acting in the interests of his class or in the interests of his country. Thus far he is doing neither, resulting in a lop sided response which is chaotic at best and negligent at worst.
Geopolitically, meanwhile, we find that coronavirus has to all intents midwifed into being a new multipolar reality wherein Washington is no longer the master of all it surveys; the bluster of the usual propagandists to the contrary notwithstanding. While the US delivers sanctions to a pandemic-afflicted world, Russia, China and Cuba have been delivering aid. And in this respect the irony of ironies is that Russia, while itself under US sanctions, has even begun delivering medical aid to same, recently flying in a cargo aircraft of protection equipment to JFK in New York, a city whose suffering mirrors that of Tehran at present.
Just two weeks into a global pandemic and we are left in no doubt that societies and countries cannot and should not be run along the same principles as a business, that there is such a thing as society, and that in the peerless wisdom of Edward R Murrow ‘a nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves’.
The very migrant doctors, nurses and medical professionals who were demonised and despised in the cause of Brexit are now saving lives while risking their own in a land that doesn’t deserve them and which should be on its knees thanking them. Over the Atlantic has come aid from Russia to a country whose missiles are pointing in the opposite direction. International solidarity and co-operation, we are learning by the day, cannot co-exist with global hegemony and domination. It is either one or the other.
Ironically, given the chaos which coronavirus has wrought in America itself — where free market neoliberal mania has left millions of Americans naked and vulnerable as the virus surges through the country at warp speed — the American people themselves can no longer afford this hegemonic beast and its brute values of purifying the poor and weak with pain and rewarding the rich and powerful with more.
As the virus continues to wreak havoc on its victims, it is also wreaking havoc on an old world whose time has passed and which now must give way to the new, else we are confronted by encroaching ecological and planetary ruin.
‘Strength and violence are lonely Gods’, Camus argues, and for too long they have been the gods at whose feet a suffering world has been forced to worship. Let it be resolved that by the time we emerge from this pandemic those same gods are among its already far too many victims.