CoVid, Conspiracy, Confusion
Finally, there’s a vaccine. What a relief — my routine-filled everyday life can resume its normal linear predictability amidst an ever-escalating social crisis, a widening rift between rich and poor, astonishing levels of distrust in public institutions and the strangulation of our atmosphere.
I’d almost forgotten the old ‘normal’.
But how privileged of me to hail this return to one year ago, when we had no idea. Self-isolation, bubbles, lockdowns, facemasks, social distancing, working from home… New concepts. Sometimes quite pleasant ones for those with a bit of money and a family. For others…. the negation of life itself.
It’s thrown us all into confusion — ‘it must be a hoax!’ some exclaimed, demanding ‘freedom’ and seeing all CoVid restrictions as the evil machinations of an unseen, predatory elite, hell-bent on seizing absolute control and destroying both democracy and its middle-class backbone.
‘Governments must act more decisively!’ others shouted, considering the hesitations of their regimes to implement a full lockdown as evidence that the capitalist machine of exploitation and profit-making would tolerate no obstacles.
Both sides distrust authority. And who can really be surprised?
Somewhere between Co and Vid, we learned how $427 billion was siphoned offshore — money which would otherwise have been paid in taxes. That’s a nurse’s salary per second, which the super wealthy want to hide from the rest of us. Whilst we were clapping our healthcare workers, this machinery of organized theft kept running. Meanwhile, our governments won’t increase nurses’ pay. It would be funny, if not so tragic.
And now we desperately cling to the vaccine, the magic potion, which can solve all our problems. In the meantime, will we keep having the conversation about what kind of world we really want??!! Will we address the underlying decay, the rot, eating away the base. 2020 was another year of massive wealth redistribution. Whilst so many of us have lost our livelihoods, begging our governments to blow down some additional crumbs off the table, the super-rich have gotten wealthier. Those who deal in individuality (Netflix, Amazon, Zoom, Microsoft, Facebook, WhatsApp etc.) have flourished — the so-called merchants of loneliness have become the new leaders of this brave new world. It is through them, we can still feel together. They mediate our relationship with our fellow human beings.
Our desire to be connected has been commodified.
How vulnerable we have all felt. Slowly, ever so gradually, existential fear crept into our lives. The pandemic brought so much to light. It took away whatever was left of our faith in progress and the institutions which rule us.
It’s too much to bear. First they tell us our planet is dying, then human contact has to cease — imposed by decree. The elites, who have been gnawing at the foundations of solidarity since the early 1980s, are now telling us to stay at home to show some solidarity. Our elderly were already quite lonely. In fact, years of cutbacks to the NHS and the increasing privatization of care homes had introduced us to a new societal disease called loneliness, an epidemic already contributing to mortality rates across the Western world.
Was our pandemic not foreshadowed by multiple crises? Does the plague not affect those who are already frail?
In a frightened, hollowed out society, charlatans take center stage. Clowns who flout fairy tales are elevated to positions of power. Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian: “Trump was only the most garish example of a pattern that became identifiable across the globe. The populist loudmouths, the braggarts whose stock in trade was railing against the experts, imagining themselves to be free of the laws of factual reality, fared badly against a threat as real as a virus, a menace that could not be talked away with a rally, an insult or a joke (…) Johnson’s administration was built on slogans and myths, rhetoric and promises, prizing chummy loyalty over the hard graft of good governance (…) Johnson and his team handled the crisis with an ineptitude stunning in its consistency.”
And was it not interesting to watch the American election saga? Trump’s single-minded narcissism and lack of interest was seen by some as the man’s unique insight into a worldwide conspiracy of elites conspiring against their populations. So overwhelming had our world become that many were willing to cling to the gentle anesthetic of the comforting lie: there is no climate change, there is no virus; THEY are going after your way of life… “It’s a fraud!” they shouted and the seed they planted fell in fertile soil. If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it…. (check out who that quote is from)
But now the magic vaccine is here. The vaccine to end all vaccines. But is the vaccine not partially stillborn? I hail its appearance and I’d like to see its production as a triumph of science, human ingenuity in the face of crisis, proof of our fighting power and all the rest of it, but there’s much to distrust — even if there isn’t. For one, I don’t possess the medical knowledge to question this vaccine. Instead, I rely on medical journals, like the Lancet and others. In spite of what many people think, CoVid research has been taking place for years, as this virus is simply a variation of earlier viruses. Of course I share concerns about big multinational companies profiting from this process. Public health should never be a commodity. And companies like Pfizer are just as ruthless as big oil companies — they will let nothing stand in their way, not even human casualties.
Why is our vaccine not nationalized? We have let big, powerful companies infiltrate the most vital sectors of our society and we are paying the price. Pfizer is set to make about $13 billion in profits from its current role in developing the vaccine. I understand why many people distrust this process. It is outrageous. Rich countries have of course jumped straight in, depriving some of the poorer countries of access to the vaccine, highlighting the fractures of our world in yet another way.
We are therefore privileged to have access to protection. Our frail, ageing societies have been thrown a lifeline. From the devil, indeed, but nonetheless.
Yet many people will not take it. They draw the line at putting something into their body. It seems strange. Many of them vent their opposition on social media. Is Facebook not an predatory multinational? Most of them quite routinely use their Apple devices. Are they an ethical company? Is it healthy to stare at screens for hours a day? I can go on and on. All of us are compromised. In so many different ways. But can we remain reasonable?
It seems many of us cannot. Our lives have been destroyed. We have lost our businesses, livelihoods and perspectives. Our concerns are not really listened to. Who will compensate for our losses? Is it our governments? I imagine that somewhere in the obscure corners of our government buildings, evil plots are being hatched. When have our elites ever let a good crisis go to waste? Frightened populations are like gold-dust for those who crave power. The foundations are there for a strengthening of executive powers — a slippery slope towards dictatorship. But the underlying reasoning for this goes far beyond CoVid, the vaccinations, restrictions and lock-downs. Liberals are quick to reject the anger of the downtrodden, but the late Howard Zinn once put it rather beautifully: “The cry of the poor is not always just, but if you do not listen to it, you will never know what justice is.”