Is not it strange, after decades of financial terror, when the finance minister dictated what could and could not be done; wasting money to recover from collapse world financial system, pushing wages down and privatizing vital public services – water, electricity, health, transport, etc. – saying that this was the only universal recipe for economic growth, without which none of the social ills would have a solution when a greater evil – a global pandemic – is seen, finance no longer is the priority?
That is to say, the same ones who humiliated Greece, forcing it to renounce its democratic will unequivocally be registered forever in a referendum, now say that they do not want the people to suffer from a virus. Those who made the financial problems casus bellis, who instead of punishing those who benefit and cause financial downfall, protected bank administrations and moneylenders, sacrificing populations, making lies, fake news, part of our daily lives, as in the case of allegedly humanitarian wars against Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, they are now mobilizing to protect the population.
The critical theory states that the health system serves to keep workers in a position to be able to work with the greatest intensity and for as long as possible. The theory of biopolitics says that this desire to work is transmitted to populations in the form of incorporation: it is the people themselves who want to be subject to labor discipline, they want to sacrifice themselves for the good of society and to feed their families.
These theories are contradicted by the current facts. The initiative to stop production came from one of the most authoritarian states in the world, at the height of a global competition for imperial hegemony. This happens when stock exchanges live the same fall, or greater, than the crises of 1929 and 2008. Many workers were forced to be out of work, quarantined at home, to avoid the effects of a pandemic which, if effectively avoided, can to raise suspicions about who directed this global operation, the World Health Organization: what is the share of interest of the pharmaceutical companies produced by all this alarm, one ask on social media?
Therefore, politicians allegedly bent by economic interests, this time (in fact, again), decided in favor of the people. What changed their minds? Perhaps the question should be asked in another way: what did change our minds? What is changing our minds?
There are those who see this sudden change in political attitude as an opportunity to review the policies in force in recent decades. We live times changing events, given the socially and ecologically disastrous results of globalization, which neither the United States nor Britain now wants for themselves. This is an opportunity for Democrats to design new anti-authoritarian policies, in two senses: against the rising Nazi-fascist proposals in the electorate and against the policies of the single discourse that have alienated Politics from popular interests.
The government tries to assure that companies and workers harmed by this forced stoppage of production have sufficient income to keep society functioning, that is, so that people can maintain a level of care appropriate to their survival. Once the pandemic is over, the minimum conditions of functioning and availability of public health and education services should be restored so that these institutions develop resilience and protective capabilities into people regarding high-risk situations, as is the case for this disease.
In view of these governmental suggestions, made possible by the new political situation, we can imagine, soon, two scenarios. One is a return to financial grayness to complain that we sacrifice ourselves to work to pay the debts of others. Another scenario is to come out of this revitalized and open to transformations that aim protective capabilities at all levels of existential experience that has been denied in recent decades.
The difference between the two scenarios is that in the first one, after the storm, we will look again at the past – Nazi-fascism for some, welfare state for others – as a mental model of what can be expected of the future. In the second scenario, hope would break out in our lives, inspired by the hundreds or thousands of health workers who, after decades of professional humiliation, did not negotiate before offering to help indiscriminately in caring for the populations, at an emergence situation.
If from this pandemic emergence results in a learning process about how to think with an open mind and imagination about future alternatives, to learn how to be happier, it will deliver shared hope in our lives. What, until recently, seemed like an anecdote, can become a practice of transformative social solidarity. The citizen income, for instance, can assure to each, and everyone, that one will not suffer from misery, even if they do not work. It will be (if it is a democratic decision and not a joke to explore poor people) a way to help the companies and workers who will suffer from the situation. Remember the thousands of small businesses and workers, as in tourism, that no longer work for several months, while the pandemic lasts. The citizen income – if it is politically decided in a democratic process, instead of imposed – will also be a way of making everyone’s life a freer life. Statistics show that more than half of the country increased now by those who will live in poverty from now on, does not participate in any civic activity, largely due to lack of resources and to be convinced that their existence or action is irrelevant to influence the course of events and the action of those who govern us.
The declared war should be about containing the pandemic of competition at the highest social levels, where healthy meritocracy, which never existed, can be replaced, by unconditional solidarity, without paternalism or discrimination, nor social or police controls (which are the egg of the Nazi-fascist serpent).
Such a political situation, which would give a new priority to the care of the population, without stigmatization or blackmail (“who doesn’t work doesn’t eat”?), using the current situation of alarm, would have profound social and economic consequences. Instead of fear of change, the rationale is to accept the risks of taking care of each other. Perhaps there is also some resilience to future pandemics, which we were unable to develop this time.