At war with a virus: a reflection

It is not a cartoon series for children: it is our personal and family life that is at stake, for the very first time shared by all humanity. This is one of the results of globalization: the global pandemic, along with the precipitous fall of stock markets and, therefore, alongside the strategic need to rethink (again) how to avoid the global catastrophe induced by the (postponable?) Bankruptcy of the globalized financial system.
The social sciences, with politicians and academics at the head, pretend not to know what everybody knew. They proceed as if we are living (once more) unexpected break-in modern life, which promises, and continues to promise better lives with the growth of the economy, but does not deliver – at least for most people, whose living conditions worsen, in practice.

When the network of global governments, including the respective education and health subsystems, at the level of global, European, and national governance, fail to prevent an announced pandemic and let us drag on to the fear of dying as if that were a consequence of our personal responsibility to wash our hands with sufficient intensity is not just a time of humanitarian solidarity: it is time to change this humanity. The social sciences cannot say that they have nothing to do with it. The social sciences, contrary to what they suggest, are co-responsible for what is going on, for two kinds of reasons. The first is that social sciences transport, infect and contaminate modern societies with concepts that serve to conceal the responsibilities of states, including the social sciences themselves, in our life experiences. The second kind of reasons is more evident and is a corollary of the first: in recent decades it has been the science of finance, a subdiscipline of the social sciences queen discipline, what served as a guide for the wrong politics that have made humanity replicate, now the at the global level, the nationalist ideological and political environment that made World War II disgusting.

The teaching of the social sciences takes no responsibility from the actions of its students and of themselves. That includes making irrelevant the social value of the cognitive and public contribution of universities to what goes on in societies. Social science universities train professionals to serve their bosses, usually the states, without getting involved in important decisions, as political decisions. Although, of course, universities, like any other institution, are run by partisan people and orientations, they do complain about professors who teach that science, especially the social sciences, must not mix and can be separated from politics and the kind of thought that guides the states.

In the same movement, students are taught that the best reward that can happen to a social worker or a social researcher is to see their recommendations received by their political leaders. That is, there is a very clear notion of what the purpose of the social sciences is, in its current version: serving the elites. This means, in practice, epistemological attention practically exclusive to the analysis of power, of the processes that can, one day, reward the work of each one with the superior adoption of some idea.

The damage to this state of affairs is immeasurable. In particular, violence against the populations goes beyond any systematic scrutiny by the social sciences, under the pretext of such an assessment being made by the police and military sciences. Violence, for this purpose, is imagined to come from outside of the societies, to be anti-social, to be, like viruses, part of the hostile nature.

Violence can be defined as “reduction to the body” (Jan Philipp Reemtsma, Confiance et Violence – Essai sur a configuration particulière de la modernité (1st ed. 2008). Paris: Gallimard, 2011: 111-115). In this case, violence comes directly into contact with nature, through the body of each person who experiences violence. This definition breaks the boundary between society and nature. Violence, instead of being rare, instead of just being banal in time of war, will, after all, be a banal event, good or bad, every day and at all times. It will be one of the two possible movements of bodies: expansion from the existence of one or more bodies (growth, projection, communication) and reduction of people to their bodies (withdrawal, stop or strong conditioning of free action, censorship).
Quarantine or recommendations, even if peaceful, to stay at home, as in a state of siege, as in an emergency, is violence. The fact that such violence is being benign to protect us from the virus, should not deceive us: it is violence. Contrary to what the social sciences and universities suggest, it is not a matter of state: it is a case of survival and dignity for each and every one.

Power struggles, particularly at the imperial level, are at stake in this global pandemic. One should consider this if one wants to understand the nationalist appeal of the states, closing borders, and calling on nationals to return and foreigners to leave. In addition to the democracies’ official recognition of the value of the so-called populism to the ambitions of the elites, it means taking stock from each state to face the struggles elites engender on the red carpet and closed offices, now occupied with teleconferences.

At stake is how health care services will develop forward. For the moment, with the information we have, it is business as usual: speculative health products and services prices and exhaustion of health care professionals, without a counterpart regarding unions´ claim of the last months. For those who are still less fortunate, it is either unemployment or exhaustion of income sources, many of them clandestine, which do not have any use as a basis for claiming state aid. Once again, those employes, whatever are their work conditions, should feel privileged for having what they can get and shut up. Within the state of emergency, none has the chance to say, unless one wants to join the situation and those who deliver state violence.

To say that democracy is to vote every 4-5 years, at this point, is obviously a sham. In defense of this censoring democracy – resulting from giving up political alternatives, which reduce parliament and political parties to the idea of infinite economic growth, finally denied by the force of nature – no one was strong enough to protest against the state of emergency. So what will democracy be? Who is available to discuss and advance ideas on how people can stop being kidnapped by irresponsible states, caught like careless children by the need for a health check on their people?

To acquire a new capacity to take care of us, our families and friends, our cities and the planet, we have to become aware of how we are educated. As researchers and social workers, even if only as professionals, we collaborate with extreme and prolonged violations organized by state policies, framed by imperial games. We induce and disclose false ideas learned in manuals, which we do not even believe in, but which we repeat and execute as societies´ caring professionals and managers that we are not and do not want to be.


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