Difficult times we live today. Our societies, our achievements, our lives are challenged in a most dramatic manner. The panic fear is spreading over at an unprecedent level, making difficult circumstances worse. In a some weird and surgery precise way, ‘virus’ has addressed and exposed all our vulnerabilities, both individual and collective ones.
I hear many voices screaming this is a well-deserved ‘punishment’ for our bad deeds, for our mistreatment of nature, we see movies and clips with mother planet speaking to its disobedient children, even ‘virus’ is addressing us through social media threatening with eradication of mankind. The others are thinking of a ‘new world’ of tomorrow that is going to be better one because pandemic (like any other disaster) will make us more empathic, more benevolent and enable us to express more trust and solidarity to our fellow beings and our societies.
And while I consider empathy one of brightest human virtues, I’m afraid all of this is far from reality, and we only have a fear speaking loud out of many, making most of us neglecting real nature of humans completely. And the truth is, we are not so ideal beings at all. Homo sapiens is clearly the most terrifying predator in this world, at least the numbers say so. We are killing other species for food, for clothing, for other stuff, sometimes for fun and pleasure, we humans are killing even each other. In a quest for power and supremacy, there were always those among our fellow creatures who were willing to exercise and abuse power to frown down and enslave others. Arrogance is spreading out from our victories over nature.
Unfortunately, this pandemic and economic crisis that is emerging as consequence, are making even more fertile ground for injustices and inequalities of all kinds, from simple access to healthcare to availability of nutrition. Our deeply divided societies could easily become even more so. Yes, wealthiest people could have lost biggest amounts in absolute terms, but those at the bottom of societies are affected by this crisis in a worse way. Differences are emphasized in relative terms, inequalities will only grow and gap is widening. Too many might fall below the levels that ensure personal independence, making them subject to modern slavery and instruments of those privileged. This ‘virus’ favorizes rich and mighty, and in spite of the fact that even some of those privileged could contract and even die from disease reminding them of their human origin, the fact remains that re-distribution of wealth, resources and rights is well underway in favor of higher classes under this circumstances. This ‘virus’ is not making new world a better place, nor creates conditions for it to become, quite opposite.
But, our planet is not so idyllic, peaceful and friendly place for humans either. We seem to forget easily how violent our surroundings might be, how many disasters and dangers nature had served to mankind and other living creatures, from earthquakes, to floods, to fires, to hurricanes, to tsunamis, to poisons, to wild animals, to diseases and infections like this one. And yet, mankind has surpassed it all. In this ever-evolving world man not only survived but it has proved to be most sophisticated living being around. We humans had domesticated our surroundings and our habitats due to extraordinary capabilities we possess.
These days we are attacked by natural forces like so many times in the past, and although it may seem we were not ready, we may equally say that we have never been better prepared to defend ourselves in our history either. The knowledge that mankind has accumulated in medicine, pharma and science in general allow us to act promptly against the threat. As we speak, a numerous leading scientific institutions and laboratories all over the world are working on finding appropriate cure and vaccine against the pest. The genome of the virus has been scanned in details and made available to all relevant institutions in all countries, and it is quite clear that rather sooner than later epidemic will be under control. We haven’t had that opportunity 100 years ago in the era of ‘Spanish flu’, and millions of lives had been lost back then. With a pity and sorrow for every single life lost these days, we are not coming anywhere close to the tragedies of the past.
Real threat to humanity is within us, within societies we have built, within things we consider valuable to reward and praise today, while being aware and afraid that it could not be sustainable. Threat is within our intoxication by fear injected by forces seeking for domination over people. History of mankind is history of human liberation, still our societies today are neither free nor just in many ways. Post ‘Cold-War’ victorious neoliberalism, prevailing economic doctrine of modern times has undermined democracy and left the people and societies unable to control big portions of their lives, as noted by Rudolf Stiglitz recently. The fruits of economic growth went in extremely disproportional manner to the very few at the top, sometimes with ridiculously large amounts contributed to the individuals and companies in industries like sports & entertainment, gaming, etc. (not to mention criminal activities).
Again, we see autocracies knocking our doors, number of countries led by demagogues and populists promising to save nations, people and their lives. If the fear being served extensively through propaganda and misuse of media prevails, if all the phobias we suffer from defeat us, new totalitarian ‘saviours’ might re-emerge to roll the wheel of history back. That is a threat we are facing.
To avoid the path that ultimately led to WWII after similar pandemic catastrophe of the last century, we have to return power to the people, to strengthen up our democracies (and not those interpretations of democracy as dictatorship of majority over minorities – but true democracy with due respect to every single individual). New world society should reinforce deep human values of Enlightenment, those of tolerance, knowledge and freedom, like the ‘Open Society’ advocated by Karl Popper. The society of knowledge, ever-evolving system in which more we learn, more our knowledge improves the system, the society of individual freedoms and rights limited only by the equal rights of other fellow beings, this is our way forward, for human is the only being in this world being capable to learn from its mistakes and correct them to move further. Dangerous forces outside and inside us are ever-present, they will not quit, they will not disappear, but we should stand up and fight for humanity and human values to prevail!
‘Virus’ will not make new world a better place – humanity will!