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The Covid-19 pandemic: avoidable or unavoidable?

As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to spread, there is not only disagreement about the best strategy to fight the Corona virus but also about its deeper cause. Some regard the virus as a case of bad luck or an unavoidable historical event – just like the plague and the Spanish flue in the past. Under that scenario, all we can do is prepare and set up the necessary collaborations and infrastructure to best deal with the calamity – as Bill Gates seemed to suggest in a Ted talk a few years ago against the backdrop of the Ebola outbreak in Africa.

A different explanation suggests that Covid-19 is not just part of a historical cycle of pandemics, but is in fact the avoidable result of how the world is currently organized. Thus, the book ''Big Farms Make Big Flu'' tracks the ways influenza and other pathogens emerge from an agriculture controlled by multinational corporations” and essentially argues that what is at the root of the problem is the way our food is produced and distributed. From that perspective, the virus is an inherent part of our current world order – although admittedly in an extreme form – and not “foreign” to the system, as suggested by President Trump, or simply a bump in the road after which we can go back to business as usual.

The measures that have now been enacted in several countries are, by a curious twist of fate, exactly those that have been advocated by climate activists: a reduction of international movement and traffic, shorter working hours and less exploitation of natural resources. While the need for change has been felt for a long time, the status quo prevailed under the TINA doctrine – “There Is No Alternative”. For example, questions regarding how and where to work were not addressed because the fundamental core of the neoliberal system could not be challenged. While we have now entered “the perfect storm” in which several themes on which FCI has reported now occur simultaneously – from the global debt crisis to massive job loss – we also see that alternatives to the dominant narrative are put into practice. It is therefore not unlikely that many of the current events will be politicized, as Covid-19 seems the trigger that gives the decisive blow to an old order and allows us to build a new one. This prompts us to think about humanity’s role in the general ecosystem, and how to re-structure our economy in a way that prepares us for permanent job loss and a growing demand for self-sufficiency and independence.

Looking beyond the current crisis, there is hope that citizens can regain control and take life into their own hands again. The dystopian and equally realistic scenario, amidst worrying speculations about future bio warfare, is that the unfolding situation ideally fits sectors and governments that aim for monopolization and absolute control. The present lockdown could not only be abused to destroy small, medium and family businesses but, as nazi jurist Carl Schmittfamously stated, whoever has the power to declare the “state of emergency” has the power to free the executive from any legal restraints to its power that would normally apply.

Edited by: Dr. Olivier Vonk

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