A Beautiful Time
“We are now in the early phase of a medical and economic tempest unmatched in most of our lifetimes” writes Peter Wehner in an excoriating piece in The Atlantic that destroys the crumbling political life of Donald Trump, a man simultaneously the most powerful and the most ridiculed man in the world. You may think our own leaders in Britain give him a run for his money with their equivocation lies and confusion, but they’re not even close.
Trump is leading the USA into an unparalleled human catastrophe.
As Wehner explains after a few days in the pandemic he was willing to acknowledge the scope and scale of this crisis (he declared himself a “wartime president”) but has since regressed to type, once again becoming a fountain of mis and disinformation.
At a press conference this week he declared that he “would love to have the country opened up, and just raring to go, by Easter,” which is less than three weeks away, a goal that health professionals believe would be catastrophic.
When asked why Easter? He explained, “I just thought it was a beautiful time, a beautiful timeline.”
It’s difficult to fathom how terrible this is, and how many thousands of lives it will cost, but it might not all be down to his odious character and psychotic narcissism.
In 2016 about 80% of evangelicals voted for Trump, and with America a country where millions believe passionately in God, a massive death-toll at Easter may be a vote-winner for a beleaguered President.
If New York may be about to become Jonestown it’s driven not just by the toxic coalition of White Nationalists, Evangelicals and the swivel-eyed far-right revolutionaries. It’s driven by their morbid obsession with hyper-capitalism that obscures absolutely everything.
At Trump’s briefing on Monday he declared, “If it were up to the doctors, they may say … ‘Let’s shut down the entire world.’ … This could create a much bigger problem than the problem that you start off with”.
This sentiment is echoed throughout the western world.
The message has two key elements: the first is that the drive for profits supersedes everything, it certainly is more important than human lives. This is a constant feature of our everyday lives but its just made more freakishly obvious in this crisis.
Profits before people is the informal slogan.
The second is that the race to get us “back to normal” is being fought everywhere.
Whatever we do we must resist this.
Normal was killing us and the virus experience is revealing that to everyone.
The panic you are seeing in the political elite (with Cummings literally scuttling out of Downing Street, and Prince Charles fleeing to Balmoral) is not fear of presiding over social disintegration, they’ve already done that. Their fear is of people realising the state they are in.
This pandemic might be unprecedented but the social conditions it lands in has a long history.
As Stacco Troncoso writes, this is:
‘… a history of accumulatory, command and control dynamics which, via longstanding institutions including patriarchy and colonialism, have found their apex in capitalist realism: “the widespread sense that not only is capitalism the only viable political and economic system, but also that it is now impossible even to imagine a coherent alternative to it.” Short a few weeks of predatory feeding, the growth-based model shows its weakness against the apocalypse. Another veil is lifting.’
While it was possible to protect yourself from the reality of climate change, this crisis has been impossible to avoid. Not just because the state has been forced to take emergency measures but because social conditions and norms have fundamentally changed.
Denial isn’t possible when you can’t go outside or stand next to people. Denial isn’t possible when you can’t see your parents or when you have to spend time with your children. Denial isn’t possible when the disaster intrudes on every aspect of your life.
The ‘lifting of veil’s’ is one outcome of this new reality.
Suddenly we are forced to value the elusive ‘community’ we recognise only by its absence and how much we have undermined this idea.
Suddenly we realise that proximity to other people we don’t even know is important to us and how basic this is to social cohesion and our fragile sense of belonging.
Suddenly we realise that our leaders value the growth economy above our very lives.
For all the desperation to return to “normal” and even “build back better” comes a different demand.
As we try and make sense of all this in our frightened isolation, over 300 organisations across the globe are now demanding that governments apply five core principles to tackle the COVID-19 crisis. The principles are designed to ensure that people and the environment are protected by government actions and pave the way for a just recovery.
The demands are co-signed by Indigenous Peoples organisations, labour groups and unions, feminist organisations, development agencies, climate and environmental NGOs, health, youth, and religious bodies and local activist groups from every continent. They are the 5 Principles for a Just Recovery:
Put peoples health first, no exceptions
Provide economic relief directly to the people.
Help workers and communities not corporate executives.
Create resilience for future crises.
Build solidarity and community across borders – do not empower authoritarians.
We may think we are more civilized than Trump’s eagerness to “open up business and the country for Easter (the two are indistinguishable). But Britain has its own pathologies. Where Trump is deranged and psychotic, Johnson seems bumbling and bored.
While it seems churlish to link the virus to Brexit, some of the operational actions are inextricably linked.
This week Downing Street has blamed an “administrative error” for the UK’s failure to sign up to an emergency EU scheme to help procure vital medical equipment to fight the virus. After an outcry from medics and the opposition about the refusal to take part in the programme, a government spokesperson claimed that “initial communication problems” meant the UK was confused about whether it could take part.
The dark irony that the politicians who spent four years obsessing about isolating Britain from the rest of the world are spectacularly useless at organising our actual isolation when we need it, isn’t funny at all.
The claim from No.10 comes despite EU officials being clear in public from early on that the UK could be involved, with a spokesperson stating on 19 March that Britain was “eligible to participate” because it was in the Brexit transition period and is thus being treated like a member state.
From Britannia Unleashed to Corvid Unleashed.
On Thursday a No 10 spokesperson appeared relaxed about the UK’s lack of participation, telling media: “We are no longer members of the EU. We are doing our own work on ventilators and we have had a very strong response from business. We have sourced ventilators form the private sector.”