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OpEdNews Op Eds    H1'ed 3/18/20

A lesson coronavirus is about to teach the world

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From Jonathan Cook Blog

Conoravirus Crisis
Conoravirus Crisis
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If a disease can teach wisdom beyond our understanding of how precarious and precious life is, the coronavirus has offered two lessons.

The first is that in a globalized world our lives are so intertwined that the idea of viewing ourselves as islands whether as individuals, communities, nations, or a uniquely privileged species should be understood as evidence of false consciousness. In truth, we were always bound together, part of a miraculous web of life on our planet and, beyond it, stardust in an unfathomably large and complex universe.

It is only an arrogance cultivated in us by those narcissists who have risen to power through their own destructive egotism that blinded us to the necessary mix of humility and awe we ought to feel as we watch a drop of rain on a leaf, or a baby struggle to crawl, or the night sky revealed in all its myriad glories away from city lights.

And now, as we start to enter periods of quarantine and self-isolation as nations, communities and individuals all that should be so much clearer. It has taken a virus to show us that only together are we at our strongest, most alive and most human.

In being stripped of what we need most by the threat of contagion, we are reminded of how much we have taken community for granted, abused it, hollowed it out. We are afraid because the services we need in times of collective difficulty and trauma have been turned into commodities that require payment, or treated as privileges to which access is now means-tested, rationed or is simply gone. That insecurity is at the root of the current urge to hoard.

When death stalks us it is not bankers we turn to, or corporate executives, or hedge fund managers. Nonetheless, those are the people our societies have best rewarded. They are the people who, if salaries are a measure of value, are the most prized.

But they are not the people we need, as individuals, as societies, as nations. Rather, it will be doctors, nurses, public health workers, care-givers and social workers who will be battling to save lives by risking their own.

During this health crisis we may indeed notice who and what is most important. But will we remember the sacrifice, their value after the virus is no longer headline news? Or will we go back to business as usual until the next crisis rewarding the arms manufacturers, the billionaire owners of the media, the fossil fuel company bosses, and the financial-services parasites feeding off other people's money?

"Take it on the chin"

The second lesson follows from the first. Despite everything we have been told for four decades or more, western capitalist societies are far from the most efficient ways of organizing ourselves. That will be laid bare as the coronavirus crisis deepens.

We are still very much immersed in the ideological universe of Thatcherism and Reaganism, when we were told quite literally: "There is no such thing as society." How will that political mantra stand the test of the coming weeks and months? How much can we survive as individuals, even in quarantine, rather than as part of communities that care for all of us?

Western leaders who champion neoliberalism, as they are required to do nowadays, have two choices to cope with coronavirus and both will require a great deal of misdirection if we are not to see through their hypocrisy and deceptions.

Our leaders can let us "take it on the chin," as the British prime minister Boris Johnson has phrased it. In practice, that will mean allowing what is effectively a cull of many of the poor and elderly one that will relieve governments of the financial burden of underfunded pension schemes and welfare payments.

Such leaders will claim they are powerless to intervene or to ameliorate the crisis. Confronted with the contradictions inherent in their worldview, they will suddenly become fatalists, abandoning their belief in the efficacy and righteousness of the free market. They will say the virus was too contagious to contain, too robust for health services to cope, too lethal to save lives. They will evade all blame for the decades of health cuts and privatizations that made those services inefficient, inadequate, cumbersome and inflexible.

 

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Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. He is the 2011 winner of the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: (more...)
 

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6 people are discussing this page, with 9 comments  Post Comment


Ramani K V

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Well said. We are in the process of rediscovering ourselves, our personal and collective values as societies, our priorities in life between obsessive materialism and matters that matter more. It is a time for reflection.

In the age of the internet and social media, hundreds of millions exist solely or mainly in a virtual world devoid of personal human contact. They wake up in the morning, fire up their computers, mobile phones and coffee makers. Armed thus with the essentials of 'survival', they get set to begin yet another daylong venting of their views on topics they know only superficially, on people they have never met, on events over which they have no control, about which they are, in fact, getting controlled.

I am not playing the Luddite to decry the marvels of the digital age. This connected world is proving its worth in the present crisis. However, I do question the nature of the connectivity. Is it normal for me to know far more about my virtual friends halfway across the world than about neighbors who live on my street? Is it normal for me to have so much to say about shaping the world while floundering around the kitchen to put together a meal because restaurants are under lockdown? Is it normal for me to have a hoard of digital knowledge for eternity on my hard drive when what I have in my pantry can't sustain me for more than the next few days? I am connected, yes. To whom, to what, to what purpose?

This is a sobering moment for us all. We don't want to disconnect. We need to reconnect. In ways that strike a saner balance between the real and the virtual.

Submitted on Thursday, Mar 19, 2020 at 2:14:14 AM

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b. sadie bailey

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So well said and thought; both this editorial (and everything that Jonathan Cook writes) and Ramani KV's comment where he asks the same hard questions many of us need to hear and to be asking ourselves; we who live alone and are perhaps too dependent on technology and our "devices," and under false illusions that we can ever really weather it alone, being interdependent with all other life - human and non human.

Being a society of "loners", we're controlled by narcissistic sociopaths and psychopaths who tell us that"rugged individualism is cool," and introverts hiding behind computer screens (of which I am one), are normal.' But is it?

I can write ok, but I find i am ill-equipped socially to be in society in "real-time." Nor do I even understand what that is because I am so sickened by the so-called society and culture of selfish entitlement we here in the USA seem to buy into - it's cruel and heartless; spoiled and entitled; and full of "isms" that only create more schisms.

What to do? I think in these times that asking the right kinds of questions and really diving in deep, may be the only hope of heading us in the right direction to take better care of the natural world and each other. What would it look like, what kind of commitment would it take, to say yes for a change to the things that could save us - at least morally and ethically, so that we know how and WHY to do the right things, not just in a global crisis? I see us intrinsically tied to the Earth, and in order to stop abusing each other and the planet, we need to get to know earth again in intimate and respectful ways - then maybe we'll stop hurting ourselves, each other, and the planet... finally.

This is the first time in many of our lifetimes where we are going to see and know a mass die-off, as Italy is now seeing - it's tragic, and it's going to be hard in so many ways we never imagined. May we all aim to become the best of what we can be when our backs are to the wall.

Submitted on Thursday, Mar 19, 2020 at 9:06:30 AM

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Michael Dewey

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Have often wondered what it would take the people to unite for the common good. Thought OWN would do it back around 2011-12, but guess too many issues for the MSM to keep the rest too distracted to be bothered about, while leaders told OWS to get a job. Was sure there was a way to unite OWS with the Tea Party which rank and file soon learned had been sold out from what Ron Paul started.

Though it all I never saw what looks like one of the 7 last plagues coming. Had been sure common ground could be found somewhere out them. Its looking like was as wrong our leaders have been about that.

This Arlo Guthrie song of people making the news all over the world by holding hands, looks a lot closer that it has, but now am not sure how healthy that would be. ;) That me playing DJ and talking nuts. The Guthrie's loves nuts, and I love his daughters. ;)


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Submitted on Thursday, Mar 19, 2020 at 9:10:24 AM

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Lois Gagnon

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We need to find a way to seize this moment and force the discussion of how unnatural this system is. The aberration is capitalism, not socialism. Scream it from the rooftops.

Submitted on Thursday, Mar 19, 2020 at 1:43:47 PM

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911TRUTH

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The aberration is capitalism, not socialism.

The aberration is people. Greedy, power hungry people who are never satisfied with what they have.

No matter which '-ism' you have, the 1% of that '-ism' will screw it for that '-ism's' 99%.

Sadly.

Submitted on Thursday, Mar 19, 2020 at 8:14:59 PM

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911TRUTH

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Make no mistake, when this is over, this country will go back to the way we were 3 months ago.

How do I know that? Biden is the DNC nominee.

Submitted on Thursday, Mar 19, 2020 at 8:11:48 PM

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Michael Dewey

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Interesting times a head. Its not a hoax. It seriously is looking like 1 of the 7 last plagues, honestly had thought Lennon's death cut short most of these times, latter than ever before. Almost time 2 occupy everything until we get what ever we want, in the spirit of Arlo's littering on the Group W Bench. Arlo does know have been working on a lettering 21st century version of cleaning trash out of a bring your own god church, for celebrating Thinks Giving Dinners that couldn't be beat. We just been thrown down to this melting pot to build a brotherhood of mankind learning to share this rock we ride back home on. Hope someday U join us. And just recently heard that the natives have a 500 year old prophecy about Cyberspace called "The Mouse & The Web." Never did google exact term but found a Native site saying most all religions have prophecies of these times working out for all, except misunderstandings by "Christians" giving the good news a bad name. Rock and Roll can cure even that.


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Submitted on Friday, Mar 20, 2020 at 3:59:40 AM

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William P. Homans

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Been a musician working alongside Arlo (and my cousin the late Pete Seeger) since I came back from the Vietnam War. Played for his sister Nora March 1, 2003 as we threw defiance in the teeth of the war machine 18 days before the second invasion of Iraq, at the New York Public Theatre. Keep singing, bro,

Solidarity,

Watermelon Slim

Submitted on Friday, Mar 20, 2020 at 10:39:26 PM

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Michael Dewey

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"The Nightmare Is Almost Over" --The Time for humanity's return to full consciousness was chosen at the moment of apparent separation (Before time began?) from The Great Spirit up above, now, asking what we want?

We could at least try this kind of thoughts in "Buckminster Mind's Eyes," for a 40 weeks for year of jubilee to try and start over on a slower course of building local economies through public city and state banks, funding things local like worker owned coops.


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Submitted on Saturday, Mar 21, 2020 at 8:57:31 AM

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