Coronavirus: A civilization at the crossroads of capitalist chaos or the return to Nature

Coronavirus: A civilization at the crossroads of capitalist chaos or the return to Nature

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The entire planet is torn between chaos and balance, between dystopia and possible horizons.

The more notoriety the coronavirus acquires as a vector of chaos in its exponential advance in a globalized and unjust world, the more it seems to cloud the seriousness of other crises that we have pointed out as symptoms of a deadly disease: the erosion of the commons, the climate crisis and the alarming loss of biodiversity, the displacement of large social masses towards precariousness, the exacerbation of violence and patriarchal violence, in short ... human and nature sacrifice for the concentration of wealth in very few hands.

The disruption of COVID19, however, is not an isolated event or different from global capitalism, it is its continuation and the consequent drift of its break with nature. The coronavirus crisis joins and blends in with others of a systemic order, reveals and deepens the injustices and social gaps that capitalist civilization has created in our territories and in our bodies with an accumulated effect in at least five centuries of production patterns, unsustainable trade, consumption and territorial occupation. This crisis is inscribed in the reality of the Capitalocene [1], the new stage of the planet dominated by the human species under the yoke of globalized capitalism, colonization and patriarchy heading towards the reification, commodification and dispossession of everything that exists.

The route from disaster capitalism to chaos capitalism leaves its mark on the body of the world and on our bodies, it breaks the original bonds of interdependence and collaboration. The earth, its deep layers, its forests, the water, the air, the atmosphere, the space that surrounds it and even the moon are flooded with these marks like wounds and scars. It is this material reality that is giving a framework to the coronavirus pandemic that today amplifies the impacts of modern capitalism on a large scale, putting the razor's edge to the surface and with the utmost brutality.

This determines a critical scenario in particular for the poorest, for the most vulnerable, for human beings located on the periphery, for the impoverished sectors of the north and south, for the Global South. Although it is the first time that higher echelons of society have been threatened, inequalities are dramatically amplified.

The end of capitalism?

Much has been said that this crisis could end capitalism. The collapse of the production and consumption chains, of the accumulation niches given by the comparative advantages of globalization, stops the machinery momentarily. In a few weeks of quarantine, China had lowered 25% of its domestic emissions, equivalent to 9% of global emissions according to reports from specialized analysts [2]. Similar situations of economic slowdown and the consumption of fossil energy have occurred in hundreds of other cities, countries and regions where the reduction in activity is leading to a reduction in air pollution and even the return of animal species to empty cities of a world in confinement.

All this gives the idea that we could quickly recover the lost path and that capitalism would be finding its end to give rise to a society reconciled with nature, as some philosophers and analysts have wanted to anticipate very enthusiastically [3].

But the expectation of the end of capitalism cannot stop putting itself in the shoes of those who are suffering and containing in the front line the pandemic that has made its way into the most vulnerable, the poorest, the elderly, women, and indigenous peoples. It cannot be abstracted from the daily reality of health workers around the world, nor of the people in charge of collecting the bodies killed by the pandemic. You cannot stop thinking about those who with their efforts are supporting the chains of work and production for life - food, sanitation, cleaning, energy - many of them subject to despotic bosses and state hierarchies. One cannot stop thinking about the peoples displaced from their lands by the climatic catastrophe, by wars, the lack of water and arable land ... That is, the human groups that the financial and political elites themselves have placed in precariousness with a message that they seem to repeat with their political actions and decisions: "there are lives we can do without."

Encouraging the hope of a transformation, he cannot lose sight of the power relations and the ability of the elites to protect themselves and deepen the dispossession to save his hide. Nor that this occurs within the framework of a new paradigm, that of the Capitalocene, a new planetary era in which the ruling classes can "coexist" with destruction, injustice and chaos, deepening it to aberration.

The expectation that society will transform cannot rest on the illusion that emissions are being reduced and the atmosphere is recovering when –according to analysis- they could barely decrease 5% in 2020 [4] due to the COVID19 crisis, which it is insufficient for the scale of destruction generated by capitalist metabolism; According to the Paris agreement, we should reduce at least 7.5% of annual emissions for 10 continuous years together with extraordinary transition measures and changes in energy consumption patterns, which is not being done. The coronavirus challenges us, but it will not stop the ecocide that persists with the same models of hyperproduction, over consumption and acceleration that is occurring simultaneously now, unless societies decide and act to do so.

Although this crisis has brought the perspective of Nature to the fore and reminded us of the place we occupy in the earth system that we have abused in an inclement way, it is also showing us the complexity of the challenge that passes through assuming the political dimension of the restoration of justice and solidarity in human relationships to heal Nature. Especially because it reminds us that we must decolonize our own minds to end the captivities that capital has imposed on us.

Thinking of a political, feminist and environmentalist solution to this civilizational crisis cannot be conceived in abstraction, it has to start from processing a collective “mourning” (Butler, 2002) as one of the places from which to “place” the understanding of this new reality planetary. In other words, adopting “vulnerability and interconnection as a starting point” [5] from biological and social bodies to the suffering and wounded earth. Because it will be from there that we will discover the strengths, the hope… the possible horizons.

Dimensions of capital-life conflict

The coronavirus crisis has put the capital-life conflict raw. Today the tension between the dynamics of the tissues of the reproduction of life is played and revealed with all its consequences in opposition to the essence of neoliberal capitalism that can no longer offer humanity or the planet neither prosperity nor well-being. This emblematic crisis reveals other disruptions submerged by the corporate and political lobby - screen denialism - which agitates its arguments while shielding itself with financial, technological, political and military security [6] systematically eroding human and nature rights.

The delayed and controversial reactions of many political leaders of the governments when explaining without blushing the "dilemma" between "or save the economy or save human lives" point to the bottom of the dispute.

While it is true that some governments are investing significantly to protect (money that they previously did not invest in the poor), the consequences of deregulation driven by neoliberalism in recent decades in many countries have meant the dismantling of health and other systems. fundamental public goods which has made us more vulnerable. Along with this –and in the midst of the crisis- the corporate rescue plans and the new forms of merchandise circulation in the pandemic have not been left to wait, creating new routes and reconversions sealed by capitalist DNA [7]. In many cases it has been precisely the employer's demands to "continue producing" in non-priority sectors, which have caused the worsening of infections and the health crisis.

This pandemic has stopped some chains and niches of capital accumulation and tangibly threatens the highest spheres of society, but it has activated what Maristella Svampa characterizes as a Sanitary Leviathan[8] -which recovers Hobbes's concept in reference to the scenarios of state control that had been analyzed to confront climate change [9] -. A Leviathan that today proposes a restitution of the capitalist order from the health emergency, in my point of view, under political forms of "confinement" - "unconfined" that fragments the social and political body, which disperses the multitude and at the same time ensures the full freedom of corporate “lobbies” to redesign the economies of the “post coronavirus” world.

Critical panorama of cutting civil liberties accompanied by a dichotomous health narrative that opposes "health-disease" under a paradigm centered on the hospital, the patient, the virus, the power of technological and scientific knowledge, the salvation of the vaccine that is presented today as the center of modern scientific reason. Although the response that services are making many times in adverse conditions, lack of materials and precariousness is absolutely valuable, the socio-political approach allows us to see that this “focused on the virus” model can exclude a holistic perspective of the interconnections with health of the planet. The dominant “biomedical” health model emerging from Cartesian dualism, excludes from the cognitive map the ecological, social and economic causes of the crisis, its systemic order, the interconnection of human health with planetary health, and restricts the possibility of greater participation / collaboration of society and the recognition of social knowledge, feminine, community and popular knowledge of solidarity and crisis management that –in fact- are what have saved humanity countless times in history.

Along with this, the emergence of a far-right social base of groups scattered around the world, such as the "anti-confinement" street supremacist actions that have had explicit support from Trump in the US and Bolsonaro in Brazil, and which echo the aspirations of businessmen such as Elon Musk and others who cry out for misconception by appealing to "market freedom." A financial capitalism that has learned to ride on its own crises to restore itself with its "Shock doctrine" [10] has risen again. As Emiliano Terán from the Observatory of Political Ecology of Venezuela says: the coronavirus crisis “lays bare the simulacra of power” [11].

Thus, the “post coronavirus” world is already the world we are living in. The "reconfiguration" -which has already begun- is making visible the struggles within the dominant groups and can be brutally capitalist instead of making viable the long-awaited transition that is inclined to the "reduction of inequalities" and the "sustainability of ecosystems. ”Or, even more, towards a change in the civilizational paradigm that returns to the table for debate, this time globally, an unprecedented urgency and need.

The horizons of a social transition, or of a civilizational "leap" as a virus has metaphorically shown us, is only possible if we are capable of generating a social fabric and a subjectivity that can respond to injustice and the logic of power in this new context. Power must be challenged as soon as possible to demand justice and care for life, to demand that it reconnect with nature assuming the holistic, interdependent nature of our human condition because the true causes of this pandemic lie in the ecocidal dispossession that chaos capitalism has caused. .

Some emerging alternatives

Viruses - which exist by the billions on the planet - "jump" into the human species in particular circumstances to lodge in a host where they become pathogens. To the extent that biodiversity is lost, appropriate circumstances are being created for new ones to emerge that reach the human species and other species, since the barriers of ecological biodiversity are being degraded. These prone "conditions" for the emergence of these and other vectors of pests and diseases are constructed; the loss of forests and ecosystems produces changes that open up the possibility of these so-called pathogenic “imbalances” as recently pointed out by an extensive WWF report [12]. Climate change and the loss of biodiversity are two crises that are rapidly leading to these scenarios.

This type of virus, more and more frequent, has given rise to diseases of enormous social impact in recent decades: SARS “avian flu” H5N1 (2002-3), “swine flu” H1N1 (2009), MERS- CoV (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (2012), Ebola (2013), some of them having occurred in circumstances linked to industrial food production [13] as Silvia Ribeiro of the ETC has pertinently pointed out.

The leap of a virus ... has made civilization "jump" to a political time and space that forces us to think of the dispossession of nature and its relationship with human injustice as two articulated phenomena. It is opening in the field of knowledge a possibility to understand the contradiction, the paradox, the interdependence, the holistic quality of the earth system.

Faced with the enormous complexity and injustice that has been revealed, we have to weave complex, self-reflective forms of interpellation, in accordance with the moment we live in, which is flooded with paradoxes in an “oxymoron” key (term used by Boris Cyrulnik [14]) that brings together opposing meanings to give rise to a new one, as a sign of a historical moment that makes us go through uncertainty, the dialectic of complexity to create something new. Today, as never before, the perspective of Nature and our relationship with her have been put into effect in order to act knowing that our action can be substantive. It is from there that we want to develop a praxis and a narrative that overcomes the crisis of meaning that besets us. Resist from the relational paradigm, from vulnerability and human interdependence.

A different epistemology to get out of the logic of the market and instead look / feel "feel / think" [15] the world from the pangolin, from the bat, from the forest, from the water, from the humid earth from which a wisp of life sprouts, from the day to day confinement, from the day to day of the peoples where death, pain and suffering in solitude become common, it moves and moves others to break with the individualism to which we wants to lead the dominant / dying paradigm of capital. From the complexity of a virus that "jumps" to a human host because the "border" in which it lives is the border of dispossession and does not offer an alternative.

And here I want to rescue the body-territory notion that is reflected from the ecofeminisms of Latin America; bodies as our first territory[16](Ivone Guebara) as a place from which you can resist, build autonomy and weave community, and from where you can articulate the connection with a larger territory. The political practices of feminisms have woven these ties to femicide and have politicized pain to turn it into an autonomous agenda of its own. It is possible to build an extended body with Nature to dismantle the fallacy of the market made of extractive and patriarchal times and priorities.

The look from the territory, allows starting from the tissues that sustain life, from human beings capable of collaborating and establishing ties of democratic conviviality, logics of environmental and human justice. These perspectives will have to flood our arguments as they provide a "tip of the ball" to re-signify this historical moment beyond the molds that capitalist modernity intends to impose on social imaginaries amid fear and state authoritarianism to reissue the "business as usual".

It is now, at this critical threshold, this "frontier space" [17] of dispossession of nature, when these new views begin to mature and find in millions of people the possibility of telling this story in another way. The construction of a new common sense in the face of the capitalocene occurs in extraordinary conditions: when - despite the violence - an unprecedented collective interest has been awakened in looking beyond and envisioning these interconnections.

Innumerable contributions have been brewing in the last century from critical thinking and political ecology to characterize this stage and seek alternatives to transform society and the relationship with nature [18]. Well, today we are facing a reality that forces us to land these proposals as a result of reflections and political experiences with a concrete historicity. As never before, concepts and possibilities - transition, degrowth, deglobalization, common goods, ecofeminism - can become possible horizons.

The coronavirus crisis has repositioned the debates of the ecological transition and social transformation and the need for subjectivity and creative political action for this transformation. It has updated the global debates on the limits of growth and put into effect the debates of critical thinking such as Ecofeminism, Good Living, the rights of Nature, degrowth societies, common goods and their relationship with public goods [19 ]. Essential keys to articulate paths towards transformation.

The centrality of care, which has manifested itself in every sense of the word, must be approached from its complexity and with a critical stance on the conditions of patriarchal domination in which it currently exists in order to tear it out of the "enclosure" to which it is subjected. Their visible contribution - which could represent between 24% to 66% of the economy [20] - can provide the basis for a reformulation of priorities in the organization of the economy and society. To the extent that it is approached with justice and is connected to the care of Nature, to the management of the common good, to the dynamics of decline and socioeconomic transformation, it can provide us with valuable clues to reproduce the social fabric, enrich and evolve in "the community of life ”which is insisted on from the ecofeminist proposal.

The holistic paradigm of interdependence today provides us with the bases to face this challenge of transformation from and to everyday life; a ethos of collaboration in the time of small things, the time of re-weaving territory and human community. It is time to "green" a world that has crossed the limits of nature and needs to be healed by integrating many worlds ... such as the "Pluriverse" for post-development that Alberto Acosta proposes, a direction in which thousands of activists, thinkers and thinkers have been positioned to imagine a possible future [21].

Questions in the inkwell

Some analyzes warn that perhaps the coronavirus curve could be "flattened" in two years if radical measures of "social isolation" are taken, with unprecedented quarantine periods to achieve not only the containment of the pandemic but also mitigation and elimination ( Gideon Lichfield, 2020) (Hubert, March 22, 2020) [22]. Others claim that we are just on the tip of an iceberg and that we could face other similar episodes due to global changes including loss of biodiversity and climate change as critical vectors of large-scale disruption.

How will these measures of prolonged confinement be sustained and at the same time ensure life, democracy and freedom of political action? How will the populations be supplied with food, services, health, water, sanitation while respecting the rights of the people who work in these areas? How will decisions be made to manage cities, towns, communities?

How does this reality arise in contexts such as Latin America, India, Asia or Africa where confinements are not possible as the modern West imagines them? How will decisions be made for the necessary transformation of the economy, energy and production matrices?

Reflection on democracy is central. We are in a time when spaces for interaction and social fabric are being dramatically restricted, not only excluding the participation of peoples. The street public space is being reconfigured towards a virtual public space; a reformulated everyday that gives way to the restructuring of social actors and the collective unconscious; the isolated virtual space –although it has a potential for articulation- can create fragmented political subjectivities and engage us in a dynamic in which the abyss seduces more than the possibility of changing the world.

How will we guarantee democracy? What is the "rule of law" that we want to restore? But also, isn't this democracy already obsolete? Has it not proved incapable of collecting the deliberative tradition of the communities, of women? And ... How are the beings of nature, the non-human world, Nature itself included as a "subject of rights"?

The reinvention of the multitude to challenge the system and demand rights has to find its way by picking up the thread of social rebellions of recent decades that have questioned ecological dispossession, patriarchy and social injustice, knowing that we are facing these complex challenges. to the renewed structures of power.

If we want human societies not only to survive, but to prosper in their community quality and belonging to nature, we must face these and other obstacles on the way to recover the ethical bases of otherness and eco-dependence in the face of modern capitalist rationality. To weave a community that knows how to cultivate hope from uncertainty and certainty, as well as taking care of the seed of a new fruit.

[1] Moore, Jason W., Anthropocene or Capitalocene? (2015); The Anthropocene as Diagnosis and Paradigm, Latin American Readings. Utoía y Praxis Latinoamericana Nº84, Univ. De Zulia, 2019, Venezuela.

[2] Analysis: coronavirus temporarily reduced China’s emissions by a quarter

[3] Zizek considered that Covid-19 is a final blow to Capitalism "Kill Bill style" reinventing-communism, Enrique Dussel, sees the end of the capitalist era.

[4] Carbon emissions from fossil fuells can fall by 2.5bn Tones by 2020 - The Guardian -25bn-tonnes-in-2020; The corona virus and the limits of the individual climate action - The Republic

[5] Butler, J. Precarious Life: the power of mourning and violence, 2006, Paidos, Bs.As.

[6] For this I recommend the work compiled by Buxton and Hayes (2015) on the dynamics of corporate and military protection in the face of the emergency of climate change: “The secured and the dispossessed: how the military and corporations are shaping a climate-changed world ”

[7] Azan, G, Aguiton, Ch., Et all. "Relocation is no longer an option but a necessity for the survival of economic and social systems”. Attac, 3/22/2020 -survie-de-nos-systemes

[8] Svampa, M., Reflections for a post coronavirus world. New Society. April 2020. BsAs.

[9] López, X. Leviathan in interiore Green New Deal. Nov. 2019. La U (Magazine of culture and thought)

[10] Klein, N. (2007) "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism" Paidós. Buenos Aires.

[11] Terán M. Emiliano. The coronavirus beyond the coronavirus: biopolitical thresholds and emergencies. March 31 2020. Caracas, Venezuela.

[12] Report Loss of Nature and Pandemics. WWF (World Wide Forum) 2020 -humanity & fbclid = IwAR0RCoxCpcBfuG53mjQ6YTkLkPfrkNVROkktOegPqK8aNTDOOunVhhSIyF0

[13] Ribeiro, S. The farmers of the pandemic. Grupo ETC 2020: “In Mexico we saw how the swine flu originated in 2009, which was given the aseptic name of Influenza A H1N1, to unlink it from its pig origin. It originated in the pig factory called Granjas Carroll, in Veracruz, then co-owned by Smithfield, the largest meat producer in the world. Smithfield was bought in 2013 by a subsidiary of the Chinese mega company WH Group, currently the largest producer of pork in the world, ranking first in this area in China, the United States and several European countries. "

[14] Boris Cyrulnik, French philosopher, psychologist and psychoanalyst, creator of the psychosocial concept of resilience conceives the oxymoron, a rhetorical figure that brings together two antagonistic concepts to create a new one, as the base figure of the creative possibilities of human beings in the face of suffering.

[15] Escobar A. (2016) Feelthink the land: Territorial struggles and their ontological dimension in the Epistemologies of the South. AIBR, Journal of Ibero-American Anthropology. Vol 11 Nº1. Madrid.

[16] The feminist philosopher and theologian Ivone guebara (Brazil) speaks of "body territory" recovering not only the community and female resistance of the territories against extractivism in Latin America, but also in the sense of "our body" "our first territory" against the ideological power of capitalism and its dominance over desires through the market.

[17] Peredo, E., A frontier world: reflections in times of the Anthropocene. Systemic Alternatives, 2019

[18] The compilation published as Systemic Alternatives by the Solón Foundation in Bolivia, with an edition in French "Le monde qui emerges" published by ATTAC (2016) are relevant contributions at this time.

[19] Dardot, P. and Lavalle, Ch. The common, a revolutionary principle for the XXI century?, interview conducted by P. Cingolani and A. Fjeld, in Reinventions of the common / Revista de Estudios Sociales No. 70, October 2019.

[20] Duran Heras. MA. (2012) Unpaid work in the global economy. BBVA, Bilbao.

[21] Pluriverse-A dictionary of post-development. Kothari, A., Escobar, A., Salleh, A., Acosta, A .; Icaria, 2019, Barcelona.

[22] Lichfeld, G. We are not going back to normal, MIT Technology Review, 2020.

Hubert, T. El Martillo y la danza: How will the next few months be if our leaders buy time

By Elizabeth Peredo Beltrán
Braiding Illusions

Video: Covid-19: how it will change the world. The Economist (February 2023).