The price of this mega-crisis is bound to be paid in massive long-term unemployment and poverty all over the world.
Numerologists like to spot symbolic meanings in the dates of momentous events. The September 11 attacks took place on 911: the emergency police phone number in the United States, the Pentagon (seen by some occultists as a projection of the Luciferian pentacle) was struck on the same day, which was the 60th anniversary of its inauguration and the Covid-19 pandemic unfolded outside China in 2020, which amounts to 40: the number that gave its name to quarantine. Many such historical coincidences may be found and attributed to the mysterious forces that move the world, whether we call them the gods, chance, fate and some other human or superhuman agency.
Since the year 1981 at least, when Dean Koontz published his novel, The Eyes of Darkness about a pandemic originating in Wuhan, China, many predictions about a devastating virus from Asia have come out in films (e.g. 2011’s Contagion), articles and books. US Colonel Tom Bearden on his website Cheniere.org had spelt out emergency plans for martial law, mass confinement, triage and other extreme responses to a biological agent or weapon. Bill Gates, a few years ago, warned about a danger which he held to be equal to the nuclear threat and recommended preventive measures. Yet, public preparedness was clearly insufficient and most states were caught napping and found wanting.
The current, unprecedented and nearly global lockdown, a bitter illustration of globalization’s generally unexpected effects is generating an endless stream of analyses, theories, assessments and speculation shaped by the belief systems of their authors. Those who embraced the eco-apocalyptic call of Greta Thunberg and were distraught by the predictable failure of the Paris accord on global warming mitigation rejoice in the unexpected fulfilment of their wishes to bring CO2 emission and other polluting activities to a brutal decline; those who were worried about China’s meteoric rise towards a hegemonic status felt schadenfreude when the “red dragon” was seen falling into the deadly embrace of the new corona epidemic. They now, however, watch with dismay the increasingly lamentable plight of the western world and bristle at the prospect of a newly functional China resuming her rapid climb to the top of the power pyramid. The western pundits, who made a living by warning the public against Putinist Russia’s evil intentions, now watch with consternation the support provided by Moscow to certain EU and other countries seemingly left to their fate by everyone else.
Naturally, the current all-encompassing crisis has not disarmed the propaganda snipers in various camps and they continue to take pot-shots at their enemies of choice amidst the pandemonium. After accusing Beijing of revealing the weakness of its institutions through its vulnerability to yet another Asian virus, western cold warriors now suspect China of carrying out a dark plot to undermine and bring down western supremacy by using Covid-19 as a black swan to overwhelm the governance systems of the self-styled “free world”, just as they charge Russia with countless subversive machinations against the self-same “good guys”. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander and neither Chinese nor the Russian sources have shied away from pointing accusatory fingers at the United States which are also well known for their expertise in biological weapon development and testing. Indeed at the outset of the corona contagion suspicions against the American government came to many minds on the backdrop of the multifaceted and very public campaign to force China to bend to US pressure on trade and geostrategic matters the appearance of the virus in Wuhan was too serendipitous, so to speak, not to be suspect, except for those who would give the US a pass in principle but the claim that a democracy would never resort to “black ops” of this kind has so often been disproven by facts in the case of the American state that it cannot be taken at face value.
The yawning gap in American society sets apart the Left Wing Liberals calling for a de facto nationalization of the economy in the guise of providing universal free healthcare and saving all jobs and the Conservatives bent on preserving the capitalist oligopolies and individual economic freedom. This split, amplified by the presidential campaign in which Covid is now the major weapon used on both sides is what makes it so hard for the US to adopt a coherent and effective policy to tackle both the Covid threat and the ongoing economic meltdown, which is likely to leave at least 40 million Americans jobless, a much truncated GDP and a skyrocketing national debt.
We are in a situation unprecedented in the last hundred years at least, perhaps in all history. Governments all over the world have imposed a shutdown of social, political and economic life and a drastic curtailment of individual rights and civil liberties in the name of protecting people from a contagion which has so far killed over two hundred thousand (most of them older than 70 and suffered from other major ailments), out of a global population of eight billion people, in which every months larger tolls are exacted by various other evils, including hunger, heat attacks, cancer, diabetes, accidents and the “common” flu.
There are various factors behind this draconian operation which could well last for several months or even extend into next year: first the famous “principle of abundant caution” institutionalized in the European Union perhaps over-reliant on computer modelling projections of worst case scenarios and often inaccurate virological tests; then the increasing American obsession with national security and the associated propensity to impose “lockdowns” in reaction to any alert or suspicion, and finally the growing official fear of civil unrest, which inspires more and more sophisticated tactics to force people to stay home and not assemble.
Without discounting the gravity of the Covid-19 pandemic, if we review the state of the world economy in recent years (see my article in the Sunday Guardian of March 1, 2020) we cannot but conclude that a gigantic economic crisis was on the horizon, building up since the “first shoe fell” in 2008. A few years ago, some Russian economists had predicted the end of the US dollar-centric monetary and financial system between 2020 and 2025. I had echoed that projection in another article published in this newspaper on May 14, 2017 and we appear now to have been “on the money”. The process of reorganization is expected to take at least three or four chaotic years and it is to be hoped that a new global system will come into place through some international agreement, a new “Bretton Woods”, absent another major war such as those that usually erupt in times of great dislocation.
The Covid-19 pandemic is a trigger and accelerator of the socio-economic and political crisis, not its main cause. The crash of stock markets and the industrial and financial meltdown were predictable for this year and announced by the “seizure” of most major economies since 2018 in spite of the incessant “quantitative easing” carried out by the governments and international financial institutions such as the European Central Bank. In the last months, the situation on Wall Street became ominous as the Fed had to keep injecting huge amounts of fiat currency overnight into the RePo market to prevent major banks from going bust. In a situation of economic panic, a health emergency is also a tool of last resort to discipline the population and raise a public menace above the less existential threat of financial collapse. It is at least probable that leading governments and international agencies organised, with the support of corporate mass media, the systematic “freeze” of social activity in order to minimize civic disruptions and challenges to authorities.
Conspiratorial theories, more or less credible or fanciful, are being promoted to identify the prime movers and operational levers of this operation, but they only try to interpret in various partisan ways the fundamental process for controlling the crash of irrationally overvalued stock markets fed by fast rising Himalayan pyramids of bad debt and irrigated by shoreless oceans of derivative instruments whose value is often impossible to establish and can be reduced by a hiccup of the inter-banking transactional cycle to mere junk.
The effect of the economy caving in was seen in the gradual collapse of consumption in most parts of the world and in the decision of Great Britain to exit the European Union, seen by many in London as a doomed quasi-confederacy although which of the two, the United Kingdom and the EU will fare worse is far from clear.
The price of this mega-crisis is bound to be paid in massive long-term unemployment and poverty all over the world, concentration of capital and wealth in even fewer hands, state or oligopolistic control of many strategic corporations resulting in a hybrid composite of monopolistic capitalism and socialism. Below that general tableau there will be many different regional and national pictures as states will try diverse ways to deal with the disaster domestically, often insulating themselves from the ‘financial Corona virus’ and circling the wagons in a ‘patriotic’ reaction to the unhinged supra-national experiment. Regional associations such as the EU, UNASUR and the African Union are under extreme fissiparous strain and will have to change in many ways if they manage to survive.
In a sentence, 2020 has brought us to the point where we can have a 20/20 vision and hindsight of all that is wrong with the global liberal gospel and its corollaries including all-out privatization and decimation of public services, unlimited amounts of virtual money chasing inflated virtual values, wars for regime change in weaker, resource-rich states and mass migrations that contribute to the slow motion collapse of hitherto prosperous and orderly nations.