As Karl Marx remarked in his classic account of the Revolution of 1848, in order to make sense of a present crisis, we often resort to the rhetoric and the imagery of the past. “Thus Luther put on the mask of the Apostle Paul, the Revolution of 1789-1814 draped itself alternately in the guise of the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and the Revolution of 1848 knew nothing better to do than to parody, now 1789, now the revolutionary tradition of 1793-95. In like manner, the beginner who has learned a new language always translates it back into his mother tongue, but he assimilates the spirit of the new language and expresses himself freely in it only when he moves in it without recalling the old and when he forgets his native tongue.”
Here in a typical bedroom community of New York City, epicenter of the Coronavirus pandemic, one of my neighbors has put up a display invoking the only two times in the recent past the New Jersey bourgeoisie has faced a life-threatening crisis. The crudely handmade sign “Cranford Strong” invokes the good old days of Hurricane Sandy and the Chris Christie of “Jersey Strong.” The more professionally done sign thanking the “front line,” the troops that stock the shelves with toilet paper and canned tuna fish at the local ShopRite, reminds us all of 9/11, when in response to the way Islamic terrorists “hate our freedom,” which isn’t of course free, the American people rallied around George W. Bush and offered to give up our freedom, to sign the Patriot Act into law, to invade Iraq, and to get to work laying the foundations for the torture/surveillance state.
What I’ve noticed, however, is how muted my neighbor’s patriotic display is compared to what I saw in October of 2001. There are no flags, just an acronym, FLAG. There’s no call for war against China. I have yet to see any sign referring to the “Wuhan Virus.” No new bumper stickers have been mass produced. The overwhelming mood isn’t violent patriotism, but tired resignation. All anybody really wants to do is to be able to buy toilet paper again, to send their kids back to school, and to take their dogs back into the park. No coherent narrative has emerged. While Donald Trump and the far right have attempted to stir up hostility towards China, and while there have been hate crimes against Asian Americans, it pales in comparison to the drumbeat of Russopobia that liberal Democrats maintained for years after the election of 2016, let alone the overwhelming consensus that emerged after 9/11 that “we” had to “support the troops” and invade Iraq. The corporate media’s attempt to make Andrew Cuomo the 2020’s Rudy Giuliani — it’s a little hard to remember these days just how much of a hero that nasty little fascist troll was back in 2001 — seems to have petered out.
Back in March, the Democratic Party crushed a mild mannered insurgency from the very moderate left in Bernie Sanders, but in retrospect it’s a little difficult to figure out why they even bothered. Sanders, who fell in line and voted for the recent corporate bailout as obediently as Amy Klobuchar or Corey Booker, presents no threat to the American ruling class. Those “Bernie Bros,” so feared on social media, are no more likely to produce a Lenin or a Robespierre than I am to get a job doing shampoo commercials. While there may be something resembling a general election this November — a second wave of the pandemic may cancel it altogether — I can’t imagine that it will have much legitimacy. Both candidates will be old men in cognitive decline. Neither will be able to campaign in public. There won’t be much debate. Don’t look for Lincoln Douglass in 2020. I suspect that whichever elderly reactionary wins, the one with the R at the end of his name or the one with the D at the end of his name, the corporate elite will control the government from behind the scenes. Wall Street, the military industrial complex, the intelligence agencies, and the big tech companies in silicon valley are going to dangle the puppet in the White House on their knee, and drink a glass of water while they lecture us on how for our own good we need to give them anything they want. The democratic system was on its dying legs, a frail, elderly resident of the American nursing home. Coronavirus has killed it.
I don’t know what’s going to happen after the pandemic dissipates. I don’t know what our ruling class has planned. I don’t know how the rest of us will react. But I suspect that we’re going to see a heavy push by the media to increase surveillance and control — whether its by the government or the corporations makes no difference — for our own good. That’s the real tragedy. People in the Middle East don’t hate us for our freedoms. They hate us for our hypocrisy. Coronavirus, on the other hand, does. To be more accurate, Coronavirus loves our freedom because it hates us. Coronavirus thrives in a free society. It breeds in warm, sunny Mediterranean cultures like Italy. The coldblooded Germans, by contrast, seem to have defeated it. Coronavirus makes protest, political rallies, social gatherings, even Holy Communion, deadly. It requires us to shun one another, to fear each other’s presence. It puts all society online, on a corporate controlled Internet that the wealthy can shut down any time they want. It transforms any act of defiance — illegal fishing in the local pond, walking your dog in the park, conversing with strangers — a form of stupidity. Coronavirus, at long last, is the final stage of neoliberal capitalism.
8 thoughts on “Coronavirus Hates You for Your Freedom”
Avoidance of Intellectual Exercise
Much of the following paragraph will be mysterious to many readers, it is not meant to bore you into stopping right here, but is meant to suggest to you that your own aptitudes as far as reading is concerned may be more limited than you think. Reading is like a muscle, and if not exercised, reading speed and comprehension decline.
I remember an office Christmas gift exchange when I gifted a female colleague with a short book on working in sales. I heard her friend say, “What will you do with that? You haven’t read a book since you left high school.”
“…intellection in us is twofold: since the Soul is intellective, and Intellection is the highest phase of life, we know Intellection both by the characteristic Act of Our Soul and by the Act of the Intellectual-Principle upon us – for this Intellectual-Principle is part of us no less than the Soul, and towards it we are ever rising.
Plotinus, The First Ennead, First Tractate, “The Animate And The Man” last paragraph.
Another great joke for me was trying to withdraw (too late) from a philosophy course, and the administrator opined that she “didn’t have a philosophical bone in her body” referring to her having no opinion on why I did or did not agree with the content of the course. I was “inspired”, I guess, to say, “Well I guess you are very flexible, then, as far as philosophies are concerned.” Being boneless and perhaps spineless.
I recently enjoyed a chat with a relative and referring to books being read, as he told me of enjoying “mystery novels”. I was struck with the fact that a university graduate from many years ago has spent 30 years decreasing the amount of intellectual vigor in their daily routines. That must be related to print media very often “dumbing down” the content of “news” to a Grade Nine level, deliberately making “easy-reading” and turning everything into “infotainment” for the masses.
Noam Chomsky, in his famous “Manufacturing Consent” book/video from years back, joined Marshall McLuhan in critisising “the media” for creating an environment that would be best represented by the creation of the Homer Simpson character as a “dumb dad” like Fred Flintstone or even harking back to Charlie Chaplin as the likable tramp.
Caroline Myss wants to teach us about Jungian “archetypes” as mentioned by Marshall McLuhan in his “From Cliche to Archtype”, but modernity demands something other than iconic Kings and Knights, which are just old ghosts gathering dust in the attics of the subconscious. The archetype of standing with “air-legs” at the exit area of a 747, cruising along at over 500 mph at 30,000 feet is nothing Jung could imagine with all of his “classical” training in Greek Myths, that people try to ship forward into our millenium. Intellectually, many persons dislike any kind of “monarchy” and the type of “power” that represents. The 13 original colonies of USA disliked the King of England as a very negative archetype of Oppression, forget about the regal pretensions. And the French Revolution had no fondness for Monarchy or Clergy. So, really, modernity has smashed many classical icons. Like Nietsche and his “God Is Dead” not being appreciative of the “power” of deities.
And so here we are “post-New Age” that dawned on fewer than expected, and John Vervaeke brilliantly explains “The Meaning Crisis”, as humanity struugles to react to climate change and environmental degradation. And here is Danial Schmactenberger with a “Rebel Wisdom” video explaining the trap that we are in, as Covid-19 appears without answers readily available. A huge disruption of the religion of economics that predicted a future of eternal growth. Endless wars, too. Uncertain climate and sporadic food supplies.
And infotainment instead of activism and grasping new realities.
To respond to Plotinus:
Not all of us are rising
Some run away
Afraid to be responsible
For any talent that
May try to free itself
And say too much
About whatever needs hiding:
Some strange fear of self going wild,
Stealing an SUV,
Robbing a liquor store
And being shot by police
At 16 years old!!!
A young girl in Western Canada was shot by police after a car chase involving 4 or 5 kids of 15 and 16. She was driving the stolen SUV after robbing a liquor store (a new fad out west, apparently).
Many people know what literacy means, but some find that “comprehension” is too big a word.
I still contend the so-called “pandemic” is a GoverCorp and media-created event for the purpose of expanding Police State control over the unruly masses. Note how quickly and easily Congress came together to manufacture new money to spend fighting this “pandemic,” yet statistics are unreliable, deaths appear to occur mostly among the most unhealthy (and oldest), and the number of test-positives says nothing about the seriousness of the disease, or even if symptoms are present. Are asymptomatic people really a threat to others, or is coronavirus, like the common cold, caused by a virus that lives in the respiratory tract and only becomes pathological when the person is physically depleted?
Does coronavirus cause insanity? I suspect the “ruling class” you refer to is running scared because it’s losing its grip on the mass mind. Some among the unruly masses are learning to think for themselves, because the authorities, the experts, the scientists, and the “leaders” have lied to them too long and too many ways.
The very idea of staying at home to prevent the spread overlooks the fact that apartment and condo dwellers are breathing air constantly re-circulated through ventilation systems that do not stop viruses. Central air and heat can incubate pathogens (think Legionnaire’s disease). Urban dwellers are most at risk because they have limited access to the natural filtration systems provided by trees, nature, and sunlight.
But do you hear this from the so-called “experts” or politicians? No, because they don’t think for themselves. They are focused on funding the problem, not solving it, so are all spouting the GoverCorp line.
By “air born” they mean someone has to sneeze on you or on a surface which you then touch (and follow that up by putting your fingers in your mouth). They don’t mean it’s just circulating in the air, which is why I find people who wear masks while driving slightly ridiculous. Even if the virus were circulating through the air you’re probably safer in your car than you are in your house anyway.
There’s an excellent book about Ronald Reagan by Rick Perlstein where he describes just this kind of ruling class mindset in the 1970s. Thus the constant run of disaster movies. Films like Jaws, Airport, the Poseidon Adventure weren’t expressing the anxiety of the people. They expressed the anxiety of the ruling class that it was losing control of the people. Except for the oil shocks, the 1970s were actually pretty good for the working class. Inflation was wiping out debts. That’s why Paul Volcker tightened up on credit in the late 1970s and sparked a recession.
I think Coronavirus is probably more complex than a simple conspiracy. It obviously thrives in areas with a dense population, which is why New York has been hit so hard. China has dozens of cities the size and density of New York. Certainly outsourcing everything to China in order to take advantage of their government’s ability to suppress labor organizing has been bad for you and me.
But the Coronavirus that’s infesting New York didn’t come from China. It was brought back from Europe by ruling class jet setters. New York is getting slammed for the same reasons New York real estate doesn’t get cheaper during a recession. It’s an international city and an international market. If Americans can’t buy 7 figure condos, rich Frenchman and Russians will. As such any virus in Europe or in Asia is going to spread to New York after a few weeks.
My own little town in New Jersey has been hit surprisingly hard, even though it’s fairly well off and people have large houses and a lot of property. But under Michael Bloomberg Brooklyn and Manhattan got so expensive everybody moved out here. Thus there are hundreds of families spread between Park Slope, the Upper West Side and Union County NJ.
I think the real question becomes how we react when the pandemic is over. Do we resist more surveillance? or do we go along “for our own good?”
“Air borne” means the virus is carried through the air, possibly on droplets emitted in a cough or sneeze. The tuberculosis bacteria (not a virus) was found to be able to survive on surfaces after the droplet evaporated and then to become air borne. One reason spitting on the street was outlawed was because it could spread TB. Bacteria, unlike viruses, don’t need a host cell to proliferate.
Probably all disease is more or less opportunistic, meaning it thrives in people who are already unhealthy. TB thrived during the Great Depression, when so many people were malnourished. Now, it’s made somewhat of a comeback in AIDs and other immuno-compromised people.
Respiratory infection and air pollution go together. I’ve been to China (in 1997) and the pollution in Beijing and Shanghai was horrendous. We didn’t go to Wuhan, but it’s a city of 11 million and apparently has a lot of industry.
The Spanish flu epidemic in 1919 occurred before we knew as much as we know today about viruses, but my hypothesis remains sound. Malnutrition was rampant during World War I, and wars provide excellent breeding grounds for all pathogens. A charming book, “Rats, Lice and History: The Biography of a Bacillus,” by Hans Zinsser, published in 1934, claims that bacteria have won more wars than armies. Zinsser was the premier microbiologist of his time and his name is still on most medical school microbiology texts today.
I’m not sure how much they knew about viruses in 1919. They are too small to be seen under a microscope and replicate by taking over cellular machinery in a host cell to manufacture more virus.
I’ve read where the Spanish Influenza affected healthy young people (like all of those 18-30 year old men in army camps all over Europe) more than it affected frail older people. It actually mobilized the body’s immune system against itself. There’s also speculation that older people had developed immunity from an earlier pandemic in the 1890s.
Prevented Justinian from reconquering all of western Europe. Killed as many soldiers in the United States Civil War as the actual war did. Byron wrote a famous poem that recounts a similar incident in the Bible.
Mice stopped the mighty Assyrians
As they go about humans are surrounded by halos of fungi, bacteria, viruses. These fields expand with air circulation intermix with those of other people, animals, soil bacteria. Against this endemic soup the six foot rule is stupid. But the point is to provide the Covidiot peabrainers something to rant on about. Modern buildings are like aircraft endlessly re-circulating the same foul air. Because it saves the property management money. If this is how you reckon to deal with this health challenge The End Is Near. Fool.
In the Early Days, the UK government flirted with a ‘herd immunity’ strategy. Quarantine the vulnerable but let the healthy burn it off until natural immunity attenuates the pathogen. Viral and bacterial pathogens always mutate. It’s the second and third wave aftershocks that do the heavy damage. And, if there exist large populations that were not exposed to the first round, then they are ripe for the later ones. So, this strategy is stupid as it’s not going away and besides, there’s another new critter or two on the way so maybe just give up. Hopefully, the neo-liberals will be swept away.
The ruling class doesn’t have a clue what’s happening. They’re in reaction mode. The Fed prints money for the corrupt rich. It goes on their books. But, they can’t actually spend it. Because to do so would hugely increase the money supply, set off inflation and devaluate the US dollar. Russia+China hope the fools do try and dump the printed cash to make it easier for them to bring about the end of the Reserve Currency.
The neo-liberal globalization scheme is over. Because world just-in-time supply chains threaten national sovereignty. Japan wants to stop buying cheap Chinese auto parts. But that will force Japan to build small and unproductive plants to make equal goods at much higher prices. so, Japanese cars will be harder to sell in foreign markets. When all other auto manufacturers can obtain much cheaper Chinese parts.
But, the Japanese fear that one day China might just decide to cut off selling such parts to Japan who would be then royally fucked. Run this across to the United States and across thousands of industries and It Serves You Right. Screwed now, aren’t you? And China can now profitably sell to its own largest consumer market in the world and everybody else in the world. So there.