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The world of two months ago has disappeared

RamonetJournalist, writer and communications expert Ignacio Ramonet, has restricted his movement and is following strict social isolation measures, in Havana, although he is in excellent health. However, while apparently resting, he has created an essay that has already won accolades as a tool that can help us understand the circumstances and consequences of COVID-19 for humanity: Before the unknown… The pandemic and the world-system.”

Ramonet has offered us some thoughts, with the goal of bringing us closer to understanding the implications of the worldwide epidemic for geo-politics and social communication:

“I would define the pandemic as a total social fact. This is a concept of social science pointing out that, at times, a social occurrence has the ability to disturb everyone, all institutions as well as all the values of society. There are very few total social facts, but the pandemic is one of them; it is not only a health crisis. The question we must ask ourselves today is whether it is neoliberalism itself that has a share of responsibility for the health tragedy? And if so to what extent? To the extent that neoliberalism is the proponent of the reduction in the size of the state, and also to the extent that neoliberalism tries to transfer power to the market, and take it away from the state.

In many countries everything to do with Public Health has had the budgets greatly reduced. In the cases of Italy and Spain we also see the results of the economic crisis of 2008. In the heart of the European Union, the northern countries, Germany especially, demanded as the price of their help to those countries that had suffered economic-financial disasters imposed by the neoliberal model (Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Ireland) adopt austerity measures. That is, that the government reduce spending, and thus cut down on hospitals, particularly intensive care units, respirators, etc., and when the pandemic arrived it is no coincidence that Spain and Italy had the magnitude of the problems that they did, and the United Kingdom as well.

What will happen when the pandemic has passed and societies begin to examine the responsibilities of those governments that have performed badly all over the world, in all these big countries? Why had they not foreseen this pandemic? I show in this essay that, of all countries in the world, it was in the United States where there were the most forecasts of the likelihood of a pandemic. I give examples of CIA and Pentagon reports, of reports by scientists and of other U.S. leaders, of businessmen like BiIl Gates, in which they all announced that a coronavirus, not just a virus, a coronavirus would appear before 2025, and that it would cause exactly what is occurring today, that it would find governments without face-masks, without hospital beds, without face-shields and protective gowns. The mismanagement of those in charge has caused thousands and thousands of deaths, and these dead people have families; they are not guilty of anything but are the innocent dead.

Another aspect is the geo-political. How are we going to get out of this situation? What will the world be like after this? The world cannot be the same after the pandemic because we don’t know how this will end up or how many deaths there will be, finally. In this different world, what we will be able to see clearly is that the leadership of the United States has failed. This country has not lived up to expectations because it has been very badly mismanaged. If there is a leader, among all the leaders of the great countries of the world, who has shown, shall we say, completely disgraceful, completely bizarre behavior, that leader is President Trump, who has behaved like a clown, in many cases quite literally, in the context of such a tragic situation, in a country like the U.S. with such great responsibilities. Will this cost Trump the election? This is another question for which we do not have the answer, but there is no doubt that it has weakened him.

We are headed for a worldwide economic disaster that will be the same as or worse than the Great Depression of 1929, which was the greatest crisis experienced under capitalism since its beginnings in the 18th Century. So, what will happen in the world? What will happen in those countries in the Global South, which already have thousands of problems? What type of social and political crisis? What will happen in those countries that have military conflicts? We do not know what will happen in the world at the geo-political level. Right now we are looking at the health aspects of the problem but this health aspect will cause a cascade of consequences.

Clearly a “second act” which will be economic in nature and a “third act” which will be political and social are yet to come, but obviously this will happen.

It’s clear that the virus is not a revolution, but it is allowing us to see, for example, how it is that in many societies the poor die, not because they have coronavirus, but because they are poor, because health care is not available for them. A treatment in the U.S. might cost an average of $35,000 – not everyone has this kind of money, and not everyone has insurance to seek care. Immigrants and undocumented people – millions and millions of them – don’t even have access to any medical care.

In terms of communication, obviously there is a debate over imposing a narrative, because this is the first battle – that of communications, with 4.5 billion people shut up in their homes. The first lesson is that digital communication prevails; everyone has developed digital communication via social media, via messaging, and this is what has dominated. People don’t have access to paper, the bookstores are closed, the newspaper kiosks are closed. As a result this has been a major triumph for digital media, I would say even an exaltation. Another lesson, and it is something that we had already announced, is that data is the dominant raw material of our times. Data is what is most valuable today, and new empires of the data business – Big Data – have arisen.

There is also the problem of privacy. With regard to this, it has been demonstrated that those countries that have been most successful in combating COVID-19 have been those that have utilized the new technologies, especially surveillance cameras and smart phone apps.

In terms of communication, there has been an attempt to impose one narrative. This has given rise to a great lie of fake news, false news against the truth, and there has never been a period in which more false news was produced than in this epoch. In conclusion, it is also necessary to remember that the health crisis is an aspect of the climate crisis, and that the real crisis that the planet is living through is the climate crisis, which could truly destroy the planet tomorrow, as Fidel Castro declared.

(Translation: Resumen Latinoamericano)

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