By Atawallpa Oviedo Freire
The most commonly heard words in the world today, from presidents, high world authorities, millionaires, philosophers, personalities, to the simplest and poorest human beings are: cooperation, solidarity, union, coordination, support, organization, collaboration, responsibility, discipline, conscience, community, common.
The question that arises is: After the coronavirus is controlled or in progress: will it be possible to build a world within the categories and principles noted above? What would that system be like? What would be the driving force of this new lifestyle? Perhaps it has already existed before and must be polished. Will the coronavirus mark a “before and after”?
António Guterres, the UN chief, said: “Millions of lives will be in danger, if the world is not in solidarity against the coronavirus.”
Michelle Bachelet and Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioners for Human Rights and Refugees, respectively, noted. “If we ever needed to remember that we live in an interconnected world, the new coronavirus has made this evident. No country can tackle this alone, and no part of our societies can be ignored if we want to effectively face this global challenge.”
In an article published in The Guardian, UN leaders claim that Covid-19 is a test, not only for our healthcare systems and mechanisms for responding to infectious diseases, but also for our ability to work together as a community of nations facing a common challenge.
The IMF also called for international coordination against the coronavirus amidst the collapse of markets. The IMF called on the world’s governments to articulate “a coordinated international response” as displayed during the 2008 financial crisis to counter the economic impact of the new coronavirus, at the time of the market crash.
The IMF offered a $ 1 trillion loan, and asked for international coordination to make it effective. Its managing director, Kristalina Georgieva, appealed to governments and financial institutions around the world to join forces and coordinate actions. “Although quarantine and social distancing are the correct recipe to combat the public health impact of Covid-19, to ensure the global economy the exact opposite is needed,” says Georgieva, to request “constant contact and close coordination.” As “medicine” so that “pain inflicted by the virus is of short duration”. (…). “Our responses to this crisis will not come from a method, a region or a country in isolation. Only through exchange, coordination and cooperation can we stabilize the world economy and restore it to full health.”
The President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), George Tsereteli, called for coordination and solidarity to respond to the crisis stemming from the coronavirus pandemic, with an emphasis on Human Rights and economic measures.
The president of the Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament, Iratxe García Pérez, in an article for El País (Spain), noted that “Too fixed on macroeconomic growth, we have allowed public policies that are now fundamental to suffer, such as Health. Individualism, consumerism, and also loneliness have become global, as warned by philosophers and sociologists such as Gilles Lipovetsky or Zygmunt Bauman. This tremendous crisis can and should be an opportunity to return to the essential, to globalize solidarity. And in the case of the EU, to return to the feeling of “community”. We are a community, because we depend on each other, and only together can we face crises. That will be the engine to respond as citizens expect. The solidarity that we have not been able to translate into action to stop the social consequences of austerity, to face the challenges of immigration, or to stop global warming, we will have to exercise to stop the coronavirus. Hopefully it is the beginning of a new community and solidarity spirit.
Perhaps the world has understood it and it is possible to build another world. Perhaps the West will react, or it will only be the solidarity of these days until it is possible to control this virus and then it will return to individualism, isolation, insolidarity, lack of coordination, and the non-cooperation of global capitalism. For the moment, they only seem to understand eventual solidarity and only at the health level, and not the idea of overcoming capitalism by another comprehensive system of life, which is: solidarity, reciprocal and complementary.
In any case, this virus has told the arrogant and vain human being, how a tiny being can annihilate him. He has shown that his freedom, his self-absorption, his superficiality, his vanity, are nothing before a deadly virus. But it has not only demonstrated the fragility of the human being as such, but also that of his separatist, consumerist and materialistic society. This virus, likewise, has revealed that a system that lacks the coordinated and conscious assistance and participation of the whole of society, would simply make everyone succumb. It seems that the coronavirus is inviting civilized human beings to rediscover humility by re-learning from nature, living how ecosystems work, emulating societies of ants or bees.
It is no coincidence that this virus has spread more rapidly in countries that operate in particularism, in free market societies, in people that have deified private property over the collective and the community. In Europe the closing of borders has not been of much use, whereas in East Asia most countries have not had the need to close their borders because they have a better sense of what union, cooperation, discipline, coordination, collective responsibility.
Despite the presence of the free market and the law of competition, Asian societies are collectivists with a long tradition (or even their whole tradition) however an “authoritarian collectivism” as the German-based Korean philosopher Byung Chul Han says. Europe was also communal but with capitalism, it has lost that sense of cooperativeness to give priority to the individual and personal. And now they live in loneliness, isolation, separation, and with high rates of depression, anxiety, fear; causes of heart disease, first cause of death in the world. And Asia, since it entered the way of the market and its unbridled growth, has also been on that same path.
This does not mean that collectivism is perfect or fully emulable, since there are many things that fail. What we are trying to say is that a balance between the collective and the individual is necessary, not discrediting so simplistically the communitarian and advocating for the individual as the Occident has done, consequently suffering so much today due to lack of solidarity and cooperativeness.
This does not mean endorsing the failed collectivism of the communists, because they did the opposite of what communitarianism mandates. They thought that collectivism was in the centralized state and not in empowered and organized people in networks like a great web. In China, the statism they have created has worked in some way and they are emerging from this pandemic, but at the cost of losing their individuality, since the “big brother” of the Communist Party knows the number of heartbeats of each Chinese person. They took advantage of Chinese millennial collectivism and have transformed it into a state-centrism. With which they have given another blow to communitarianism, just as capitalism did as well. Liberal capitalism and state capitalism are both sides of the same coin.
Before everyone wanted to go to Europe, now the foreigners who are there want to repatriate. Africans, to whom certain Europeans used to say: “Black stay in your filthy country”, now don’t want to go to the “filthy” European continent. Why has Africa not reached the levels of Europe either, being so poor? Does it have to do with cooperativism and solidarity?
The only people this virus would not reach are the so-called “peoples in voluntary isolation”, who are mostly in the Amazon and have no contact with civilization. These are also collective societies, the only possibility for their survival, because if they were like individualistic societies they would have disappeared long ago. Just as all the societies of Amerindia and of which very little remains.
Perhaps this also explains why there are few infected that are in Latin America, the majority of cases are in the big cities where individualism and extreme disorganization operate. People who live in the country have less chance of contagion. The big cities that civilization and capitalism have created should disappear as they are the most fragile systems out there.
Perhaps the world will continue to try to be more like the United States, the country that is a symbol of individualistic apology, which does not have a universal health security and where the virus is expanding easily and it is becoming the new global epicenter of the coronavirus. “In addition to the obvious impact of the public health crisis, perhaps two million or more US citizens have been laid off from work as thousands of schools, national companies, and community businesses such as gyms, restaurants, bars, and shops have closed their doors, either voluntarily or under orders from the state and local government.” (VOA Noticias)
Nationalisms and populisms, other expressions of individualism, have also been defeated by the coronavirus. Even, symbolically, Bolsonaro the extremist of individualism and denial ended up infected. And so other characters who mocked climate change and collectivism, mistaking it for communism.
Most philosophers also agree on the need for cooperativity and solidarity. Slavoj Žižek and Korean Byung Chul Han believe that capitalism must be surpassed. Žižek believes that humanity can no longer live as usual and “radical change is necessary”. He says it is time “to think of an alternative society, a society beyond the nation-state, a society that updates itself in the forms of solidarity and global cooperation.” And Chul Han speaks of “a solidarity that allows us to dream of a different, more peaceful, and just society.”
What they disagree on is whether or not the coronavirus is the fatal blow to capitalism. Žižek believes that “The coronavirus is a ‘Kill Bill’ blow to capitalism.” And the philosopher Chul Han believes that Žižek is wrong: “after the pandemic, capitalism will continue even more vigorously. (…) The virus will not defeat capitalism. The viral revolution will not happen. No virus is capable of making revolution”. Instead, we believe that the coronavirus has not given capitalism a fatal blow, but a slight blow, but that this bump will eventually transform into a tumor and finally into cancer.
Nor do they agree on what the new post-capitalist system should be. Žižek affirms that “the coronavirus will also force us to reinvent communism based on trust in people and in science.” And Chul Han believes that Žižek “evokes a dark communism”, claiming that “We trust that after the virus there will come a human revolution. It is WE, PEOPLE endowed with REASON, who have to radically rethink and restrict destructive capitalism, and also our unlimited and destructive mobility, to save us, to save the climate and our beautiful planet.”
We agree that it cannot be either a communist or a centrist state, but neither can the idea of this new system be left to “reason” alone, as Chul Han says, because it was pure reason that shaped capitalism and the Enlightenment gave it the full crown; rather, we have to take advantage of the accumulated experience of humanity. What we need is a system of cooperation and solidarity that both of them enunciate. That is to say, neither a “dark communism” nor an “authoritarian collectivism”, but a solidarity cooperatavism that is neither authoritarian nor statist, but not only between human beings but between all beings that make life.
(Translation: Rubén Alvarado)