by Mike Meyer ~ Honolulu ~ May 13,2020
Where are we going? We are well into the new pandemic world, and everyone has gone through the wall of surprise at how fast the world can change. The first month or so was the ‘Nothing is Going to Be the Same Again’ period. This stage was followed by the ‘Wait; This is Not Fun Anymore’ stage. Many people are still struggling with that one.
For countries suffering from a resurgence of neofascism, an alternate reality came into existence that managed to preserve much of their pre-COVID-19 world. Using the standard blizzard of random lies and new conspiracy theories prevented the change from being seen. In the US, Trump-Fox followers have been living in a bizarre version of America circa 1957. That reality had removed most knowledge and all of science. The historical enemy of Amerika, the USSR, was replaced by an infinitely malleable ‘deep state’ with no troublesome geographic location.
This artificial reality allowed Russia, only vaguely connected to the old USSR in the minds of the Trump-Fox followers, to become the icon of a ‘smart’ authoritarian dictatorship. The selection of Donald Trump as the American version of Putin worked as Russia was the only place that Trump could still borrow money after an endless sequence of financial failures. With a little manipulation, Trump became a great businessman again with a logical connection to Russia that had always recognized his ‘greatness.’ With some hand waving and vague claims of the usual schemes to discredit, these could cover the source of the funds for Trump’s grossly overpriced oceanfront condos sold to Russian mafioso.
This ploy worked well for the connected billionaires and wannabes who have gained control of a significant portion of US voters who will, now, believe anything. After some initial confusion at the pandemic and its threat to revenue flow, some orchestrated and heavily armed ‘demonstrations’ against public health containment efforts, proved for the followers that the dead were not real. The truckloads of bodies were all faked by the ‘deep state.’
We are now in a stage of the pandemic for this alternate reality that requires these people to go back to work in defiance of pandemic rules to protect them so that they can prove that Arbeit Macht frei. After all, that has always been a great American saying. Wasn’t that the slogan that made ‘Germany Great Again’?
The surprising short term success of this trick, unfortunately, has some serious problems already appearing. The failure of the Trump front to come up with original ideas without merely copying the USSR and Nazi Germany means that things are getting complicated as COVID-19 epicenters move to the heartland. The fake dead begin to smell very real after a week or so. But so far, nothing will stand in the way of the followers who genuinely seek to be free. Freedumb is the American way, or is it Russian, maybe German? They are all really good people.
For the primary reality folks, things are no longer at all clear, dependent on their economic status and location. If they are in Trumpistan, things are getting ugly fast with forced work for Arbeit Macht frei, even if they know the origins of that phrase. To do anything else means no benefits, unemployment insurance, or food unless they bow to the lords of their feudal world and maybe not even then.
The remaining part of the employed, who has the professional option of working online from home, it is psychologically hard as the old world is gone. Still, everyone is tired of talking about it and soon will be tired of baking bread. But we are now into the second round of amazement as the benefits of shutting down the monster economy become clearer. How can we hold on to this? And, despite all the complaining about not going out, it is a transformation to learn that with Amazon, and others, you don’t need stores and malls. While there is growing cabin fever and members of the family are driving each other nuts, relationships are forming that once were important but got in the way of buying stuff and making more money. Maybe there is some good in this? The house hasn’t been this clean since it was new.
At the same time, the real novelty of the SARS CoV-2 virus and the array of nasty things it is doing to different people is becoming well known among the primary population that retains some grasp of reality and science. Truth is becoming very scary, making the non-reality of the Trump-Fox followers almost completely incomprehensible.
These realizations come with a considerable spoonful of humility for our species as we, despite our pride and technology, can’t seem to whip up a vaccine or even an effective treatment for the COVID-19. That is, perhaps, the most transformative and challenging part of this process. We have become corrupted by the normalization of magical thinking and the refusal to accept reality. This pandemic requires extensive effort, patient testing, and time to produce immunization and treatments to achieve social (herd) immunity. We tend to ignore what we already know, that we have annual seasonal flu shots that are often only marginally effective. Viruses are not bacteria and aren’t even alive but are very dynamic organelles that continuously evolve.
Our old reality is that time is money, and we don’t have enough money, but that, purported, law of nature is no longer applicable in the pandemic world. We need the time for treatment and vaccines, and people need the money to live. But we can’t buy time by selling millions of more fig jacks and gold toilet seats because we can’t make them without risking huge epicenters of COVID-19 with suffering and death. It’s not supposed to be this way.
A very different aspect of our future is now in our faces. The links between time, money, and living are fraying and separating. In the US, this is impossible, yet that is what is happening. In democratic socialist countries, now the only surviving successful nations, this was long accepted.
Unlike past pandemics and their economic shocks, our level of planetary technology, our knowledge of ways to replace these links, and our growing understanding that this must change anyway is no longer optional. The sudden changes of the pandemic are not a bump in the road, temporarily flattening tires with only replacement needed to get us back on the highway. We are at the end of our old path. It is a new and very rough country ahead of us. The cars we make and the kind of tires we equip them with are now part of the problem and are not appropriate for where we are going.
This awareness of change is widening the chasm between the primary reality people, shared around the planet, and the alternate reality, neofascist people (Trump-Fox followers in the US). The neofascists are committed to going back to 1957 if they just believe and do what they are told.
This growing chasm, long seen as a problem, is reaching unsustainable dimensions. It is possible to live with people in another culture and language, but it quickly becomes impossible to deal with people in another, not only fabricated, but also immoral reality. I suspect this will produce a cultural tectonic break, although the alternate reality people seem to want a collision allowing them to crush and submerge everything else.
I don’t know how to repair or even delay this now. But we cannot pretend to ignore it as is happening at high speed. The pandemic has put this on a far more severe level than a temporary political disagreement. There are persuasive psychological examples that say that if the individuals who are the source of the psychosis are removed, the social psychosis will begin to fade in the affected society. That change is now critical, as illustrated by the massive failure to manage the pandemic greatly multiplying the number of deaths.
But this American problem is a small bend in the road ahead that will dictate only the survival and future role of the US in planetary affairs. The resolution of this US problem has only secondary effects on the far more significant challenges beyond this first patch of bad road. A relevant explanation of this is the planetary market working to discount the ongoing failure of America. As an actor, the US is already at nearly zero value and is becoming a field of assets open to plunder as conditions disintegrate. We will see how this breaks, but the main actors are no longer in North America, with no disrespect to Canada or Mexico.
China, with all sorts of internal problems of its own tied to the old world, will be first to recover from COVID-19 and, we can hope, will build on the clean air for two months in Beijing and Shanghai, to seriously tackle the climate emergency. That seems to be the policy, primarily designed to bring the emerging parts of the planet out of the US imperial wasteland and into a new China dominant world. This change will be contested by the EU that is working on creating a new European conversation with an expanded list of nations. There appears to be a chance for the climate emergency to take center stage, finally, after the dust settles on the US and its multilayered disasters.
On the day to day level, the world will go where it is already going. That will be rapidly expanding tracking and mass data analysis to allow public health management of recurring pandemics and, incidentally, trouble-causing individuals. Mass general monitoring will be the only way to control the spread of highly infectious diseases without total isolation for long periods but will end the assumed right to anonymity. China has led this as a means of social control by beginning to reward or limit service usage by people dependent on their social credit actions.
We need to figure out how to manage this as a free service or, unlike China, in Trumpist America, the control will only operate on petty spite. While the Chinese population tends to support the monitoring of public social guides for public safety and health, extreme individualist cultures that have no concept of public good and community will risk further descent into warlordism and chaos.
The nature of major paradigmatic shifts requires entirely new thinking about what is right, wrong, and controllable. The only thing that won’t work is pretending that these issues are not new but merely a repeat of something long past and irrelevant. Controlling who owns and how the government has access to personal and aggregate personal information is critical. The protections of postmodern society must be on personal data as an asset that any other entity, including government, must be granted the privilege and pay to access and use.
We see the rise of neofascism as a resurgence of ‘nationalism’ in direct opposition to the movement to individual rights as predominant undercutting the concept of nation-state sovereignty. The balance of continuous and constant data tracking requires that each individual on the planet become sovereign with the power to own their data as a natural asset. This right is the only possible firewall against authoritarian suppression and criminal state domination.
The public management of this right to our data is the core mid-21st-century political battle and not some posed rehash of mid-20th-century political conflicts. On a planet faced with planetary threats to our survival, there is no room for a sovereign, 18th-century governmental entities. As we see in the collapse of the US in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the failure to provide coordinated action against a planetary outbreak fails to protect the population and destroy any local or regional success. This failure is the ultimate destruction of personal well-being and personal sovereignty.
But this is not the old concept of sovereignty presented as the supposed foundation of government and ownership of our planet’s assets and resources. Our personal information is the only ownable asset. The right to grant use of personal data for human health and welfare can be required, but its value must be respected and returned with individual health, protection, and well-being.