Noam Chomsky: Coronavirus

There is plenty in this video to think about so I made some non verbatim notes as I was watching. There is some very interesting stuff here and Chomsky’s advice at the end is just what we need to be thinking about and acting on.

“The Coronavirus is serious enough but there is a much greater horror approaching approaching; we are racing to the edge of disaster far worse than anything that’s happened in human history” begins Chomsky.

There are two worse threats, nuclear war and global warming. These have to be dealt with. We will recover from Coronavirus but if we don’t deal with these other threats we’re done. The scientists running the ‘Doomsday Clock’ puts us at 100 seconds to midnight. This is the closest that its ever been. [See https://thebulletin.org/doomsday-clock/current-time/]

We’re finished if we leave our fate to bufoons like Trump. Trump is particularly dangerous because he leads the US and the US leads the world. Europe chooses to follow the US, many other countries don’t have a choice. The US imposes sanctions against Iran that are designed to impose suffering. Europe may not like this but they follow. It is a shocking irony that it is [sanctioned] Cuba that is helping European countries fight the Coronavirus, not the US and not Germany.

Srecko Horvat notes that there are almost 2 billion people confined to their homes if they have a home. Borders are being closed in Europe and the army is on the streets. The language is that of a war aginst the virus. Horvat asks if this language and response is appropriate.

Chomsky says the language in this case has significance, that we have to move to something like wartime mobilisation. Mobilisation for World War Two greated great national debt [for the US] but greatly increased the country’s productive capacity. Coronavirus is not on that scale but it needs a similar response. A rich country can deal with this and other threats, but what about a poor country like India? In a civilised world rich countries would be helping poorer countries instead of trying to strange them. Coronavirus is serious but there are much bigger crises that endanger the [human] species. Global warming will make South Asian countries uninhabitable in a few decades.

The Coronavirus may be helpful if it makes people think about the world we have.

CV represents a colossal market failure. It’s been known for a long time that that pandemics were likely and the likely agent would be a coronavirus. Labs could have been working on developing vaccines but they didn’t because the ‘market signals’ were wrong. It was more profitable for big pharma to make body creams than to work on finding a vaccine. Neoliberal ideology blocked direct government intervention.

Chomsky references a simulation carried out in October 2019 in the US that warned of the consequences of a CV pandemic. He notes that the polital systems did not take any notice. [See https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/02/a-simulated-coronavirus-pandemic-in-2019-killed-65-million.html]

On December 31st China informed the WHO of the virus. China, Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore acted quickly and with some success to contain the virus. Germany acted a little later but had the spare capacity, intensive care beds, to protect their population. The capacity of other nations to meet the challenge had been devastated by years of neoliberal policy. The UK response was among the worse the US response was the worst of the worse.

People now have to ask what knd of world they want to live in. The crisis may result in a more authoritarian neoliberal world or to radical reconstruction, a world that is green equal and just. It is possible that people will organise and become engaged, that they will confront the problems of nuclear war and environmental catastrophy. CV should bring us to awareness of the dysfunction of the neoliberal system.

Srecko Horvat asks Chomsky’s advice on social resistance in a time of social distance.

Chomsky say that people, especially young people glued to their cellphones, were already self isolating before the crisis. Misuse of social media has been isolating people from each other. We need to recreate social bonds, contacting people, developing organisations, deliberating and bringing people together. We have to put face to face contact on hold but can use social media to deepen bonds.

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