The Great Coronavirus Pandemic of 2020 is only just beginning. Although it is already dominating the headlines, most of the suffering is still to come. Exactly how much suffering there will be – and who will suffer it – is still unknown, as are most outcomes of this rapidly-unfolding drama. However, there are some things that this pandemic, and the response to it, have already proven. This essay explains.
Many people, mostly for egotistical reasons, believe that human beings are categorically superior to other animals. The usual belief is that our high brain volume to body volume ratio has granted us an unmatched degree of intelligence, if not spiritual insight. Therefore, we’re above “animal behaviour”.
The ongoing panic buying that has seen supermarkets in the West stripped bare is stark evidence against this. Human beings are another kind of primate, only narrowly less impulsive and aggressive than the others. The “monkey see, monkey do” logic that causes juvenile primates to imitate their peers is on vivid display in the now numerous videos of people fighting over water and toilet paper.
In reality, humans are just as prone to panic-fuelled acts of selfish aggression as any “lower” animal. All we need is enough fear to cause a limbic hijack and we’re operating on raw animal instinct again. The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has proven that we’re as susceptible to that panicky fear as any flock of sheep.
A second thing that the COVID-19 pandemic has proven is that borders are good. Because the West has been so wealthy for so long, we have developed a kind of tameness. We forgot that the world is dangerous, and that much of that danger comes in human form. We started to believe the fatal delusion that all human groups are the same.
The pandemic caused us to remember that borders are there for a reason – the same reason why you have a fence around your property and skin around your body. It’s to keep bad things out. Esoterically speaking, a border is just a hard masculine line that protects a softer, feminine core, like a skull, a ribcage, a door or a fence.
We have now remembered that borders are good because they keep bad things out. Whether people infected with viruses or people infected with hate-filled ideologies, borders serve to keep us safe from danger. The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that having open borders makes as much sense as leaving your front door open at night.
A corollary to this is that the pandemic has proven that the Government can stop mass immigration if they want to.
For the past few decades, neoliberals have screamed that everything would collapse if we stopped the mass importation of cheap labour – our fruit and vegetables would go unpicked, our garbage would go uncollected and our elderly would go without care. Western Governments have closed the borders anyway, reasoning that, absent cheap labour imports, wages will rise to the point where these jobs can be filled by natives.
More worryingly, the COVID-19 pandemic has proven that our dependence on offshore supply chains for some basic goods and medicines has made us not only economically vulnerable, but also strategically vulnerable.
Many industries are running into procurement difficulties, because China shut down so many of its factories and docks that the flow of exports has been throttled. Many Western manufacturers are just learning that, because so much has been outsourced there, when China shuts down the world shuts down. It has become common to hear a person exclaim their recent realisation that X% of a vital industrial widget is produced in China and so, without Chinese production, no-one can get hold of it.
Our exposure to medical shortages threatens to be much worse than our exposure to industrial shortages.
Two weeks ago, India, the world’s leading producer of generic drugs, instituted export restrictions on 26 of them. Because the coronavirus pandemic has impacted pharmaceutical factories in China, many Indian drug manufacturers can no longer acquire precursor ingredients. The panic buying has already shown how close we are to chimpout – once people start being told that the pharmacies can’t supply their psychiatric medicines there could be riots.
Perhaps more fundamental than any of these things is that COVID-19 has proven that the Government doesn’t know what the fuck it’s doing. This was already widely understood by most intelligent people, but by now most poeple have had the nauseating realisation that the Government is made up of people who are good at winning elections and not people who are good at governing. All around the world, they are panicking.
One of the main things that Western authorities now have to concern themselves with is civil unrest. It’s slowly dawning on people that this pandemic has the potential to disrupt life as we know it for a significant length of time. As this realisation spreads, all kinds of negative sentiments will grow. Anger, fear, vengeance and short-term thinking will all increase – and they won’t be rational.
The COVID-19 pandemic has proven that our society is on much shakier foundations than it used to be, and shakier foundations than many had realised. The bonds of solidarity that comprise every community are much fewer and much weaker. The potential for chimpouts at any time have never been greater.
If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2019 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 and the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 are also available.