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COVID-19 and the humanisation of globalisation

It turns out we did change the world. And we must keep changing it.
I am going to write about how the impact of the coronavirus shows we all got globalisation wrong, that we have created the conditions to replace it, why this has happened and what we should do. First, I want to say three things.

I wish every reader well and a fruitful future life. Like any scribbler I always desire more of you. But the more of you there are the more likely it is that some of you will not survive this year. Never have the words “take care” been so freighted with relevance. Keep your distance, wash your hands, don’t touch your face – something I find impossible – and look after others.

Second, as someone now classified as ‘vulnerable’ who has always wanted the world to change, I didn’t want it to change like this. I fear the powers that rule us may exploit the pitiless nature of the plague to control us after it has passed, rather than be forced to step aside. As one of those most likely to be taken away by the virus if it gets to me, and least likely to qualify for life-support if I need hospitalisation, I have to acknowledge a new dread. It’s a dread which makes me dream of hugging my children rather than seeing them flicker on the computer screen, of holding my older granddaughter’s hand and poking out my tongue at the younger and laughing with delight. And laughter is good for the immune system, I’ve been told, and bad for SARS-CoV-2 (the name of the actual virus) which suffers from being over-serious.

The dread is that if my child gets COVID-19 (the name for the disease the virus causes) I cannot stroke her forehead; that my beloved could be removed from me forever if she finds it difficult to breathe; or if I get it, that she can’t bring a comforting drink to my bedside and my body will become a toxic time-bomb demanding rapid, sterilised disposal. All this imbues everything that follows, writing under lockdown.

Third, to write about it, just like singing about it, talking about it, or posting messages about it, requires making a call about the fear the pandemic generates. This isn’t simple. It is vital to turn on the fear mechanisms – for the virus is contagious and cruel. It is also essential to turn them off – for fear itself is the most contagious thing of all.

In my country our leaders got both calls wrong. They failed to take the coronavirus seriously when it first arrived and are now unable to provide reassurance. It means that trying to respond in a clear-headed way to its impact, here in England, is unsettled by the unavoidable presence of a prime minister who lacks every virtue except audacity and ambition. He counteracts his emotional void with a calculated ebullience and the recruitment of smart advisors whose messaging he follows, as he flees serious questioning and the human engagement this demands.

Usually, profits come before people. But this year, governments across the world have been forced to shut down their economies and put life first. Why?

Out of the Belly of Hell: COVID-19 and the humanisation of globalisation
Open Democracy
Anthony Barnett

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