Us vs Coronavirus

A microscopic bug, commonly referred to as Covid-19, has brought human civilisation to its knees. For the first time in mankind’s history, city streets the world over are near empty as widespread paranoia and insecurity have become as endemic as the virus.  In the early stages of this global crisis, national governments all too often ignored the perils that were coming their way; even though the evidence of the virus’ health and economic devastation was plain to see in China – almost at its outset.

Europe under siege

In Italy, the original epicentre of the outbreak in Europe, various prejudices are worryingly coming to the surface. Some in Italy have referred to US President Donald Trump’s reference to Covid-19 as “the China virus”. Others have referred to conspiracies raised by certain Chinese officials including Covid-19 infected American military passing it over during the military games in Wuhan, China, late last year.  Some circles have even been pointing the finger of blame at Germany with accusations that the country’s government has only focused on looking after its own, while Italy, Spain and other continental European countries have suffered much more.

The European Union is also blamed as simply not doing enough for people feeling besieged across its southern member states. There is talk of a realignment of political alliances after this crisis has blown over, away from Brussels and towards Beijing. Who knows whether any of this may happen in reality? It’s probably all chatter from populations fearful for their lives, whether that be from catching the disease or suffering from the after effects of grave economic loss.

Every nation for itself

Governments have become wholly disjointed in dealing with the crisis.  China’s government enforced mass and rigid city shutdowns. South Korea’s authorities have applied mass technology and testing. Different European countries are doing a bit of both, but to much less effect, so far.  Meanwhile, America’s response – the world’s undisputed sole superpower from 1990 to 2008 – has been to isolate itself from the rest of the world at every possible opportunity.

Other governments, such as the UK’s, have turned in on themselves in a desperate, probably late attempt, to save their economies and calm their increasingly fearful publics. Keynesianism in the form of giant fiscal programmes with aspects of Socialist “equality” is suddenly back in vogue. Everything the public-at-large were supposed to accept, from political power cliques that promoted individualism and endless super-profits for corporations and the super-rich, amid deferential awe for Silicon Valley’s high-tech corporations, has wilted in the face of a viral pandemic.

If there are any pertinent lessons the coronavirus has imparted, thus far, it is the realisation that all individuals are equal in fear and susceptibility in their exposure to catching this potentially deadly disease.  From Hollywood mega stars cancelling their next big blockbusters or falling ill to Covid-19, to the Brexit negotiators calling a halt to talks as a result of testing virus-positive, to the multi-billionaires seeking refuge in their California mansions or remote tropical islands, and to the hospital worker crying for food after the supermarket shelves have been cleared out by panic-buying – there is a pervading sense that world governments, which were supposed to provide a point of reference, at the very least, even if trust in them had waned in recent years, have left many feeling abandoned and powerless.

Instead, many governments and their military establishments, global financial institutions and their highly-educated problem-solvers, trillion dollar mega-tech companies and their dizzying array of tech geniuses, appear to have all capitulated and scarpered for the hills as the coronavirus has made its way over to their part of town.

Coronavirus forever?

In reviewing all of that’s transpired over the last couple of months, from all four corners of the world – the coronavirus is currently on a winning streak.  Some say, it may only be around for another three to six months and that the little blighter will soon be gone!  But, what if it isn’t?  What if the deadly bug is here to stay?  What if this is a fight for the future of who owns the planet?  Maybe our time as the dominant life-form on earth is up, to be replaced not so much by a superior life-form that installs a new advanced civilisation, but by a primitive life-form that will likely disappear after we have gone.

Just because this virus is tiny in size and lacking the genetic sophistication of so-called superior life-forms, why shouldn’t it oust human society from mother Earth?  Indeed, Covid-19 may well be the second or third in a long line of modern-day coronaviruses dispatched by a planetary climate change of wetter, more humid, virus-friendly conditions, sending the human race packing for good. What if SARS, MERS, H1N1, and other bugs were only the advance guards, sent out to probe human civilisation’s weaknesses and resourcefulness, to lay the groundwork for Covid-19 to explode viral nuclear holocaust that mankind never saw coming, but should have?

More collectivism, less individualism

To combat the growing threat from climate change, human civilisation should adapt to the coronavirus’ modus operandi. Human society should become as global and collectivist as Covid-19, rather than constantly being engaged in ongoing civil wars and ancient grudges. Endlessly blaming this nation’s ideology or that country’s values or this culture and society’s so-called backwardness is not going to get mankind anywhere.

The coronavirus is uniform in identity.  It respects no spatial boundaries, other than freezing Antarctica, which has not succumbed to human civilisation anyway.  The deadly virus certainly doesn’t respect national borders and continues its relentless hunt to infect human bodies in spite of the practice of individuals’ self-isolation and social distancing.  In the end, it can probably play the waiting game as mankind’s system of global, but ultimately nation state-constructed economic and financial interdependence falls apart; tearing away at human civilisation’s fragmented biological and psychological resilience.

To confront this unseen enemy, human civilisation must in its entirety, and not as separate artificial nations, build all-planetary defences that embrace a collectivist mindset and sets of actions.  If mankind is to stand any chance of remaining this planet’s dominant life-form, it needs to shed national identities and coalesce into a greater collectivist global identity to tackle climate change and fashion a green environment more in tune with earth’s natural conditions that gave rise to our existence in the first place.  If not, then, accelerating climate change may further upscale its microbe tyranny upon us.

About the GPI

The Global Policy Institute is a research institute on international affairs. It is based in the City of London, and draws on both a rich pool of international thinkers, academics as well as policy and business professionals. The Institute gives non-partisan guidance to policymakers and decision takers in business, government, and NGOs.