The COVID-19 pandemic has already caused colossal loss of lives and livelihoods around the world. It continues to create havoc – destroyed livelihoods, communities and families – in different countries, like Brazil and India. In India, particularly, a vicious second wave, compounded by an acute Oxygen crisis, has generated an apocalyptic crisis.
This global health emergency has taken a terrible toll on individual lives by expanding the spectrum of anxiety, alienation, deaths, destitutions, loneliness and loss. Conservative commentators, writers, columnists and typewriters of ruling class voices locate the impact of these crises and its outcomes in individual problems or state and government failures.
There is no doubt that states and governments have failed to protect their own citizens who elect them to power. But, the same states and governments have enabled conditions for billionaires and millionaires to expand the profits of their corporations at a massive scale during this crisis.
The corporate profits and palaces of corporate honchos are relatively well-insulated from the virus. For them, this pandemic has become an opportunity to thicken their ledgers, at a time when people are dropping dead without basic medical care, such as oxygen support.
It is clear that mass vaccination will bring an end to this pandemic at some point of time in the near future. The lockdowns will end and economic activities will restore the sources of livelihoods for the working classes. But, during these tough times, it is important to ask difficult questions to fix accountabilities. These accountabilities are both political and intellectual questions.
Are anxieties, multiple forms of alienations, deaths, destitutions, loneliness and losses simply individual problems?
The ruling classes have used medical science and psychologists for a long time to argue that these are individual problems. These problems are either biological problems or mental health issues. The crisis only accelerates these problems. The counselling and therapy industry helps individuals and society recover from these problems temporarily.
The ruling class intellectuals and their corporate media outsource these problems to god, fate and religions to create a moral and spiritual hiding ground, where individuals are disposables based on their skills and abilities. Such processes produce democratically-elected ruthless leaders all around the world. These leaders stand with their crony capitalist friends while ignoring mass sufferings.
Pandemics and all the socio-psychological problems that come with them are older and more fundamental than the current global health crisis. Such pandemics are killing people since centuries. Medical science and psychology have failed to provide any permanent solutions to these problems.
Thus, it is important to locate the issues of anxieties, alienations, deaths, destitutions, loneliness and losses as political and ideological questions. There is no individual, moral or religious answer to them.
Also read ‘Not Just State Apathy, Capitalism to Equally Blame for India’s Migrant Worker Crisis‘
Pandemics move beyond national boundaries. These are global humanitarian issues created, sustained and promoted by a market driven capitalist society devoid of any form of commitment to people and the planet.
Anxieties are not only mental and emotional shifts embedded with nervousness, fear and worries, but also reflect physical symptoms like increased heart rate, panic attack and adrenaline rush. These issues are not natural and individuals suffering from these issues are not born with anxieties.
Human beings grow up with different forms and levels of anxieties based on their social, political, cultural, religious and economic conditions. Anxieties can be spiritual, economic, sexual and personal, but they are produced by different institutions and structures – such as families, schools, universities, homes, hospitals, prisons, workplaces and relationships.
These institutions are heavily influenced by political and economic systems of the country. Anxieties are less in more egalitarian, secular, democratic and progressive societies whereas authoritarian, hierarchical, unequal, insecure and conservative societies are fertile grounds for anxieties.
The capitalist system, its ideology, institutions and processes have formed an organic alliance with all forms of reactionary, conservative, religious and authoritarian forces. Capitalist markets find their natural ally in authoritarian politics and religious fundamentalists.
The religious and authoritarian forces work as shock absorbers of alienation and loneliness produced by capitalism as an economic, political, cultural and social system. The capitalist system is a breeding ground for multiple forms of loneliness and alienations.
This pandemic has helped socialise issues of mass alienation, loneliness and social distancing as a survival strategy. The psycho-social distance between people, their work and workplace has produced enormous levels of alienation and loneliness. Online work, social media interactions and indoor entertainments are time-killing machines. They can never replace face-to-face interactions where affection, love, share and care have their material and emotional foundations.
Also read ‘Confronting COVID-19 — Beyond Lockdowns and Curfews’
Ideas of rationality and science have taken a backseat with the growth of reactionary forces in politics and society. The capitalist system helps these forces grow for the survival of its crisis-ridden system. The lonely, alienated and hungry individuals can never fight capitalism as a system to reclaim their rights.
The COVID-19 pandemic has severely weakened the collective bargaining labour movements, social, economic and political struggles for human emancipation from conditions of poverty, hunger, homelessness, unemployment and different forms of inequalities. These conditions produce multiple forms of anxieties, alienation, deaths, destitutions, loneliness and loss, which then weaken individuals, families, states and societies and make them subservient to the interests of capital.
It is important to locate these issues as political questions and systemic issues, and not individual problems. The various struggles against the pandemic are struggles against capitalism that brings pathogens from the wild and destroys the natural life world.
Our collective survival depends on our collective abilities to understand these fundamental issues and take collective responsibilities to struggle for emancipation from all forms of capitalist narratives in politics, culture, society and economy. There is no second or third way. The only alternative is to understand and fight back capitalism till its end.
Views expressed are the author’s own.
Featured image from Flickr.
Bhabani Shankar Nayak is a political economist based in Coventry, UK. He researches and writes on political economy of religion, market, business and development.