Gaia One capitalism Zero
Gaia, the unverified creation of freelance scientist James Lovelock seems have decided humans are becoming a pain in the crust but deserve a warning before she takes more forceful action.
Soon after the general election of 2019 Gaia sent her warning to humans – coronavirus.
In China a wild animal, some say it was a bat, had a virus that jumped to humans. China, true to form, tried to cover it up.
China was the perfect place to release Gaia’s warning shot, coronavirus.
Health professionals worldwide had warned of the risk of a major pandemic for more than fifteen years but, being tired of experts, governments, especially those in the US and UK, ignored them: prevention costs money and the cost of a pandemic that was, like a 1960s London bus, sure to arrive but nobody knew when, could not be estimated. No government wanted to spend money on preventing a disaster that might happen when they were out of power with their opponents taking the credit, and big business, to whom governments were in thrall, did not want to see money that could have been spent on tax cuts for the rich spent on something that would help the poor.
The United Kingdom – like the USA – at first decided to do nothing, to ignore the advice of the despised experts and let the virus, which was at first believed to be dangerous primarily to the elderly and those with underlying health problems, to run rampant. This would have benefitted the government by getting rid of many pensioners– who were seen as a cost to the state, and no longer needed by the Tory party which was becoming the party of the young and middle aged “Alt Right, increasingly hard to distinguish from Nazis.
Doing nothing was politically unacceptable and once some of the ruling elite and their puppets in the House of Commons caught coronavirus the United Kingdom followed the example of Italy and the rest of the world in requiring people to stay at home. This started with asking employers to let employees work from home where possible, then closing pubs, clubs and restaurants and finally telling the British public to stay at home except for shopping, work that could not be done from home, exercise, medical reasons or to care for the vulnerable; an order the public promptly ignored especially when employers told them to come in to work or be fired.
Italy had a much more stringent lockdown routine backed by fines and prison sentences. A couple of weeks later Gaia was smiling. Without humans it was said wildlife: swans, fish and even dolphins had returned to the iconically polluted canals of Venice - though these reports seem to be fake. Back in China pollution had plunged. In the Philippines the sky was clearer than in the memory of many. And in Edinburgh local waterways seemed clearer than ever and the traditional dark stone faces of the buildings seem to be getting lighter and lighter. I saw a daytime fox in our Holyrood Park but so far other wildlife, unlike the welsh goats, have remained warily out of sight. I do not expect to see the Scottish bigfoot anytime soon though.
In the United Kingdom the Prime Minister’s performance made him look like a glove puppet with a chillie smeared hand up his backside. His government produced measures that professed to save the economy but looked very much like an effort to preserve business as normal and direct money from the poor to the rich. The first version did something for employed workers, for without workers employers are just people but they abandoned the unemployed, gig workers, zero hours contract workers, the sick the disabled and the elderly. They also abandoned the self employed, White Van Man, plumbers, electricians, hairdressers, and bed and breakfast owners. They abandoned anyone self employed who made enough to survive and enough to be fooled into voting Tory, but not enough to be able to donate large amounts to the Tory Party.
Ironically these measures and others the government took took were exactly the ones they dismissed as socialist and unaffordable a few short weeks before
A later package seemed to do something for the self employed but looks more cosmetic than real.
Pan steps in
Gaia was not alone. One of her allies, the great god Pan, allegedly dead for millennia aroused his trademark panic in various countries. In the Disunited Kingdom toilet paper immediately vanished from supermarket shelves. Pandemonium broke out along with panic buying as the public realised the pandemic could last for a long time, there was no panacea to cure it and nobody knew how it would pan out. This is exactly what proponents of Capitalism, whatever they mean by that term said would happen under Socialism – whatever they mean by that term.
Little People Matter
In 2019 (-1 BC – before Coronavirus) the office working classes and the elite who pretend what they do is work (it is perhaps work but not as most know it) despised the little people who pay their taxes and do the work that holds society together, the cleaners, the paramedics the carers. They regarded them the way the people of Golgafrincham regarded telephone sanitisers.
Now they know these little people are vital to society. While the rulers are needed to direct society without these people there would be no society to direct and replacing them by robots would not satisfy the love of power or be nearly as much fun and a managerial empire of robots lacks the cachet of an empire of humans.
Perhaps most importantly to the elite the little people are the market, consumers who allow Capitalism to grow for to survive Corporate Capitalism must grow.
Gaia is trying to tell us we are an ecosystem, part of a larger ecosystem which Gaia manages.
Coronavirus shows that society is not separate, if overlapping, tribes – lower, middle and upper class, people and politicians but a network. The swift return of wildlife and clean water to Venice after Italy went into lockdown shows that humanity is linked to other species.
Once this pandemic panic is over we must make sure the next one can be stopped before it starts.
We must invest in prevention now, not treat prevention as a needless cost that pares the bank accounts of the richest.
Prevention is better and cheaper than cure. The firefighter is more glamorous than the fire prevention officer but the latter saves an unknowably greater number of lives.
Neoliberalism, the version of Capitalism under which most of us have grown up has suffered a severe, perhaps terminal shock. If it recovers Capitalism must change to serve society, to serve everybody everybody not just a tiny percentage of rich people many of whom are dysfunctional or psychopathic.
We cannot afford a world where a legislator seriously says grandparents are willing to die in order to save the economy for their grandchildren.
We cannot afford a world where the elderly are regarded as disposable trash.
We cannot afford a world where people matter less than money.