Corona, Capitalism and Civilisation

capitalism and climate change cartoon

“Who do you blame it on? For a while it was China, until the most favourite target for the Indians appeared on the scene – you know who. When it comes to the business of blaming, Indians (a large percentage of them) would have loved it if the virus had originated somewhere in the Middle East or in Pakistan.

But new viruses have always appeared in human history, some more deadly than others. This one is the newest such calamity. Sure enough, humanity will be found standing on the other side of this crisis. But, how shall we count the losses after this mayhem is over?

Governments and leaders will be evaluated for what they did or did not do during the crisis. Of course they should be judged for that. But one hopes that humanity would also give some thought to how it lives and dies. The loss of life would not be confined to those killed by the virus. A far greater number would be killed by the economic, social and political fall-outs.

In the aftermath of the crisis how many of us will turn our attention to the economic and political system under which humanity lives? This economic system collapses if one third of humanity for some reason suspends its voracious and profligate consumption and is forced to sit out of a lifestyle that is a mad rat race. Then two thirds of humanity is threatened with job losses and even starvation. And the top billionaires, while keeping the trillions they have already taken home, force the governments and hence the public to hand out to them further trillions so that the system can be saved.

If humanity has the kind of creativity, productivity, knowledge, skill and technology that each one of us can live relatively peacefully – with enough food and lot of fulfilment – why such expectations are considered utopian? And why this artificial and forced enacting of a dog-eat-dog competition and commotion is considered the normal mode of living? Why should two thirds of humanity do inhuman labour for pittance, why should one third of humanity be turned into guzzling idiots despite their smartness and productivity, and why should the world be run mindlessly thus, so that billionaires continue to grab trillions?

One hopes that some of us also begin to examine what has happened to democracy. How come democracy means that people vote against their own interests? Why is it that across the globe they have begun to elect, more often than not, jokers to rule over them? And these are not just jokers. They are invariably malignant jokers. (Remember the role played by Joachim Phoenix). Why is it that all sensible, humane, civilized and rational way of doing politics is considered stale and boring?

Our much beloved Amartya Sen has spent a glorious lifetime advertising that democracy saves lives – famines don’t happen in democratic societies. One would, however, need an army of Amartya Sens to count how many millions have been killed unnecessarily by the combination of capitalism and this kind of democracy.

(By the way, I am also told that Delhi sky is much clearer, and people in Jalandhar woke up to a view of Himalayan snow-peaks after decades.)”=

Ravi Sinha has been associated with left and progressive movements for four decades. He was trained as a theoretical physicist and has a PhD degree from MIT



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