Pandemic and the Technological Delusion: A Road Ahead

Coronavirus climate change image

The world is suffering with the biggest crisis of this century. Pandemics have affected the world in past too, but the current pandemic of corona or the Covid-19 is different in terms of its origin at a different juncture of the global development. It is required to look into the present crisis in the framework of last 30-40 years of global changes. Globalisation provided an abundant prospect to work in a close association with each other. Although the discourse of globalisation goes back into the period of dominant colonial rule of old giant United Kingdom and other colonisers. Most of the countries of the world, especially in third world, went through the technological development in this phase only. However, the colonial masters controlled it for their own profits. Douglas Kellner in his idea of globalisation, has given utmost importance to the technological development. There is no doubt, in spite of the some of the reservations that technological advancement has given an unprecedented rise to the globalisation. Technology, in its most revolutionary sense, became accessible to the most of the household. With this belief, the new policies that dealt with our everyday life has considered that those who are part of this technological world, will only exist and other will lose the battle of everyday life, as the survival of the fittest theory works.

When technology intervened in the lives of many middle class families, it was a surprise. It helped to ease the everyday life. With a different charm and attraction, this class celebrated the opening of economy. Notably, we tend to ignore the multifaceted development of globalisation, where it didn’t only survive into real practice, but it also provided a psychological justification too. There is no coincidence but a more real manufactured relation between globalisation and democracy. The logic of democracy is based on the idea of freedom from all the barriers of thought, production and gave so much importance to the idea of open competition.  Those who can compete will sustain in this framework of globalisation, others will be ousted. However, democracy provides the right of rejection too. But, the structural constrain and the psychological control of this dominant model of globalisation, certainly do not recognise this right of rejection. One has to be part of the same system whether you like it or not. You have to choose option within the provided framework, but any effort to quit the frame will be lower down. Therefore, it is a democracy that doesn’t only define its territory, but has also started a psychological warfare.

The background of this globalisation oriented democracy is important to proceed for another idea. We all know that corona pandemic has made everything online. From tele-education to tele-medicine to tele-marketing and there is no doubt that the way the online world is being spiritualised as a solution to the every problem, it has left behind the major concerns. We have moved further with this proud hope that technological advancement has solution to every problem. But, to put up some of the serious questions, can we get our natural life back? Is it possible to interact with our fellow humans without any constructed obstacle of distance and mask? Or, we are much concerned to redefine the values of our life without having any thought of anomie and detachment that this gap has created. Technology had always been a part of our life, whether it was the ancient technology, with very minimal intervention in our lives, or the pre-globalised technological advancement, which helped to ease the lives. Nonetheless, this current phase of technological dominance on our everyday life, has put human beings out of the discourse and limited their existence to mere a controlled machine.

Human victory over the challenges of lives is known to everyone. Human being have cleared most of the challenges, while restricted some of the constraints at a minimal level. Ulrich Beck in his work Risk Society, provides a wonderful example of the use of pesticides on the agricultural farms and how it has affected the lives of farmers and the general public too. Pesticides that are tested into a science laboratory with the pre-controlled condition will have a different result, than its actual use in the everyday life of the farmers. The laboratory is a small space and can be controlled from the outside, on the other hand, the natural environment cannot be controlled at large. But we are more concerned about theses scientific delusion, without knowing the actual use. It is important to mention that the acceptance or the rejection of scientific argument has a power dynamics. Farmers, the real scientist of the field, but who are without any formal degree in science, are denounced for their fallacy without including their stake or participation in the scientific knowledge. If we follow the similar argument, it is being argued that corona pandemic has come from the science lab of Wuhan, China. The other argument that emerges, suggests that it expanded from Wuhan Meat market of China. Both the argument of science lab and meat market has some similarities, which needs further elaboration. The Wuhan meat market of China has a distinguished character and it is known for the sale of different varieties of meat products of different animals, including the endangered Pangolin. Some of the early researches indicated that the meat supply of Pangolin has a link to the adverse impact of corona spread. Endangered Pangolin is used for meat and medicinal purposes. Since, Human consumption of food varies according to the region and this cultural relativism needs no xenophobic treatment. However, it is a more humane concern that the endangered species like Pangolins have their own rights to remain part of the world. Posing threat to the lives of many species, our hope for sustainable and normal environment will be an anathema. The concern of Pangolin lives must be put in the larger context of consumption pattern, capitalist intervention and the environmental degradation.

Secondly, the science lab argument has the same correlation with the use of life-threatening chemical to destroy the human lives, in a way to challenge the economic and political stability and further dominance. These new kind of war techniques depicts the technological advancement in warfare. However, what surprises us is the continued search for answer of these question in the technological advancement. No doubt, that science will search the remedy in next few months or years, but is it not the time to think about more real and important questions of human lives, which includes the untimely expired lives as well as the engendered species and the need of another technological warfare in human history.

The advancement of technology and the global connectedness has made the risk global in character. Risks, which were confined to the boundaries of a nation, has now crossed the borders, with an unprecedented human migration from one nation to another to the changes of life-style, market, etc. Apart from the ever increasing risk of growing numbers of different cases of Cancer, TB, Diabetics, Thyroid hormonal imbalances, to the increasing use of pesticides in agricultural fields to earn more money and fulfilling the capitalist needs of consumption, the risks like corona is an extension of these older risks, which have not given time to respond this time. It stopped the human migration, quarantined people, and became life threatening for old age people and demolished the health infrastructure of the many developed countries. The ever new compulsions have forced to think about a new paradigm.

It has almost been four months, passed with the virus. More than five lakhs people have lost their lives worldwide and around similar figures are correct for those who are suffering with this pandemic. What is the new option that the most intelligent and capable species on the earth has found to tackle with these challenge and threat to human lives? Most of the countries are working on developing their health infrastructure and stocks of medicines, with a hope that this practical solution can save the economy from an undeclared crisis. What has astonished me most, the surprising, inhuman and most insensitive approach of the educational institutions? The technological delusion has been found as the most suitable answer for maintaining the competitive standards. Private educational institutes ensured to maintain the competitive ethics of capitalist education through ZOOM or Google Meet without giving much time for reflection and thought process. Following the similar trends, higher educational institutions have organized innumerable webinars to discuss the covid-19 impact on our lives and the future with Covid-19. It is unfeasible to evaluate and move back to the past of human lives, from where a remarkable journey has already been completed, but the evaluation of past will help us to identify the reasons behind collapse of the present system. The technological dependence, of the present height will ultimately make human beings the slave of technology, where lives will run and stop on the technological intervention. We must not forget that technology can only facilitate our everyday life. However, the overburden of such uses will reduce the actual importance of life.

It becomes necessary to come out of the technological delusion in the wake of state pretention of it inclusive nature. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in one his lockdown address to the nation discussed the limits of the technological intervention in our lives, by suggesting to have a room in the house which will be separate from any technological usage. First of all, in a country like India, where having a proper house is a challenge for the livelihood, it is unrealistic to imagine about a techno-separate rooms for the larger population. In that way, the control and reach towards these technological consumptions becomes exclusive. The class, caste, gender and regional disparities has been further stretched in the technological gap as well. It will further create a new gap between rich and poor, upper and lower castes, developed, developing and underdeveloped regions.

It is a different time than the normal days. It has given us generous chance to reflect upon, to work upon the creative aspect of human life. Rather than making the lives more disturbing and annoying through the competition via technology, the human beings must be promoted for the natural ways of thinking. It will include observation, reflection, contemplation and correction. When human interaction and connectivity is under challenge, we must not choose to quit for other options, rather than rectifying the mistakes of the past. These thought process must include environmental concerns, but not for the sake of economic advancement. The old delusion of globalised world has already been broken. In the meantime, we should think to include the basic human traits that we left in the wake of its decreasing importance. The pandemic hit world class cities of Delhi and Mumbai has been failed to give any hope to the large population of migrant workers. They have moved in their same so call withered villages, where at once, there was no hope for livelihood. However, after giving their entire life to these cities, these migrant workers remained poor labourers, not the participants of the development. These are the important and deep penetrating question of the everyday life that demands urgent attention.

Arun Kumar Kushwaha is a doctoral fellow at Centre For the Study of Social System, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.




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