Easter Sunday is marking almost exactly one month since partial lock-down measures were officially introduced in Berlin. Hordes of chocolate Easter Bunnies armed with equally chocolate Easter Eggs aren’t making this commercialised religious spectacle any sweeter this year, however, good weather certainly does!
For the entire week the city was bathing in warm pools of sunlight, unpolluted fresh air and gentle northern breeze while Berliners, probably encouraged by outstanding efficiency of German health system, took full advantage of it by flooding the streets, river walks and local parks. Queues in front of coffee and ice-cream shops were as long as they would normally be and grass covered canal banks looked pretty much the same as previous years. Southern bank, shaded by nearby buildings of Neukölln – completely empty. Sunny side of Kreuzberg’s northern bank – almost full. Social distancing? Some, but mostly none. Social irresponsibility? Bucketful! Out of the corner of my eye I’ve spotted small graffiti on a nearby wall, reading – “We are young, we are the stars and we burn brightly!”. It made me think of the future.
Some 6.700Km further West, Trump was thinking of the future, too. He was contemplating new lies, thinking of new ways how to blame others for his own failings, of new insidious ways how to extend his mandate and, perhaps surprisingly, of moon mining and tapping asteroid resources by signing an executive order and therefore officially establishing U.S. policy on the exploitation of off-Earth resources. How about some Personal Protective Equipment desperately needed by the health workers, here on Earth? Forget about it! Under his watch and with over 500.000 confirmed cases of Covid-19, U.S. quickly steamrolled to the very top of John Hopkins lists leaving China and all European countries well behind. When we add to this growing food crises and close to 17 million people that have filed up for unemployment in the past three weeks, it’s easy to conclude that the American Dream is nothing but a feverish illusion or a nightmare caused by Incubi and Succubi of monstrous neoliberal system in place.
Without any doubt, most horrifying and distressing images from the past week came via drone video footage showing a massive, freshly dug trench on Hart Island being filled with coffins. Dozens upon dozens of white wooden caskets stacked up on the top and next to each other created a scene that was closely reminiscent of certain WW2 events and fictional post-apocalyptic stories. Of course, we are talking about Covid-19 victims with no next-to-kin or families who can afford a funeral. Nameless and easily forgotten ones. Temporary burials only – officials are saying – as if that makes things any better and easier to digest, even if true!
Perhaps mildly aware of the ordeal, unable to face the reality and growing criticism, both home and abroad, in his typical adolescent way, Trump accused the World Health Organisation of bias towards China and threatened to cut the U.S. funding for this specialised agency of the United Nations. This is probably the most disgraceful thing any leader could possibly say and do in such a situation but, I guess, the world must be used to American preposterous outbursts by now. Such desperate rhetoric and actions are nothing but reflections of rage and agony any diminishing empire would make at the time of irreversible decay.
In the UK, the situation was almost equally grotesque. Johnson, being released from the intensive care unit, was praising and thanking the NHS for saving his life. The same NHS that his political party was privatising and underfunding for decades. The same NHS that infamously ended up as part of post-Brexit trade deal negotiations with the U.S.
In typical fashion of ‘special relationship’ echo-chamber, the UK government, just like its U.S. master, is also enraged with China and deeply concerned that it might be hiding facts and true statistics of the Covid-19 outbreak. It is indeed possible that the Chinese government might not be communicating the full picture of local horrors to the world, but we don’t know this for sure. However, what we do know for certain is that the British government hid the findings of 2016 pandemic drill from the general public. This drill, code-named Exercise Cygnus, highlighted shortages of intensive care beds, vital equipment and mortuary space. In short, it underlined utter UK unpreparedness for even mildest cases of potential pandemics. Baseless accusations and finger pointing, be that at WHO, China or anyone else, won’t save the UK, the US and other governments from the fact that the blame for utter neglect clearly lies at their own door steps rather than elsewhere.
In the EU, the mainstream media largely ignored the news of Mauro Ferrari’s resignation letter to the position of President of the European Research Council, the main scientific body of the European Union. Towards the end of the letter, Ferrari underlined the main issue perfectly, quote: “I am afraid that I have seen enough of both the governance of science, and the political operations at the European Union. In these three long months, I have indeed met many excellent and committed individuals, at different levels of the organization of the ERC and the EC. However, I have lost faith in the system itself.” Let’s repeat the last two words – the system itself! The main message being – it is the system that’s the problem rather than certain individuals serving it. In the case of the EU, this is particularly important to understand since survival of the union depends on it.
After everything that has been going on over the last few weeks, it is blatantly clear the world won’t be the same after the Covid-19 pandemic eventually ends. Another obvious thing is that the magnitude of inevitable changes in our societies, in our cultural, economic and political landscapes, will be directly proportional to the length of the pandemic itself. In other words, longer the pandemic lasts, greater and more radical reforms we may expect from it. Question is, how positive or negative those changes will be? The answer will entirely depend on our ability to recognise what’s at stake, what are the real issues and causes of the problems we are facing and, ultimately, on our willingness and desire to unite and fight for the better future.
Over the last few days, I was wondering how exactly the world would look like in case of global strike of the working class or indeed in case of world-wide, nonviolent proletarian revolution. No one knows, of course, but my feelings are that the world wouldn’t look significantly different to how it looks right now. Perhaps global ‘lock-down’ measures triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic might end up serving as one of major inspirations for potential progressive, green, socialist, world-wide activism in the near future? One day our governments will lift those measures and order us to get back to work, but what if people actually refuse to do so until a long list of specific demands isn’t met? This is a historic and inspiring time which should be understood and used as such. Ruling class is already on it, let’s make no mistakes about it! What about the rest of us?