If you haven’t heard by now, after the government has issued this advice: COVID vaccine booster shots are now going to be in your near future. Let me translate that for you: COVID is now officially become permanent. Now I am not one to be the bearer of bad news but…
This is NOT good news. It’s actually very BAD news.
Whenever I am out in public — where everybody’s still masked up, and social distancing’s in place. How long are these types of protections going to last? The answer that is emerging is this: for the foreseeable future. Life is NOT going to go back to “normal” anytime soon, or gulp maybe ever.
What does this perma-COVID look like? Well, part of the answer’s above. We are going to need to accept certain fairly drastic changes in our lifestyle as we know it. A more sophisticated, better answer goes like this: perma-COVID goes on wreaking social, cultural, and economic havoc.
Many people like myself are happily wearing masks. Maybe you seen how school board meetings are irrupt Ing into violence, because, well, the Trumpists think that their kids wearing masks is like the gas chambers at your terminal Auschwitz. I’ll know that this doesn’t make sense, but what does when it comes to the American Idiot?
COVID going permanent is going to continue accelerating and exacerbating social tensions. Ultra conservatives don’t “believe in” masks and vaccines. I put it in quotes because facts exist whether or not you believe in them. And yes one thing the Americas Red States and the Taliban have in common is that they don’t want people to get vaccines or to wear masks, unless you mean burgers. That’s how regrets of the American conservative mind is: on the issue of COVID, it’s neatly aligned with… The Taliban.
And it’s willing to, thanks to Trump, use violence to make itself felt. Hence school board meetings and town halls and so forth — the small, everyday expressions and institutions which a functioning, modern civil society is made of — are not working. What are you supposed to at a school board meeting when Trumpists mob you and, screaming at the top of their lungs, threaten your life?
Again: shades of the Taliban, for whom, too, local governance is an exercise in brutality and stupidity and violence.
COVID exacerbates the fractures in our societies is not a joke or some kind of minor league issue. Conservatives have seized on the issue of COVID in many, many ways. In Britain, COVID’s been politicised to the point that government data is questionable at best — the Tories are deliberately using it as a bludgeon with which to break the NHS, so that they can then privatize it. But what happens when the Brits get American style “healthcare,” which mostly means bills nobody much can pay? They grow impoverished, that’s what.
So the cultural tensions COVID’s revealing and accelerating — a match dropped on an oil slick — have very real consequences. Do you want your kid to go to a school where masks aren’t required? How about college? Do you want to live in a state where the governor bans masks and mask mandates, like Texas?
This is where cultural tensions become political and social boiling points. Places like Texas and Florida have long been heading toward becoming failed states — and darn proud of it too. COVID has actually made them failed states. Florida was the world’s hottest COVID zone — it’s most virulent incubator — until a few days ago. Texas is a place where the rule of law has broken down completely, school boards and principals defying the governor’s edict against masks.
Those are huge, huge breakdowns. What does it say about a state, county, or city where people are openly defying the governor’s edicts? It says that the rule of law doesn’t work. That matters can’t be settled with formal institutions, because they don’t work anymore. People have taken matters into their own hands. Let me make clear that in this case, that is a good thing. Nobody should obey something as incredibly, painfully foolish as a ban on wearing masks.
But that America’s now the kind of place where civil disobedience is required to fight a deadly pandemic — well, that points to what a failing state it is. And who wants to live in places that are failed states? Florida has sunshine and Texas has… well… I truly don’t know what Texas has. Still, having to put up with such levels of dysfunction is a VERY real price that people must pay. When you have to engage in literal civil disobedience just to keep your kids healthy, to protect them from harm, malice, ignorance, and stupidity means that something is very, very wrong with society.
In that sense, COVID is pouring fuel on America’s burning state of collapse. Yesterday, your average sane Texan or Floridian didn’t have to engage in civil disobedience just to protect their kids from harm. Today, they do. But where does that cycle end? The Trumpists aren’t going to wake up anytime soon. COVID’s gone permanent — and unfortunately, their stupidity is forever, too. Only now it’s lethal.
The Trumpists provide an economic rationale for their willful stupidity. It hurts the economy, they say, to go on taking the basic precautions against COVID. Of course, that’s not true. It doesn’t hurt the economy to wear a mask, or even to social distance, except maybe on a Friday night in a downtown bar.
Yet, perma-COVID is going to harm the economy in a much deeper way. Do you understand how, let’s first into the idea of public health. What is it, really? It’s what economists call a public good. That means we all share it. That’s why you should have your vaccines — you getting vaccinated benefits me, and vice versa. COVID make a mockery of individual list of countries like America, and their approach is to health, reviewing them as shallow and naïve. Private health is no match for public health.
Yet, COVID is a grave and serious threat to public health — the most severe in a half a century or more. It’s probably the first new deadly virus humanity has experienced in the global still in the modern age, period.
Public health requires an investment. Again, think of America — Americans live the shortest, cities lives in the entire rich world, precisely because there is very little investment in public health. There are starting high bills for private healthcare, sure — which is the opposite of public health.
Now put those two concepts together. You have a new pandemic shopping away at public health — one that’s going endemic. That means higher levels of investments are going to be required to sustain the same levels of public health as before, if those can ever really be hit.
What does this mean in the real world? It means more nurses, more ICUs, more ventilators, more oxygen.
It means more trips to the hospital for more people, corridors overflowing with Covid patients, who require intense treatment and care, hundreds or thousands of them a day, and that’s just in one region, state, city. My wife, the doctor, went to her own doctor yesterday — and there, she saw a woman desperately struggling for breath being wheeled out on a stretcher. Multiply that by a thousand, every day, and you begin to have some idea of the stress COVID places on healthcare systems.
But every dollar we need to invest as societies to take care of Covid patients is one that we’re not investing in any of the following: climate change, global warming, ecological collapse, reversing the mass extinction of wildlife, cleaning up the oceans, reforesting the globe, clean energy, green raw materials like steel and concrete.
You begin to see the magnitude of the problem. At a macroeconomic level, the simplest and best way to visualise Covid is as what economists call a “deadweight loss.” That’s a terrible way to put it, and yet it’s all too accurate. Now we have to invest colossal sums at a social level, across the globe, caring for the ill — sums we desperately need to fight the existential threats already beginning to wreck our civilization. You didn’t have to look too hard this summer — California and Canada on fire, Asia and Europe flooded — to see the globe warming with shocking, brutal speed.
It’s not just treating COVID that diverts investment. It’s also developing new vaccines. When I say something that makes me angry — The Pharma industry‘s been betting on COVID going permanent — Americans give me their empty, dumb, blank stare.
It shouldn’t have been this way. The Pharma industry has just won one of history‘s largest jackpots. It wants to charge every one of us — you and I — A few hundred dollars a shot. Let’s call it $250. Now multiply that by 8 billion people. Now multiply that by every year. From an economic perspective, this is what’s called a perpetuity — A dividend without end. Do you know what it adds up to? About $2 trillion a year.
That $2 trillion has to come from somewhere. It’s going to come from our pockets, you and I. Added up, what it amounts to is $2 trillion not being invested in climate change, clean energy, green systems, saving the world’s ecologies, reversing mass extinction. It’s just money that goes straight into the pockets of the Pharma industry. From there, it goes to CEOs and hedge funds.
Do you see the problem here?
Let me make it even clearer. It never should have been this way. We should never have relied on capitalism to solve a problem like COVID, because it was never going to. What would anyone with a basic knowledge of real economics — that’s not you, most Americans, because you’ve been brainwashed by propaganda, ads, infomercials masquerading as news and culture — have predicted capitalism would do if and when it met a pandemic?
Exploit it, mercilessly. If you’re a good capitalist, good at your job, what do you do with a pandemic? You don’t let it stop, you don’t let it end. You make sure it a) goes on forever so b) you can sell your treatment forever at c) increasing prices under conditions of d) artificial scarcity. Marx would have guessed it, Baudrillard would have left and predicted it, Braudel would have called it obvious.
They were right.
Capitalism met its first real global pandemic, the first new virus humanity’s encountered for a millennia at a global scale. And instead of solving the problem, eradicating the virus, exploited it for maximum profit.
Hence, the world has a massive vaccine shortage. Why? Because figures like Bill Gates lobbied for vaccines to be privatized — and bang, they were. But all COVID vaccines were developed with public funds, at public institutions.
Therefore, everyone on earth has a right to a Covid vaccine. Remember, when it comes to public good, I benefit when you have access to them as well. The economics of COVID vaccines — the real ones — Say that we should distribute them as far and wide as possible, because they were made publicly, created with public funds, and public institutions, just sure up a public good, healthcare.
Yet, because COVID vaccines were privatized, they can’t be produced on the scale nearly enough to match or meet the globe’s needs. Instead, Canada and Europe have — shamefully, disgracefully, deceitfully — When did vaccines at the WTO, as if the fact that these vaccines were never made to be exclusively used for profit never existed or happened at all.
So here we are. COVID’s going permanent. Going endemic. It didn’t have to be this. It shouldn’t have been this way.
The head of the WHO recently pointed out: global vaccination is now losing the race against new cases. That is, less people are vaccinated per day the new cases emerge, globally. Obviously you can’t stop a pandemic that way. What happens that way is newer, deadlier variance, like clockwork — seasonally. Right now, it’s Delta. By winter, it’ll be Lambda. And on and on and on into oblivion. That is because capitalism is undersupplying the one thing the world needs most — vaccines. It is deliberately creating conditions of artificial scarcity to jack up profits — calls upon source Covid vaccines have come from around the world, but falling on deaf ears because America, Canada, and Europe want Pharma profits to soar more than they want a Covid free world.
That’s the grim, sinister, ugly truth.
And what that really means is something even darker. Our elites don’t care if we die. In fact, they’re quite happy to kill us off. They seem to revel in misery and suffering they cause. Why? It makes no sense — at least from history‘s eyes.
Elites do this — they kill off their underclasses. It leaves them worse off in the long run, because then there are fewer people to do their dirty work. Hence the great peasant liberation I have always followed die-offs, like the Black Death. But in the short run, killing off underclasses is great for elites. They get to jack up profit by exploiting people to death. They enjoy the sport of pitting person against person, too, emperors watching gladiators fight to the death.
And they seem, as ever, to genuinely delight in the suffering of others, like sociopaths. Causing death and misery on an eminent still seems to produce in elites the feeling of strength, the meaning that’s missing from their lives, the sense of entitled superiority they’ve always had, but fallen short of proving to themselves.
In that regard, our era is no different from other dark ages. But that much should be recognized. Die-offs are a feature of dark ages — die-offs aided and abetted by elites, who exploit them and their desperation, scarcity, and misery for profit. We’re in a dawning dark age, and our elites total indifference to COVID going endemic — when just a few decades, as the world, we conquered smallpox and polio — is visual proof of how rapidly we are going backwards
That leaves me with one last point. It’s no ordinary dark age we are entering. It’s going to be an especially grim and obscene one. Why?
It’s one thing for elites to do what they do — profit from suffering and exploit desperation. It’s another one too, when the future of the planet and life on it literally hangs in the balance, keep on doing it anyway. How bad — malicious, greedy, selfish, stupid, obscene and ugly — are our elites, really? The world is burning. And there they are, so wealthy and powerful they have more money than they to spend in 10 lifetimes, yet they’re exploding a deadly pandemic making it go endemic, to get even richer, even if they don’t have a planet left to live on.
That, my friends, makes a mockery of the word sociopath.
It didn’t have to be this way, and it shouldn’t have been this way. COVID shouldn’t have gone permanent.