Coronavirus has disturbed an already troubled world even more. It has uncovered the grave realities of governments and public institutions, as well as the hideous motives of private enterprises. The world was always changing fast, but never as quickly as it did in the last six months.
There now exists not only a new normal but also a new abnormal
Leading the list of new abnormals is a factor that’s unarguably and unanimously the most visible and detectable in majority of the world’s countries regardless of their political ideology. It is “chaotic, uncoordinated and imbalanced governmental response”.
Populist leaders around the world are not frightened, and thus, they, despite knowing everything, don’t change or reverse their response owing to a solid hold on their domestic territories. At the same time, the lack of strong opposition makes them even more shameless about their actions. It holds true for the heads of the two biggest democracies in the world, for the prime minister of India, Mr. Modi, and the President of America, Mr. Trump, and many more. In short, they don’t have strong enough domestic and external pressures to mend their ways.
Loyalists are deployed in every nook and corner of public institutions. In legislatures, courts, media, even in central banks. The transition of these states from democracy to fascism is visible. Definitions of nationalists and nationalism are changing, sadly in the backward direction. In America, it’s the White Christians who mostly qualify and fall under the “new definition” and in India, more recently, it’s the Hindus and their saffron attired representatives. Non-religious people or people from other religions and those from, so called, lower caste in India and people of color in the U.S are being used to incite violence. They have been reduced to mere tools to fulfill their autocratic goals.
These are formal democracies fading into less real ones where the profits of corporations are growing faster than the wages of their employees. Profits of corporations are not the problem; the issue is not having a proportionate rise in the salaries of those trying to climb up the steep ladder from below. It is a result of equating democracy mostly only to elections. It’s not democratic at all to have so much economic power in the hands of the minority. The overly emphasized political part of democracy needs to give way to a more significant economic aspect, which gets so easily compromised in the larger context of the “political majority game.” It has not given us anything. Not even prime ministers and presidents. It has given us rulers.
Elections are manipulated together by politically and economically powerful. Real democracies rise above the fake semblance of power distribution through voting, which in any case, is the most basic requirement of any civilized society. How about going further and beyond that?
Has it not been too long we became democracies, how much have we moved forward on its continuum?
And if our citizens are not politically cultured and sophisticated to make decisions based on policy and its implication on their lives, then the problem is more significant and needs to be resolved through systemic changes.
In times of crisis, governments are burdened with more deficits, and to fill the gap, they use more tax revenues, which could have otherwise gone to public services. Like in the current crisis to support better health measures, sadly, our health infrastructure and its distribution amongst the population have failed most of our populace. The same fate seems to be falling on the recovery from the crisis. It may just bypass them as they watch the big bailouts being handed out to the big corporations, which is fine, but it needs to be inclusive without shifting the burden and cost of the crisis to the masses.
More countries, rather continents, on this planet, responded irresponsibly than ones that didn’t, from the North and South American continent to Europe and Africa. Asia and Oceania seemed to have fared a little better than the others.
This crisis is accentuated by the geopolitical turmoil the world is witnessing, starting from Indo China standoff to China-Indonesia and South China-Taiwan in Asia. While they are still dealing with the health crisis, as China has already got a grip over containing it, to prick these countries was not unusual and rather very characteristic of China. Barring China from Asia, the continent can be defined as one where power is more or less in multiple hands, and no one party is too dominant. India and Japan are already boosting their military, air, and naval capacities to counter the assertion from China. There is no way China can alone swap the role with the United States and fulfill its long-planned dream of playing the world leader all on its own. It needs allies to finish the task, and as far as it has gone so far, it still looks too far-fetched.
What’s generally considered the savior of saviors couldn’t come to people’s rescue, democracy, the ideology we all hold very dear to our hearts. So, pandemics don’t have anything to do with the democratic quotient of a nation. This time it’s the rise of realists, whether they are brought into power by whichever means. It could be autocratic or democratic.
We need economic democracy, which starts at the enterprise level, where employees or workers have a say in the decisions of the enterprise they work for. We need not leave the profit-making ideology to achieve this. We need better and more competitive markets to create cultured capitalism where exploitation gets replaced with human empathic understanding, accumulation with better distribution. Economically empowering people is a guaranteed way of making political democracy work too.
The ramifications of the current public health crisis are yet to unfold completely. Its social, economic, and political costs are going to be as high or maybe higher than the health toll it led to.Greater inequalities and higher unemployment levels are opening the existing cracks even wider. Only a few are gaining from the crisis, mainly e-commerce giants and other big monopolistic corporations as their profits are rising manifolds even during the crisis since the world is moving closer towrads digitalisation with each passing day. We, on one hand, are losing the floor underneath our economy for the majority, and on the other, are making skyscrapers for the rest. The crisis did emerge from Coronavirus but unfortunately we allowed the virus to gobble up other existing evils of the society, and become stronger to create greater ruckus in our little world.