[OPINION] The virus that flushed out the neoliberals
There is no truth to claims that the ongoing pandemic is the planet's way of “healing” itself. This claim comes from a privileged viewpoint, romanticizing the pandemic in the face of catastrophic effects on human lives. This view offers a sneak peek into how current global systems make us externalize our ecology.
This view seems to mean no harm, but it is important to interrogate it because it shows how trapped its holders are to the system that is the killing the planet (they acknowledge that the planet is dying). However, they place the responsibility of reviving the planet on an entity (in this case “the veeerus”) external to the existing global neoliberal system whose movers should be held responsible for the dying of the planet. (READ: [OPINION] The out-of-touch, elitist gaps in our lockdown)
These dominant views, seen on social media, manifest learned helplessness. It is similar to people selling their votes during elections since, as they say, “one vote cannot change the system.” It is a response conditioned by the inequality that people experience over a long period. This condition is created by the neoliberal economic system that values profit over people and planet, and individualization over cooperation.
The superstructures of our global economy are crashing because of a microorganism. This is proof that neoliberalism won’t work.
The neoliberal economic system is obsessed with economic growth. But measures for growth such as gross domestic product do not account for people’s welfare or for growth's ecological costs.
If a multinational company that sells milk and dairy products can set on fire a forest in a developing country to make pastures for cows, who will count how many parts per million of greenhouse gases it releases, degrading the poor country's air, water, and land resources? No one, because ecological degradation has no place in the GDP.
If a Chinese firm decides to build a dam in ancestral domains in the Philippines, who’s there to check the welfare of the indigenous peoples who have been taking care of the land? No one because welfare has no place in the GDP. (READ: [ANALYSIS] Kaliwa Dam: Is China’s involvement cause for concern?)
This same neoliberal system reinforces capital over state power such that firms can sue governments that “violate” their property rights in countries where they invest. For example, Total filed a case against the Ugandan government when it regulated transactions in the oil and gas industry in a bid to reduce carbon emissions.
This neoliberal system promotes an individualistic culture; it encourages people to do things for the planet on an individual level but never recognizes that much environmental destruction is happening because of large-scale pollution and degradation for which business should be held responsible.
This neoliberal economic system coupled with an authoritarian regime produces eco-fascist thoughts that passes the burden of accountability from the system to the people.
Several films have actually brought eco-fascist thoughts to mainstream consciousness. In The Kingsman, an elite group decided to purge the world to avert ecological destruction. In the hugely popular Avengers: End Game, Thanos, the ultimate eco-fascist, tries to save the universe by killing half its population.
Luckily, in both movies, the eco-fascists lost.
But in real life, tolerating eco-fascist thoughts is dangerous. In the killings in Christchurch, New Zealand, and in El Paso, assailants claimed that there is a need to decrease the number of people using resources for the better sector of the population to survive.
Eco-fascism or Green Fascism has roots in romanticism (that’s why the virus is being romanticized as having positive effects) and nature mysticism (which goes back to Hitler’s philosophy of “Blood and Soil”). It refuses to locate the sources of people’s oppression and alienation of ecology in the superstructures of politics, economics, and culture.
It instead puts onto the pedestal social Darwinist theories (echoing calls that “it is nature’s way of weeding out its own population and that the strong will survive in this global health crisis”), and imposes totalitarian, authoritarian measures by using environmental catastrophes to
(1) advocate “radical actions” against demonized minorities (arresting street vendors and vagrants instead of taking them to community shelters),
(2) denigrate sectors of humanity as a “necessary sacrifice” or “collateral damage” (prioritizing healthy, young sectors of the population over the old and weak), and
(3) using the theory of scarcity to justify “radical control” (just as immigrants are not welcomed in several states to “control” economic and natural resources)
In this pandemic, people are sympathizing eco-fascist thoughts.
But come to think of it, did the virus kill people and make the smog in cities go away? Did the deaths caused by the virus clear the pollution in Metro Manila?
No. If that were the case, the number of people who were extrajudicially killed should have been more than enough to turn the waters of Pasig River crystal clear.
What the virus inevitably stopped were huge carbon emissions because flights were canceled. What fell were oil and gas prices and their stocks since transportation became limited. What halted was the global supply chain of relentless overproduction and the inevitable waste. What underwent a crisis was the advertising industry, which is a big factor in consumerism. The virus flushed out the neoliberal.
It is not the virus that is healing the earth.
We don’t need a virus to make the Earth heal. We need a new political, economic, and social system that will not destroy it. I’m sorry to burst your bubble but the #coronavirus did not “restore” the Earth, it halted capitalism’s careening toward destroy it.
When this coronavirus plague comes to an end, we can’t just go on destroying the planet, waiting for the next pandemic to heal it. The healing must come from us, and from a new system that we shall build.
Now, food systems being organized locally – the nearer the food source, the better for the local community (lesser risk of infection). This also translates to lower carbon footprints as the food doesn’t need to be transported around the globe. This underlines the value of food sovereignty, where we don’t need big companies to feed us; we instead need our local farmers, fisherfolks, cattle-raisers, livestock producers, bakers, etc. Being Locavore is suddenly very practical.
We see that investing in our public health and in our social and democratic institutions is the best line of defense against any crisis, and that social power trumps capital power.
The task ahead among progressives and eco-socialists is to bring people back into an ecology where all are equal, and away from the rotten system of capitalism that only produces inequality. A global green new deal should be made, building a new system that will rely not on profit or accumulation, but on cooperation; a system that will uphold ecological harmony, not power structures; and a system that will be built on communitarian values, not on big money. – Rappler.com
Chao Cabatingan is a young socialist leader of Akbayan Youth and a founding member of the EcoSocialist Working Group. He is currently working in an NGO. All views in this article are solely his.