Friday, March 13, 2020

Self-preservation society

The coronavirus pandemic has already claimed many lives and will without doubt have an enormous, devastating and long-term impact on people and economies around the world. But, as is always the case with a crisis, there are unscrupulous disaster profiteers eagerly eyeing up a quick buck. Whether it's chemists flogging hand sanitiser for £24.99 a bottle or plagiarists calling themselves authors and self-publishing copy-and-paste guide books, plenty of greedy opportunists are only too happy to exploit (and stoke) public anxiety. And that's not to mention governments and powerful corporations making moves that are straight out of Naomi Klein's book The Shock Doctrine.

In theory everyone is susceptible to the virus, but in reality not everyone is equally exposed to it or its effects, with the rich better able to insulate themselves. However, evidence of narrow self-interest is everywhere you look - most obviously in supermarkets. Jedediah Britton-Purdy has neatly encapsulated the irony in an article for Jacobin: "The new coronavirus makes vivid the logic of a world that combines a material reality of intense interdependence with moral and political systems that leave people to look out for themselves." His brilliant piece strongly advocates solidarity; if people really are concerned about self-preservation, whether in the face of coronavirus or climate change, then they need to understand that ultimately, whatever they might believe (or be told to believe), we're all in this together.

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