I have not written anything on this blog for a long time. I could say it was because nothing terribly interesting was happening and that I was sort of vegetating. Not true. There have been events, especially the military operations that my country undertook in Syria last Fall and Winter that had me beside myself. Back then I made some videos that I shared on FB, but I did not feel up to writing about it here. And I would probably not have felt up to writing about this current world crisis either, but Naxos has somehow talked me into it. He and I have been talking about this quite a bit and yesterday he sent me the link to an article written by a Futurologist called Matthias Horx and my response to that article is what Naxos insists I should write down.
But just to give a bit of background here: My big fear is not about the virus itself. It is about what the effects of the “cure” to it are likely to be: Economic collapse and the tiptoeing in of authoritarianism and a surveillance society world-wide. I am utterly terrified of these.
The virus itself? I simply don’t know. The numbers they show us, all those steep upward graphs. Looks very scary, certainly. But, what do these numbers show us exactly? We only see the increase in total case numbers identified. What we never seem to see are an increase in percentages. The numbers of tests conducted are increasing from day to day in every country. In fact, they are increasing exponentially. Here in Turkey for example, they conducted 3800 tests yesterday, today they will conduct 10000. So, of course the numbers of identified cases will also jump up. In fact, from yesterday to today the identified case numbers here in Turkey will probably jump from 670 to around 2000 because of the increased numbers of tests. And of course the population will be utterly terrified because all they will see is the number 2000 (or whatever it comes out to be) from 670 in just one day. So, what confounds me in all this is that very few appear to be asking about what happens to the actual percentages. Do they also go up or do they remain steady or even go down? Until I see percentages that go up over time I am not going to panic about a pandemic.* And no, I am not expecting to see percentages of any kind – up, down, steady, whatever – any time soon, if ever. So, as far as the virus goes – again, absent of percentages over time, how can one possibly know? What I do panic about instead are the likely results of this.
And before I appear completely insensitive here: The disease itself – regardless of whether this is a contagious virus, a highly contagious virus, an epidemic, or a full on pandemic – of course I am horrified by that and what the afflicted, their families and the health workers caring for them must be going through. From the descriptions of it, it sounds very much like Pleurisy, so heaven help all that are faced with it. So, I am not ignoring the disease, or that it is obviously contagious, that one should be ultra careful. Goes without saying, but I want to say all that anyway.
So anyway, this is the sort of stuff that Naxos and I have been talking about. He is more worried about the contagiousness level of the virus than I am but we seem to be more or less on the same page about other things. Especially about the impact that this will have on the global economy and the creeping in of authoritarianism. So, I think in order to cheer me (and himself) up he sent me this article above.
What Horx does is this: He moves into the future, to the Fall of 2020, and imagines himself sitting in a cafe looking back at today. And he realizes that this crisis has made his society come out stronger, more resilient. He gives lots of examples from social relations to culture to even the economy. It is a beautifully written text, German only but I am sure internet translation will work just fine should you want to read it. And it is a text of hope, it has a positive message, for which I heartily applaud the author. In a world of fear-mongering click bait, writing a positive text is only to be commended.
That said… (And everything from here on is a slightly edited copy paste of what I said to Naxos on Whatsapp)
Well, he is looking at it from the micro perspective of an upper middle class German** (one of very few countries in the world that may come out of this with less economic damage) whose life in the Fall of 2020 may well be like what he describes.
At that point he will also be used to a lot of new things, such as the fact that the government is tracking his every movement via his phone. He will have become acclimatized to the new world he is living in and no longer think about the fact that a lot of freedoms he took for granted (such as travel whenever he likes, wherever he likes, with no “papers” for example) are no longer there.
That is the whole point. People will transition into totalitarianism without knowing it. In fact welcoming it.
Oh and of course – that cafe he is sitting in – that will have changed ownership. It will now be owned by some fat-cat Dubai cartel and the nice people who are running it (who used to be the former owners of it) are now just minimum wage earners.
But, he as an upper middle class person, will probably not look that far. What will matter is that it still “looks the same”.
Oh and of course, he will really love that he can now do a lot of things online from home, doesn’t have to trek to meetings, because during this crisis that has also been established as a norm.
But will he realize that “working from home” isolates humanity? Prevents groups from forming? Opinions being shared? New ideas coming out of spontaneous conversations? That, in other words, “working from home” is the best hindrance to dissent? No better way to prevent opposition than physically separating people?
Once the “crisis” is over the changes will be very subtle. And most people will not see them. But, they will be there. There will be mass surveillance the likes of which Orwell couldn’t have imagined. But outwardly, the world for upper middle class people who are not dissenters, who are OK with the system, who do not question things, will “look the same”.
They will never even know. _____________________________
** Actually when I looked later I saw that Horx is Austrain, or at least lives in Vienna. But, it doesn’t really change the thrust of this. Austria is probably also one of the few countries, along with most of Northern Europe, that will emerge less damaged – economically that is. The other stuff, the shift to authoritarianism and total surveillance I would expect to be universal, of course. There as much as everywhere else. _____________________________
Note: There used to be a long list showing the progression of this thing over days here in Turkey. I have moved that to another post on this blog where I am continuing to keep it up. You can follow it there if you wish.