Luc Brunet - 20 September 2021
Some of you may have read an article published in October 2020, where I started to list the lessons we should learn from the Covid crisis. Today I shall try to go further in the analysis, also including new lessons we learned after October, and proposing a number of radical changes to society, politics and economy. This shall make this article a bit longer than usual, and little political correctness is to be expected, as you may already understand!
As a matter of fact, implementing such radical changes means also a change, and at least in a number of big countries, in how policies, laws and governance are defined and applied. A single country would not be allowed to follow such a path. Only an international movement can produce such changes and COVID may be the strong enough black swan that we need.
Many claim that they cannot wait for coming back to the "previous life" after the end of the epidemics, but I am not sure this is something we should do. We should better never come back to the previous life, but rather fight to build a new life, a better life and the following is just a few ideas that I believe could, even if partially implemented, make the "new normal" much better than the "old normal"!
COVID as an indicator and amplifier of fundamental problems
While many, including myself, have written a lot about key issues that became very visible after the 2008 financial crisis, the majority of the population in developed countries mostly ignored those issues, either because of a lack of information (or too much miss-information from TV News), or because they preferred to continue living the good life, unable to accept that things were changing and that the life they know shall not last much longer.
The virus and all what derived from it, makes now things more visible and more acute. More and more people step by step understand that the system is collapsing and start to integrate that in their thinking patterns. I say step by step, as still many people resist further and grasp the piece of hope they still can have that life shall be "like before" thanks to masks, vaccines, or whatever can make them hide their head in the sand.
The amount of lies, mistakes, abuse that could be observed since begin of 2020 is such that the number of people in doubt is growing fast. The awareness comes at large from parallel media and social networks, and is comforted when people meet for demonstration (the best example being France). People realize they are not alone having doubts, that they are not the "abnormal" but on the contrary that they are one in a crowd of many.
The COVID crisis is not isolated or sanitary only - all in interconnected
As discussed above, COVID reveals fundamental issues in the economy and in society, on top of being a sanitary crisis as such. There is no discussion about the fact that COVID can be a killer and left many people with long term symptoms. The gravity of it is however far from catastrophic, and the lack of transparency about exact statistics, combined with extreme differences in its impact between countries makes all discussions difficult. But many countries managed quite well and show a very limited impact, both in the life expectancy and on the economy.
However, all what happened in the past 18 months demonstrated for the ones who refused to see it before, that many aspects of the social and economical life are fundamentally twisted. Basic principles that officially are declared as the basis of the developed world are transgressed every day, and the so called "democracies" are only window dressing for a dysfunctional oligarchic/plutocratic society. All aspects of society are impacted, health-care, transports, food production, ecology, politics, education, medias, and we shall come back to all of those in this article.
Many developments of the COVID crisis demonstrated that all countries where the private labs dominate the market (I would call them the Medical-industrial Complex, to mirror the Military-industrial Complex) have shown a disastrous management of the crisis, resulting in many more casualties than less developed countries. For the ones following the events, it seems pretty clear that the vaccines were from day one proposed as the absolute solution, while all other options that would almost not create additional business to the Medical-industrial Complex were ignored and actively discredited. In the same way, all preventive measures were totally ignored. For me, this demonstrated something that I have been suspecting for many years: just like any major industry group, big enough to afford expensive lobbying activities and first class lawyers, the Medical-industrial Complex has become a gigantic profit machine, trying to reach a single goal - increasing dividends for stockholders.
Curing individuals, the original goal of medicine, became a second and mostly vitrine oriented activity. For such organizations, a pandemics is basically an excellent business opportunities, just like a new war for the Military-industrial Complex. And they are right thinking so, looking at the phenomenal profits made with the vaccines over the past year.
The lobbying and legal capabilities of the Medical-industrial Complex was also demonstrated, with a first class support from the political and media offices, and the signature of bullet-proof contracts with local governments, for the provision of vaccines still in test phase with absolutely no liability for the industry.
Radical changes need be enforced in that industry, and the influence of international private groups should be limited, or better eliminated. The research activities should be brought back (as it was many years ago) under the umbrella of State authorities, while the manufacturing of drugs should be strongly regulated. Health-care policies should be again a matter for politicians (not the ones we have now of course, see later), and not a matter for Boards of Directors.
In addition, I also think we shall see an evolution in people's behavior, with a come back of alternative and traditional medicine disciplines, giving a much larger place to prevention and immunity development. All those areas have by the way been almost completely annihilated by the Medical-industrial Complex, as it obviously does not fit the revenue goals of their shareholders. The chart below shows the cumulative number of dead by region, showing a clear cut between countries under the influence of the Medical-industrial Complex and the countries relying on traditional medicine and prevention, mostly Africa and Asia.
We also can expect a temporarily loss in confidence in the medical leadership, perceived as having sold their vocation for money, under the pressure of the industry's lobbying. History shall judge.
The pandemics made it clear that the provision of critical items like masks or medicaments was depending on international trade, again not under the control of the State. Combined with a practically halt of international travel, this shall give one more hit to the declining Globalization. Here again, the drivers for Globalization have always been large industrial complexes. The so called delocalization of production to poorer countries has been advocated for decades as a way to reduce costs and keep prices low. I never believed in such arguments, especially for low labor-intensive products. The part of labor in the manufacturing of a phone for example, or a toy, is minimal, and the cost of transportation and the increase in overhead management costs kill the small advantage you can get.
To understand the advantages of Globalization for the Industry (not the consumer) you need to look at taxes. If you are a company selling and manufacturing in the US or Europe, you shall have to pay all taxes on companies, and there is no way to avoid them, as using a tax optimization scheme through a fiscal paradise would immediately be spotted. If you manufacture abroad, you automatically create a chain of counter-agents, and if one of them is in a fiscal paradise, you can concentrate all profits on it, thus saving almost all tax money thanks to that scheme. And here we are talking about a very significant part of the final price.
With the additional margin gained, you can reduce the end-user price (I should write "could"), but in fact most of the profit stays in the company. Anyone thinking that Apple manufactures in China because of low employment cost should think again.
To come back to COVID, each large country or group of countries (like the EU if the EU did what it was supposed to do) should have local production of major drugs and medical equipment, and politicians should not be allowed to compromise on that, full stop.
As mentioned earlier, the various Industrial Complexes (we talked about the Medical and Military ones, but many others have gained enormous influence on the way the world is run) make intensive use of lobbying (corruption if you are not afraid to name it that way) and legal shields. Of course this is not enough and danger can also come from the public opinion and controlling the media is key. Many articles have been written on who owns the media in western countries, and it is no secret that a few industry and finance groups control almost all of the media. They can thus organize a "voluntary" censorship where journalists refrain to do investigation job, happy again to get good salaries repeating the "doxa" and the politically correct stuff. The COVID crisis here again showed how effective that media manipulation can be, with a one way communication to create fear and passivity among the population. Remember the French official who was caught red handed by an open microphone before a TV interview, telling his counterparts to "make it dramatic"...
Internet is now the place where real investigation work is done and published, although touching a small percentage of the population. A lot of changes shall be needed in order to free the media from financial interests and rebuild its credibility.
Most countries have seen a slow but regular lowering of the level of education in all fields, leading to a generation of "graduated idiots", as nicely named by Emmanuel Todd. Media can better manipulate passive populations not used to be critical with the information they receive. Questioning the "doxa" is called complotism and can hardly be expected from people formated since their early years at school. The example bellow shows a French school book explaining and justifying lock-downs, making it a part of normal life in the future.
Education programs and methods shall also need to be reworked. The work is enormous and I shall just mention 3 points that I believe are very important:
- education should help children to develop their own thoughts and think independently and have a critical view on everything
- education should not force children to swallow pre-formated knowledge, but teach them how to learn and develop a state of mind curious for new things and eager to discover.
- a key aspect should be to use history as a source of understanding of human character and behavior - for good and for bad. Learning dates of key battles is like watching the credits at the end of a film without watching the film itself!
Although not very much covered in the medias, one of the most virulent COVID variant that hit Europe in fall 2020 came from intensive mink breeding plants, one in Denmark, the other one in France. Thousands of animals have been killed on that occasion. It turns out that the animals could be contaminated and that a high concentration of animals in questionable hygiene conditions is a perfect environment for a rapid cross contamination between animals, leading to higher chances to create variants. This is not something new, and the various avian or swine flu that have frightened the world over the past decades are more examples of the same.
This should also lead us to pay more serious attention to the way we produce food. Outside of terrible conditions imposed on animals, intensive breeding creates health risks, that could be contained until now, but are threatening anyway. A return to smaller scale breeding in more natural and safe environment is something to consider. In the same way, industry monsters should be restricted or dismantled. Just like for the Medical-industrial Complex, the Food-industrial Complex should be abolished, not to be put under State control of course, but to give it back to individual farmers and small/mid sized industries and cooperatives. If "Green" politicians were honest, they should fight for that.
By the way, here again, the COVID crisis shows that people eating a lot of processed food were much more at risk than others.
As we touched that subject in relation to food, lets elaborate some more on that. And all being connected, this is also related to Globalization. Sea transportation is a major pollution sources, while politicians and media prefer to point their finger on car users, some of them living on the country side, and without any other alternative than cars. The same politicians, or their peers, have been the ones in France for example to destroy the local train connections in regions, and promote truck transportation to replace rail, leaving the railways company with the exploitation of expensive long distance trains.
In the same line, the demand on developed countries inhabitants is growing, accusing us of spoiling the planet and putting shame on individuals daring to use a diesel car, while nothing is done to really fight against climate change (although most of it is independent from our small human actions) or meteorologic instability. A key element in the earth ecosystem are trees. How many trees are destroyed each day, in the Amazons, but also in Europe? Is Ikea a friend of Greta? How many trees are planted back? Who is interested in it?
Here again, all changes need a strong political courage and leaders hardly receptive to lobbying and corruption. This points leads us to the next one.
This is clearly the key point for solving all issues above and make the new normal really new. This is also the most tricky type of change that needs to be done, and again not in a single country, but in many simultaneously. Can that be done in a peaceful way and without a major disrupting events? Probably not.
I am not a politician and shall not advocate for a specific agenda, but I believe the following aspects shall be critical:
- any real change shall not happen within the existing system, where leaders are election winners. The whole system is now locked and all candidates with a chance to win are already part of the system. Le Pen in France is a good example
- life long professional politicians is a major risk
- the salary of politicians is not the issue, and people complaining about that are missing the point. The issue is corruption. Corruption is rarely a bag full of money. It is rather promises to join a big company with enormous advantages after electors kicked them out.
A hint could come from Switzerland, where the system is partly based on referendum, allowing the population to decide on key decisions. Their results are respected, not like in EU countries, where a new vote is organized if the initial vote does not satisfies the elite, or simply ignored like the 2005 referendum in France on the Maastricht treaty. The system should also give a larger place to non professional politicians willing to spend time serving the interests of their country. Again, such changes are never totally satisfactory, and often decided in urgency during crisis periods, but the Swiss system certainly is worth the time to study.
All the above looks very much like a "great reset", to use the wording of the Davos Economic Forum. But as a contrasting comparison, here is an except from the "Club of Rome", the direct inspiration for the Davos group, from their book “The First Global Revolution”:
“In searching for a common enemy against whom we can unite, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like, would fit the bill. In their totality and their interactions these phenomena do constitute a common threat which must be confronted by everyone together. But in designating these dangers as the enemy, we fall into the trap, which we have already warned readers about, namely mistaking symptoms for causes. All these dangers are caused by human intervention in natural processes, and it is only through changed attitudes and behaviour that they can be overcome. The real enemy then is humanity itself.”
The reset I suggest here is obviously going into the opposite direction.