Home Opinion & Features A civilisational crisis, not a medical one

A civilisational crisis, not a medical one


Without international solidarity, pandemics cannot be eradicated

SOCIAL solidarity is based on a shared set of values, norms, beliefs and the consequent patterns of behaviour that guide, facilitate and help achieve harmonious, peaceful and progressive patterns of social relations that advance the progressive trajectory of humanity.

Social solidarity cannot and should not stop at contrived, colonial and post-colonial artificial geographical borders that define nation states. The porous nature of the physical lines on maps serve to reflect the physical manifestation of the antithesis of a unified humanity.

The Maginot lines are testament to the barbarism of the uncaring elites of humankind hell-bent on degrading the environment and neglecting the violently dispossessed for their own short-term personal gain, power and avarice – the bases of a social anomie in times of crisis. 

Covid-19 provides ample evidence of the obsolescent nature of the physical boundaries.

The Earth is filled with sufficient means to maintain life for all. However, elites appropriate the resources. This sets us on a course for social and even physical implosion.

As profit through financial speculation grows as an alternative to profit-making through production, coupled with the decline of industrial workers and the suffering of non-permanent and unprotected employees, inequality worsens.

Business unionism, co-option of union leaders, the corrupt political domain coupled with the demonisation of humane socialism, and the ideological hegemony perpetuated by the mainstream media, by English as the language of the excellent and intelligent, all serve to inhibit the human capacity to deal with pandemics.

Experts say social distancing is the key to dealing with the pandemic. “Social distance” is a measure of distance across social boundaries. 

The appropriate terminology is “physical distancing”. It means take all measures to maintain a physical distance between yourself and others – at least 2m. But maintain social connectivity, social solidarity and a sense of community. Do not socially isolate.

Without international solidarity, pandemics cannot be eradicated. They cannot be eradicated by the neo-liberal howls for smaller government with the outsourcing of essential services. 

Smaller government has less capacity to respond to international medical or humanitarian crises. They cannot be eradicated by the market-driven exigencies of drug companies in the pursuit of shareholder value.

What is required is a patent-free vaccine; international co-operation of the best scientific resources the world has to offer.

In a civilised world order the rich and powerful assist the poor, not strangle them. 

This week, French doctors suggested that the Covid-19 vaccine be tested in Africa. Iran is being denied medication through US sanctions; some refer to this as medical terrorism, but Cuba in the spirit of internationalism is sending doctors to Europe. China informed the world as soon as it knew about the virus, decoded it and shared the information. And yet as US philosopher Noam Chomsky says, a “sociopathic buffoon” calls it the “Chinese virus”.

Migrants, Africans, South Asians, the aged, children and subaltern groups have yet to experience the full impact of the pandemic. 

Social responsibility, self-management, social compliance all represent the correlates of a social solidarity based on humane internationalism, a world premised on the values of sharing, caring, benevolence, compassion and trust.

Covid-19 is a civilisational crisis, not a medical one. 

It is time to revisit the questions of whether permanent revolution is possible and socialism can be in any one country in a period of the apparent permanency and savagery of hegemonic market relations.

Social resistance is a countervailing tendency. Another world is possible.

Chetty is currently a visiting professor at the Interdisciplinary Research Centre for Childhoods and Societies at Wuppertal University in Germany. He is also an Adjunct Professor in Management Sciences at the Durban University of Technology and a board member of Mahsa University, KL, Malaysia. He has a PhD in Sociology and is a former Pro Vice-Chancellor of UKZN.