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We are driving a juggernaut along a road which leads directly to a cliff edge. If we go straight, we will topple into an abyss. Obviously we cannot continue the way we are going. To avoid annihilation, we have one of two choices: we can either turn left toward a Utopia, or right into a Dystopia. It seems obvious which decision needs to be made. And yet … most of those on board are screaming to the driver to turn right. Why? Why would we choose a Dystopia before a Utopia?

 

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Pandemic (Part Two): our tragedy

To see PANDEMIC (Part ONE) go to: https://wordpress.com/block-editor/post/pauladkin.wordpress.com/3348

For decades the largely hypocritical ethics of neo-liberal ideologies have been globally chipping away at the public sector of the system from all sides, disfiguring the State and undermining any democratic quality of it. This weakening process has been carried out to such an extent that there is a widespread sense of distrust from the demos towards those who organise and govern them. In tragedy-terms, the natural law that composes the democratic State, a polis for the people elected by the people, has been perverted.

In the Greek sense of tragedy, the tragic comes into play when the human ethics clash with the divine, natural laws of the gods. Applied to our current situation, our tragedy unfolds because the nihilistic ethics of the capitalist economy that drives our system, have fallen into conflict with the natural laws of ecological sustainability.

The co-habitation of conflicting forces is the underlying condition that makes tragedy possible. In the case of the pandemic, the forces contributing to the tragedy itself are the conflicting elements of the private and public sectors, two spaces that exist in the same space (the State), competing for possession of that space. The pandemic has revealed the real scope and existential significance of that conflict, which was hardly tangible in the pre-tragic scenario, so dominated by the private sector at the expense of the public. The pandemic has shown us the impotence of the public/private system, by revealing its fatal flaws.

On the surface, it seems that the State is able to manage the opposing forces comfortably. It could be said that the function of Western democracies is solely to bind these opposing forces together and guarantee the co-habitation of the two. Within this role, the State exudes self-confidence, seeing itself as a simple individuality in which public and private dynamics and needs are harmonised, but this perception is diluted and dissolved when the true situation is revealed with the unfolding of the tragedy. So, to see the real impact of the pandemic, we need to look at the essence of that which the State truly represents in order to see beyond the illusion that its public/private mask perpetuates.

For the State to make any democratic sense, it must be regarded as a guarantee of survival for the people that constitute it. At a secondary level, it needs to be dedicated to providing comfort and dignity, both materially and spiritually. It is the organisation that organises not only the lives of the people, but also their deaths, and this organisation is expected to be primarily quantitative. The democratic success of the State depends on the quality of life enjoyed by its citizens, as well as the protection against that life ending prematurely, and the guarantee for everyone to be allowed to die in a dignified way.

This latter point is often overlooked, and that is part of the reason why the pandemic tragedy is so bewildering. In the pandemic, the need to regulate death in the society suddenly jumps to the fore. Remember, the primary aim of the State is its guarantee of ensuring the survival of its citizens, and the pandemic reveals this essential objective very clearly. Like the Greek tragedy Antigone, the pandemic tragedy is set around corpses. It is about the real problem of death in society, which is, above all, a question of dignity.

In the 2020 pandemic, what we have seen is a humiliation of human arrogance and the principle product of that arrogance is the capitalist economy. It has also revealed the dangers of perpetuating a system which is anti-natural, in our contemporary sense of working in a rapacious manner that constantly violates and destroys the ecosystem that is ultimately our only true source of sustenance.

To be natural, politics must be a conjunction of human will and nature in which the human will is harmonious with the restrictions of natural law. To ensure this, the human will must submit to ecology, and the only political force fit enough and potent enough to organise and carry out that submission, is the public sector.         

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