Culture war and pandemic

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The pandemic has made more visible the clash between the neoliberal capitalist model, its web of dogmas, symbols and paradigms, and other alternatives for conceiving society, economy, politics and the very idea of progress and happiness.

Neo-liberalism has always been legitimized through the cultural industry. It has been very useful the stereotype of the Yankee paladin able to come out victorious from the ambushes of his enemies, to annihilate them and take with him the booty and the most beautiful girl.

That Triumphant, who knows what he wants and will get it at all costs, surrounded by the corpses of Losers, is the “civilizing” Hero par excellence of the neoliberal fable.

On the opposite side are the Barbarians: treacherous, inferior, Arab, Russian, Latin, Asian and African-American creatures. Although sometimes the Triumphant One is dark-skinned, because industry wants to fool that sector of the population as well. And one day the perfect couple of two inseparable heroes, one white and one black, even emerged from their laboratories.

The cultural machine set out to make sure that no one suspected that there was another way of organizing society and imagining existence. Most of the victims believed the fable. If they survived in infected caves, if they could not pay for their children’s education or health services, the only culprits were themselves, as “failures”, never the system. In the jungle the strong devour the small and the weak.

But then the pandemic arrives, all the cruelty of the model comes out in an obscene, undeniable way, and “ultra-right-wing leaders” like Trump and Bolsonaro find themselves in trouble. They know only the morals of the jungle, they have no public health care system, and the pharmaceutical industry is designed to make money, not to deal with a health emergency.

The spectacle of thousands and thousands of sick people being left unattended and thousands and thousands of deaths has touched many people. The confinement also meant a pause for sensitive people to think of others, of society, of the planet.

A few days ago, a message circulated from Juliette Binoche, Barbra Streisand, Almodóvar, Robert De Niro and other very media-savvy figures from the world of cinema and entertainment. They suggest evaluating the meaning of existence and the ecological catastrophe that is approaching. We must begin “with a profound review of our goals, values and economies.” It’s a matter of survival, they say:

“The pursuit of consumerism and the obsession with productivity has led us to deny the very value of life … Pollution, climate change and

destruction of our remaining natural areas has brought the world to a breaking point. For these reasons, along with other growing social inequalities, we believe that it is unthinkable to “return to normality”.

The Progressive International was also announced, with Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Arhundati Roy and other prestigious intellectuals and politicians, including former President Correa and Fernando Haddad.

Graziella Pogolotti defined the ideological platforms from which the demand for another world is launched, not only “possible”, but essential: “Some are of ecological origin, others have a more radical leftist trajectory”. For Graziella, stopping the aggressions against Cuba and Venezuela, canceling the foreign debt, establishing a new international information order and fighting against climate change must be part of the agenda. “Fidel (reminds us) dedicated the battle of his last years to the threat of extinction of the species”.

Leonardo Boff sees the pandemic as a response from “our Common House” to the onslaught of human beings: “The modern myth that we are “the little god” on Earth and that we can dispose of it as we please because it is inert and without purpose has been destroyed”. We have treated it “with unprecedented fury”. Hence, “it has struck back at us with a powerful weapon, the coronavirus.

Frei Betto refers to the impact of the virus on the financial market: “the shares of the world’s stock markets lost 15.5 trillion dollars. Did any of those

speculators and mega-researchers affected in their pocket (the most sensitive part of the human body) will have become impoverished? And yet, before the pandemic, almost everyone refused to give their contribution to measures to combat hunger and global warming.

In other words, the problem existed before that. It lies at the heart of the system, in the corporations and the politicians who represent them.

William Ospina meditated on the lessons of humility left by the pandemic: “After centuries of treasuring our knowledge, of valuing our talent, of venerating our audacity, of adoring our strength, the time comes when it is our turn to ponder our fragility”.

Hollywood superheroes have never felt fragile. Of course, we’ll have to see how the film ends.

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