Two Truths from the Pandemic No One Is Mentioning

Two truths at least are certain in this post-pandemic world:

1) Humans have so dominated the world, destroying much of non-human life and systems in the process, that the world has struck back in recoil and seeks to readjust the balance.

2) Human sustenance systems are far too large and unwieldly to be effective and the smaller the system or operation the more efficient, useful, friendly, or supportive.

The first truth is of course the one that the current organizers of the world, the ones who have brought this crisis upon us, do not want to believe.  To believe that, they would have to acknowledge that the global-liberal-capitalist-guided environment they have worked centuries—or, to be more precise, 75 years—to create has so damaged the environment that it can no longer function.  It is not merely that we have engineered a world warming so fast, with   ancillary die-outs of so many other species and ecosystems, that it has finally caught up to us, the bipedal species that thought it was in charge.  It is more, that we have almost eliminated all other species than those that serve us (only less than 5 per cent of the species on earth can be called wild any more)  to the point that the earth needs to seek a way to reestablish a balance. A global pandemic is a simple way to begin that.

Now it is hardly surprising that the Henry Kissingers and other satraps of the present system want  to create another worldwide capitalist world, only this time a little more dictatorial than in the past to crush any nasty pandemic that might stand in the way of progress.  But the earth is telling us that the capitalist world is using her up, fouling her systems, killing off species useful and needful to her, and no one species however sapient can be allowed to do that.

It is saying that here we have the one chance to reorder our values, restructure our relationship with nature, create an economic arrangement that does
not depend upon using the treasures we call resources as rapidly and recklessly as we can.  The one chance to reposition our species as one among many, and a humble one at that, instead of thinking ourselves superior and dominant.

The second truth follows neatly from the first.  Clearly all the large systems we have evolved to solve our problems and govern our lives have failed, some most dramatically so.  When a crisis hit, no one depended on international institutions to do anything useful—no one even thought the United Nations should meet!—and all the globalists at once fell upon national governments to save them, ignoring the whole edifice of internationalism cobbled up since World War II.

But as it turned out most of those national systems sputtered and backstepped and went around in circles too, the only partial exceptions being oriental-rooted autocracies in the East.  The United States, by far the most powerful and richest, dithered for days without any leadership and no one knew whether the medical side or the political side would step up; in the end it was a  little bit of both and a lots of neither.  The European Union was completely silent, and the feeble states of Italy, Iran, UK, and the rest could only cry Panic and shut as much down as they could, regardless of consequences.

As it turned out, the U.S. national instruments were inadequate, ill-managed, and inefficient.  States tried to move up, as in New York, but they little knew what strategies to pursue for the long term much less what machines to get for the short. Where actual achievements were made, and lives saved, it was at a much more local level, where doctors and nurses could touch and see and know the needed steps to success.

The lesson is that, if anything really useful—and ecologically sound—is to be done in the future it should best be done at a local level.  It is there, and there only, that we can all heed the call sent out by Pope Francis in the wake of the pandemic: “We have to slow down our rate of production and consumption and to learn to understand and contemplate the natural world.”  That’s the only way to survive the pandemic, and to get about the business of a non-capitalist ecological salvation.

Kirkpatrick Sale is the author of seventeen books.  A 50th anniversary reprint of his classic SDS has been published this fall (Autonomedia).