the last crusade

Blanca Alaníz, series Día de los muertos en La Merced nº 1, Analog photography, Mexico City, 2021
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By BERNARDO SEVERGNINI*

Under Mario Draghi in Italy all the reporteróriver of experienceêauthoritiesálaugh at the storyória transmitted thisá being used and enforced to preserve economic orderôglobal mica

How to write the newspaper The Washington Post,[I] a social experiment is under way in Italy that will soon, if successful, be disseminated in other countries. Therefore, it is to be expected that the model implemented in Italy (and also in Israel) represents for the West the new frontier, perhaps the last possible one, of this ideology called neoliberalism. This is Draghi's mission, the reason why he was introduced into Italian politics and presented with the stigmata of the hero. But his work is dirty, it's an attempt to maintain a crumbling empire using quick methods. A last desperate crusade of dying neoliberalism.

Mario Draghi is the embodiment of neoliberalism. More: it is neoliberalism turned into a verb. Made religion. He has demonstrated this throughout his life and in his position as head of government he is doing nothing but applying the principles of his ideology against SARS-CoV-2 to economic, political and legal issues.

 

The glamorous image of neoliberalism

There is a narrative that spreads it as the overcoming of ideologies, a system in which we finally abandon policies that are no longer able to govern modern life, in constant evolution. In the age of the Internet of Things, where algorithms also make coffee and there are those who plan to colonize Mars, the progress of “progressive, grandiose fortunes” (magnificent and progressive[ii]) of humanity advances so quickly that there is no place for ideologies, we must free ourselves from these chains that delay change. We need something more dynamic, more agile, a more “resilient” system, as they say today. We don't have time to waste with these old ideologies, business here is business, business, no talk!

This is the glamorous image of neoliberalism that is offered by the dominant rhetoric, so persuasive that the few dissenting voices are treated as pointless, tedious setbacks. But even neoliberalism is nothing more than an ideology, like the others, with its very specific rules, its dogmas, its precepts and its liturgies. And Draghi is one of the most authoritative priests of neoliberalism.

There are those who hastily liquidate him as a “servant of the multinationals” or an opportunist who builds his career protecting the “strong powers”. It's not (just) that. Draghi is a convinced and tenacious defender of the capitalist system, of the market, of neoliberal ideology. He is an extremist defender of the system and its export and, as he is not only the best, but the only one, he faithfully believes that precisely this system will be able to find, with the development of appropriate technologies, the mitigation of serious environmental and social problems.

 

the princeípeep of neoliberalism

The principle of neoliberalism wants the private market to govern all social phenomena and the State to have essentially the function of “guarantor” of the system. That is why, for example, the Draghi Government established, by law, that, from now on, if cities want to directly manage the provision of services to the population, they will have to “justify” why they do not resort to private initiative… of the pandemic follows the same principle: the draconian choices made by his government, the most rigorous in the entire West, aim to establish the best conditions for the prosperity of the banking system and private business. This is the main goal, and it's not a mystery.

Draghi himself, at the press conference to present the “super green pass“, he candidly declared that the restrictive measures will serve to avoid the closure of trade, so as not to annul the excellent positive result of 6% of GDP obtained this year and guarantee that this Christmas will be a triumph of consumption, as in the old days. Few nods to health itself, which theoretically should be the main theme. Health becomes a secondary aspect, which must be managed based on the primary one: maintaining open trade. We must vaccinate ourselves for the economy, more than for health. Too many deaths would lead to new closures, and that would be a problem for the economy. The government seems to be saying: “Italians, don't play the game of dying from covid, if you do that, we will have to enact the lockdown".

 

The main objective

It is clear that deaths are a problem, a huge problem, it is even rhetorical to point this out. But if the main objective was really to save lives, a long series of other measures would be put into practice, in addition to the vaccine. Necessary measures, even if not more effective, but which do not represent a “big deal” and which, therefore, are ignored, such as the reduction of overcrowded classrooms, the improvement of public transport, the implementation of territorial medicine, the increase in hospital beds. All factors that have a major impact on containing the pandemic and its damage, but which are obviously not very profitable.

On the contrary, the logic of the market means that, at a global level, the pandemic is managed almost exclusively by large pharmaceutical corporations, which place their demands above the collective interest. All the strategies set up globally to face this pandemic are based on commercial logic and have profit as their main objective.

An elementary principle of trade is to move towards the richest markets, markets whose customers are more likely to buy products at higher prices. It is in this context that the case of the Ômicron variant fits, which revealed the critical situation in the south of the world. Well, the USA and the European Union (especially through the action of Germany, France and Italy) continue to oppose requests for the suspension of vaccine patents for the next three years, which more than 100 countries have requested. Instead of guaranteeing cheap (or free) doses to poor countries, global neoliberal governance leaves patents in the hands of Big Pharmas so that they continue to suck as much as possible from rich countries, which guarantee secure income, subjecting their populations to third parties, fourth doses, vaccination of children and unjustified obligations for those who still refuse to receive the vaccine.

These choices betray the commercial purposes of the operation, which state governments are called upon to support, even with authoritarian methods if necessary. This is neoliberalism's latest crusade: using national (and EU) governments to subjugate democracies to the benefit of business. For God's sake, government control is a technique that the large multinationals have always used, but while in the past they operated on the fringes of the mechanisms of representative democracy, today the democratic method is no longer enough. The pandemic was an opportunity to signal to the world that now is the time to take the hard road.

The rule of law today, when it hampers the prospects of big global capital, is something to get rid of without any ceremony. Paradoxically, the defense of individual freedoms and rights, which since the French Revolution has represented an essential dogma for the affirmation of liberal doctrine, can now be happily sacrificed. Capital needs more. Attention, this is not about defending individualism (we are all aware of the value of coexistence, not only to improve the quality of social relations, but also to optimize the environmental impact), but it is curious that the turboliberals , who made individualism a flag, are today the first to subdue the rights of the individual.

Countries with an older “liberal” tradition, such as the USA or the United Kingdom, retain such consideration for the rights of the individual so much in their DNA that they have not (yet) dared, so as not to offend the sensibilities of their citizens, to propose restrictions in the Italian way. But we in Italy are not in that danger, we don't have that sensitivity, and Draghi knows it. We have never had much difficulty offering our individual freedom to a “strong man” who paternalistically disposes of it as he sees fit. No place would be more suitable than Italy, to experience this new authoritarian model, in which neoliberalism, to save itself, is forced to use the manipulative and coercive techniques of totalitarian regimes that in the XNUMXth century fought so hard.

But this choice should not be interpreted as a denial of liberal doctrine. On the contrary, it represents an evolution, a new necessary mission, a new crusade, perhaps the last one: to remain faithful to its dogmas, to survive its own contradictions, today this system needs to force its hand more and more, to impose itself with violence .

In the age of dying liberalism, the rule of law and the welfare state must be increasingly distorted, increasingly bent to the needs of business. Public money should not be used to guarantee services to people, but should fatten companies. So, to tackle the pandemic, billions are being spent on vaccines from private pharmaceutical companies. The strategy should only be that of the vaccine, and nothing else. Everything must be a business opportunity for someone. And it will have to be from here until eternity (in Israel they are already preparing the fourth dose…).

 

the new order

Adherence to the new order must be total, absolute, and without discussion. It must be a religion. We are back to an even older level of authoritarianism: medieval church fideism. Revealed truth, good versus evil, altruism versus selfishness, the sin-repentance-forgiveness-redemption dynamic applied to vaccine fugitives, the “eucharistic” meaning of the holy serum, and so on along the path of the new gospel of health, the one revealed by pharmaceutical multinationals.

In short, the entire repertoire of authoritarian experiences that history has conveyed is being used and applied to the present to preserve the global economic order. Some categories of Italian workers, such as teachers or the military, are already experiencing the wonders of the new order, and it will soon be the turn of the rest of the population. Probably the method used in Covid-19 is just the first application of a method that can be extended to the management of other emergencies, first of all, the environmental one.

*Bernardo Severgnini é geographer and teacher.

Translation: Anselmo Pessoa Neto

Originally published on the portal MDF.

 

Notes


[I] https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/europe/italy-vaccination-mandate-workers/2021/10/15/d1b045e2-2d99-11ec-b17d-985c186de338_story.html.

[ii] About the quote "magnificent and progressive”, Bernardo Severgnini says: “It is a famous expression in Italy. It is from a poem by Giacomo Leopardi, “La ginestra o il fiore del desert”, (The broom or The flower of the desert) and has become almost a proverb to indicate who has blind trust in the future, convinced that the future will be beautiful. It is commonly used to describe the positivist philosophy which says that humanity is destined to always progress towards the better, thanks to technology. [Translator's note].

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