The Capitalism of Disaster

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Leonardo Boff*

This pandemic cannot be fought only by economic and health means that are always indispensable. It demands another relationship with nature and the Earth.

The current coranavirus pandemic represents a unique opportunity to rethink our way of inhabiting the Common House, the way we produce, consume and relate to nature. The time has come to question the virtues of the capital order: unlimited accumulation, competition, individualism, indifference to the misery of millions, the reduction of the State and the exaltation of Wallstreet's motto: "greed is good” (covetousness is good). All of that is now in jeopardy. He can no longer continue.

What can now save us are not private companies, but the State with its general health policies, always attacked by the “free” market system and will be the virtues of the new paradigm, defended by many and by me, of care, solidarity social responsibility, co-responsibility and compassion.

The first to see the urgency of this change was the French president, neoliberal and coming from the world of finance, Emmanuel Macron. He spoke clearly: “Dear compatriots, tomorrow we need to draw lessons from the moment we are going through, question the development model that our world chose decades ago and that shows its flaws in the light of day, question the weaknesses of our democracies. What this pandemic reveals is that free health without income conditions, personal history or profession, and our Social Welfare State are not costs or burdens, but precious goods, indispensable advantages when destiny knocks on the door. What this pandemic reveals is that there are goods and services that must remain outside the laws of the market.”

This demonstrates the full awareness that a market-only economy, which commodifies everything, and its political expression, neoliberalism, are harmful for society and for the future of life. Even more blunt was journalist Naomi Klein, one of the most perceptive critics of the world-system who said “Coronavirus is the perfect disaster for disaster capitalism”.

This pandemic produced the collapse of the stock market (exchanges), the heart of this speculative, individualistic and anti-life system as Pope Francis calls it. This system violates the most universal law of the cosmos, nature and human beings: the interdependence of everyone with everyone else; that there is no being, least of all us humans, like an island disconnected from everything else. Even more: it does not recognize that we are part of nature and that the Earth does not belong to us to exploit it as we please, but that we belong to the Earth.

In the view of the best cosmologists and astronauts who see the unity of Earth and Humanity, we are that portion of the Earth that feels, thinks, loves, cares and worships. By overexploiting nature and the Earth, as is being done all over the world, we are harming ourselves and exposing ourselves to the reactions and even the punishments it imposes on us. She is a generous mother, but she can be rebellious and send us a devastating virus.

I support the thesis that this pandemic cannot be fought only by economic and health means that are always indispensable. It demands another relationship with nature and the Earth. If after passing the crisis we do not make the necessary changes, the next time may be the last, because we have become the bitter enemies of the Earth. She might not want us here anymore.

Prof's report. Neil Ferguson's Imperial College of London declared: “this is the most dangerous virus since the H1N1 flu of 1918. If there is no response there will be 2,2 million deaths in the USA and 510 thousand in the United Kingdom”. This statement was enough for Donald Trump and Boris Johnson to immediately change their position. Belatedly, they pledged fortunes to protect the people. While in Brazil the President does not care, he treats it as a “hysteria” and in the words of a German journalist from the Deutsche Welle: “He acts criminally. Brazil is led by a psychopath, and the country would do well to remove him as soon as possible. Reasons for this would be many.” It is what Parliament and the STF – in defense of the people – should do without delay.

Hyperinformation and appeals by all the media are not enough. It does not move us to change required behavior. We have to awaken sensitive and cordial reason. Overcoming indifference and feeling, with your heart, the pain of others. Nobody is immune from the virus. Rich and poor we have to be in solidarity with each other, take care of ourselves personally and take care of others and assume collective responsibility. There is no port of salvation. Either we feel human, co-equals in the same Common House or we will all sink.

Women, like never before in history, have a special mission: they know about life and the necessary care. They can help us to awaken our sensitivity to others and to ourselves. They, along with health operators (medical and nursing staff) deserve our unrestricted support. Caring for those who care for us to minimize the evils of this terrible assault on human life.

*Leonardo Boff is a theologian. Author, among other books, of the necessary care (Voices).

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