Home Society: COVID-19: ‘I-told-you-so’ crisis and social fragmentation

GEAB 144

The monthly bulletin of LEAP (European Laboratory of Political Anticipation) - 15 Apr 2020

Society: COVID-19: ‘I-told-you-so’ crisis and social fragmentation

 “In 2020, a global pandemic called COVID-19 brought the world economy to a virtual standstill for several months. To contain the epidemic, governments had to take radical measures to contain populations, reducing activity to the essentials: health, food and certain basic services (telecommunications, water, electricity, financial systems, etc.). It was during these few weeks of lockdown that were put in place the operating principles of the digital society that still governs the world today. This pandemic is also considered to be the founding event of the great religious wars of the first quarter of this century.” (History Textbook in 2040).

A bad start to the ‘world after’

In 2009, Franck Biancheri, then Director of Studies at LEAP,[1] wrote a book entitled Global Crisis: The Path to the World Afterwards – The Decade 2010-2020,[2] demonstrating his insight into the duration of the transformation process that would lead to a new system. In his visionary book, he proposes two possible paths leading up to the date mentioned for the end of the process: one ‘harrowing’, leading painfully to an organised ‘next world’; the other ‘tragic’, creating all the conditions for a malformed new-born child. These scenarios are interesting to reread today and allow us to see that while, as always, reality has taken a path between the two, it has nevertheless been closer to the more pessimistic scenario: a clear failure to reinvent global governance so as to properly integrate the newcomers (to which our Euro-BRICS[3] project was a visionary contribution), leading to an increase or maintenance of the power of tough leaders.

Over the past 12 years, the world has become increasingly polarised, with supranational structures failing to assert themselves due to a lack of connection with the people, with the result that solutions could not be implemented and popular discontent has been growing against de facto impotent national policies, pushing to the forefront leaders spouting increasingly violent rhetoric to hide this impotence and establishing a globally xenophobic society (anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, anti-Chinese, anti-European, anti-Trump, anti-government, anti-male, anti-white, anti-meat-eating, anti-immigrant,…).

It is in this tense context that COVID-19 has arrived. And, paradoxically, the resulting pandemic has raised immense hope!

Anger, hope and disappointment

This sense of hope is a reliable indicator of the degree to which people, especially in the West, are fed up with the old system. The old system can be summed up as follows: an overheated world economy forced to run faster and faster to satisfy statistics (a dictatorship of figures). Human societies have become drunk with work and consumption, each as obligatory as the other. The environment is being emptied of its resources and is full of waste. Production chains are in a constant search for lower costs (raw materials and labour) leading to child labour here, unemployment there, the crushing of farmers and producers of raw materials elsewhere… The ‘cheap economy’ is maintaining the consumptive power of the poor at the price of more and more poverty. Professional burn-out and consumerist hysteria are rife… with a burning planet in the background. And humanity is starting to hate itself for participating in such a model.[4]

In this context of complete loss of meaning, COVID-19 has come to press the ‘stop’ button that everyone was anxiously looking for. No wonder it has been seen as a saviour by a significant proportion of the population!

But humanity is diverse… And this COVID-19 crisis is proving everyone right: ‘it’s pollution!’, ‘it’s fornication!’, ‘it’s liberalism!’, ‘it’s the CIA!’, ‘it’s China!’, ‘it’s 5G!’… everyone sees his pet theory as being validated by the crisis, his hour of glory arriving, his solutions being put in place.

Both the mediasphere and social networks are filled with fake news and triumphalist conspiracy theories feeding the creation of quasi-cults … which will soon become disillusioned once the lockdown is over. And even if, as we have said, ‘the post-COVID world will be very different from the one before’, it will not be as different as the growing contingents of ideologues hope.

There are many end of the world dreams in this wave that is breaking over social networks: a definitive halt to the consumerist economy, a significant decrease in the world population, the emergence of the heavenly Jerusalem, the return of Christ, the end of America, the disappearance of China, a return to the state of nature, the victory of socialism,…

Let’s get this straight: none of this will happen!

The wild hope that disaster brings with it is, therefore, likely to turn into furious disappointment among the most extremist sections of the population.


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