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Another, Probably More Severe Pandemic Has Been Predicted: Noam Chomsky

We should bear in mind that as severe as this crisis is, there is worse coming, renowned political activist Noam Chomsky warns. “There will be recovery from the pandemic, at terrible cost. There will be no recovery from the melting of the polar ice sheets, the glaciers in the Himalayas or the other dire effects of global warming – which will render much of South Asia uninhabitable if the world persists on its present course, and not in the distant future. The most recent scientific studies estimate that the world may be reaching that level in 50 years, on our present course”.

According to him, President Trump’s bungling and criminality in handling the pandemic will probably weaken his re-election chances, but a lot can happen before November, he says.

Chomsky, who is noted for his critiques of neoliberalism, imperialism and the military-industrial-media complex, says in a recent interview: It is worth taking a step back to look at the roots of the pandemic. It is not unexpected. After the SARS epidemic of 2003, scientists anticipated that another pandemic is very likely, probably a variant of the SARS coronavirus. But knowledge is not enough. Someone must do something about it. The drug companies are not interested. They follow market signals, and profits lie elsewhere. The government could take over, but that is blocked by neoliberal doctrine.

According to him, Trump made it worse by steadily defunding the Centers for Disease Control and eliminating government programs that would have provided advance notice, so the US was singularly unprepared. In his view, “Chinese scientists very quickly identified the virus that was causing the illness, sequenced the genome, and by January 10 made all the relevant information public”.

Trump, he says, ignored the regular warnings by US intelligence and health officials, insisting that it was just the flu and would disappear. “By the time he finally paid attention, in March, it was far too late. Tens of thousands of Americans had already died and the pandemic was out of control”.

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So the US suffered a triple blow: capitalist logic, the savage neoliberal variant of capitalism, and a government that has no concern for the population.

When a president takes a stand, there is always a gain in approval, but in Trump’s case it quickly waned. His bungling and criminality will probably weaken his re-election chances, but a lot can happen before November.

Chomsky says “the business world and the reactionary statists allied to it want to restore something like what [came before], but with more authoritarian controls. Popular forces want to move towards a world that is more just and free. What will [eventually happen] depends on the interplay of these forces.”

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On the possibility of a new social-democratic approach, his analysis is that: the beneficiaries of the savage capitalism of the past 40 years of neoliberalism, who are also largely responsible for the current pandemic and much more, are working relentlessly to ensure that the outcome will be an even harsher version of the system they have constructed for their own benefit. If there are no powerful counter forces, they will succeed. But it is not foreordained.

Commenting on epidemiologists like Rob Wallace who have pointed out that profit-driven capitalist logic has invaded the wildlife ecosystem, that human-wildlife conflicts have become more frequent, and that this paves the way for viruses to spillover to humans, he points out that:

Destruction of habitat and unsustainable land-use are raising the threat of such spillovers, [which is] apparently what happened with [the new coronavirus]. The suicidal tendencies of unbridled capitalism [have been] exposed in many other ways by the health crisis. After the SARS epidemic in 2003, scientists warned that another coronavirus epidemic was likely, and urged that we prepare for it. Who could do so?

“The huge and super-wealthy drug companies have the resources to do so, but they are blocked by normal capitalist logic”, he says. In his view, “it is not profitable. The government could step in, but that is blocked by the neoliberal plague, which demands that the government cannot intervene in the world controlled by private power – except, of course, to rescue the rich and corporate sector from the crises they create, as is happening again now.

Another pandemic [has been] predicted, he says, probably more severe than this one, amplified by global warming. Scientists know how to prepare, but someone must act. If we choose not to learn the lessons that are right before our eyes, the consequences will be dire.

Source: The Wire