A Different Lesson from Corona Moment of Humanity

Will the new world that we enter post-pandemic of coronavirus manifest trust deficit?  Trust is the basis of all human relations. Our politics and economics are also a matter of levels of trust.  Will the right-wing politics that cash on fear and trust deficit grow across the globe? What will happen to neo-liberal economic policies?  Are we heading to a new world order that is becoming isolated islands of de-globalized nations?  Trust requires optimism. With the gloom of the global pandemic showing signs of heading towards doom, human optimism is also on a huge decline. Optimism builds on our shared goals, values and positive belief that we are moving toward a happy destination. How are we to fire our optimism at this hour of death and destruction? Trust opens us to a new world that we may not be able to step into as individuals alone.  There is a constitutive mutuality to any trust relations.  Trust increases our social corporation, freedom, and social capital.

Trust is both individual and societal.  Trust builds social harmony. Suspicion or trust deficient is detrimental to any social fabric. The question that we are chiefly concerned over here is the prospects of social trust in a post-pandemic world. Trust is a powerful social good.  The current scenario seems to indicate that  social trust  is likely to decline as we enter a world that has suddenly changed.  There are scholars who have theorised social trust.  They can be chiefly divided into two groups. There are those who think that trust is an individual trait derived mainly from his/her personality or social status or class. Others think that trust is a property not of the individuals but of social systems. These social systems provide the circumstances and conditions for social trust to grow and flourish.   Given our global condition today, the second group of theories seems to have more explanatory power. 

Society cannot survive without some trust. Even if it is likely the trust levels are set to diminish as we venture into a new post-pandemic world, we will still have social trust. But the radius of this social trust appears to shrink.  Our society is likely to become more centripetal and  social trust will grow more inward and new narrow circles of trusting culture will begin to nest  in the world.  This means social trust is based on the social circumstances of the people.  Given this new condition, we might see heightened surveillance and each individual will be monitored through artificial intelligence.   Those countries that have used artificial intelligence to track the movements of the covid-19 infected people as we saw in china are better able to bring  control over the menace of the pandemic.  But such a scenario  is going to restrict freedom and individual privacy.  We are steadily entering a banopticon, a society that will ban several individual freedoms in the name of individual security and safety. 

The social capital of the global community is set to move into an inner circle closer to the centre. We seem to be all set towards top-down hierarchically structured global society.  Not that we are not  already into this structure. These social boundaries are set to become more radical and rigorous. Right-wing politics may exhibit rapid growth. While nations are set to become islands of echo-chambers, the reigning economic structure is likely to become strengthen.  We have already had experienced that neo-liberalism thrives alongside rightwing politics and religious or nationalist ideologies. India manifests this truth. The rise of the extreme right-wing Hindutva politics in our country also coincides with the opening of the free-market economy in the 1990s.  But neo-liberal policies having offered step-motherly treatment to agriculture, higher education and health care have increased our vulnerability to a pandemic attack of this kind.  This is why it may be difficult to fore-think the new scenario of the levels of social trust in India as well as the global community for now.  Certainly, the health crisis that we are facing seems to be all set to bring us into socially unhealthy societies worldwide.

Distrust is cynical and paranoid.  We cannot stay with the tremendous shock of the global pandemic.  It has manifested our ill-preparedness.  It has also exposed our over-dependence on other nations. Globalisation had produced an independent world.  Medicine and medical goods manufactured in one country were used in other countries. Each country grew in its strengths and depended on other resources on other countries with the hope that an invisible hand of the free market envisaged by Adam Smith will brings a levelling effect for all. What we have understood much before this global pandemic  is that there  is no such  benevolent invisible hand of the market.  What is there is a  hard and heartless social Darwinism.  It is  this social Darwinism of the market that has pushed the global resources and wealth into the hands of a small minority.  In fact, this economic dislocation produces both religious and political fundamentalism. This is so because what we call neo-liberal free market is actually market fundamentalism.  This is why maybe market fundamentalism, religious fundamentalism, and political fundamentalism can co-exist. 

Maybe we have to see a silver lining in this global catastrophe. Maybe the growing distrust might align the people against the reigning political, social as well as economic order.  We do have a slim hope as we can see light at the end of a tunnel.  But what if the light that we see at the end of tunnel is the headlight of a new engine heading towards us only to crush us further?   In situations like this, we need what Slavoj Zizek calls courage of hopelessness.  We have hit a zero point.  This is our best opportunity to rebuild a new world order.  This means we need to have the courage to make the best of this hopeless condition.  The virus has brought about a shift in global cultural capital and we have an opportunity to lead it into a new hopeful condition.  George Agamben teaches us that thought is the courage of hopelessness. We need this courage to think today than ever before.   There is no clear alternative for tomorrow.  We have not yet thought this condition through the end.  This is why we need the courage to think and not rely only on a few who use their location to reinforce the status quo.  Human hope does not die. Even when we hit a zero level, we have the courage of hope that produces our courage to think. 


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Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue.

- Fr Victor Ferrao