Tuesday 29th of September 2020

la peste...


The Plague (French: La Peste) is a novel by Albert Camus, published in 1947, that tells the story of a plague sweeping the French Algerian city of Oran. It asks a number of questions relating to the nature of destiny and the human condition. The characters in the book, ranging from doctors to vacationers to fugitives, all help to show the effects the plague has on a populace.

The novel is believed to be based on the cholera epidemic that killed a large percentage of Oran's population in 1849 following French colonization, but the novel is placed in the 1940s.[1] Oran and its surroundings were struck by disease multiple times before Camus published this novel. According to a research report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Oran was decimated by the plague in 1556 and 1678, but all later outbreaks, in 1921 (185 cases), 1931 (76 cases), and 1944 (95 cases), were very far from the scale of the epidemic described in the novel.

The Plague is considered an existentialist classic despite Camus' objection to the label.[2][3] The narrative tone is similar to Kafka's, especially in The Trial whose individual sentences potentially have multiple meanings, the material often pointedly resonating as stark allegory of phenomenal consciousness and the human condition.

Camus included a dim-witted character misreading The Trial as a mystery novel as an oblique homage. The novel has been read as an allegorical treatment of the French resistance to Nazi occupation during World War II.[4]Additionally, he further illustrates the human reaction towards the "absurd".[5] The Plague represents how the world deals with the philosophical notion of the Absurd, a theory that Camus himself helped to define.


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the new sacrificial goats....


Publisher: Nacional

It may be that the ‘democratic’ characteristics of this highly contagious virus, its remarkable ability to attack anyone, anywhere, from Harvey Weinstein, Boris Johnson to Prince Charles, without any discrimination, diminish the possibility of stigma.

Our world has been ravaged by many plagues so far, and yet every period of illness is a moment of re-examination, when normalcy is put to the test, anxieties flare up, and we turn to our own dark thoughts. Pandemics are breaking old habits. Heartbreak. People are afraid. Death lurks. Security is thrown to the wind. Deep down, people feel the need to rethink things, which I am just doing, forcibly imprisoned, counting days and nights and considering myself lucky to have escaped unscathed to the current pandemic in the UK and, a few months earlier, from a professorship in Wuhan, zero points The great plague that loomed over us.

In the midst of pain and panic, it is natural for people to try to find some meaning in it. So what can we say about the causes, consequences, and historical significance of this new plague? Some answers are already clear.

Plagues usually strike without warning, but this one, although sudden, still differs significantly in several things. Apparently, it teaches us that pale horse riders don’t always show up after wars, as was the case with the erroneously named Spanish flu of 1918-19, a pandemic that most likely started in Kansas and affected about 500 million people, in that time a quarter of the world's population. Our Great Plague is a product of peacetime, which is one of the reasons for the initial carelessness and denial. Quite a number of politicians and millions of citizens still do not believe this is happening. Persistent in their stupidity, thinking only of themselves, they are convinced that this is a hoax or media exaggeration whose falsity will soon be exposed. It is as if the plague is secretly attracted to them or perhaps even, as Charles Dickens suggested in The Tale of Two Cities, they feel a strange penchant for succumbing to the virus or watching others die from it.

Sacrificial goats also differ in this new plague. Thousands of Jews were killed after municipal authorities, bishops and the Holy Roman Emperor accused them of spreading the plague in mid-14th century Europe. Jews found themselves targeted again in Hitler's first recorded speech, held in 1919 at the Hofbräukeller pub in Munich, when they were accused of "craving money and domination" and spreading "racial tuberculosis among nations." Today’s targets still by no means include Jews, Muslims, or blacks. Disabled, poor and LGBTI groups were also spared. So far, all those groups have been lucky.

It may be that the "democratic" features of this highly contagious virus, its extraordinary ability to attack anyone, anywhere, from Harvey Weinstein, Boris Johnson to Prince Charles, without any discrimination, diminish the possibility of stigma. Perhaps the civil societies of the old democracies of our generation have learned that the greatest lesson is to remain civilized. Time will tell, but at this point more worrying is the rise of unhealthy new Orientalism. In London and Brussels, Copenhagen, New York and around the world, inflammatory speeches about the Chinese virus are accompanied by verbal abuse and beatings of Chinese, simply because they try to be responsible and wear masks in public or just because they are Chinese. Hateful memes and defamation of Asians in general, spread through platforms such as 4chan, Gab and Telegram. And in a strange turn of fate, Orientalism appears in the East as well. On Twitter in India, through #ChinaVirus trends, gurus publicly say that the people of China have "learned a lesson from animal torture." There are also racist murmurs from China, according to which the virus originated in the United States, and Westerners who eat salad are to blame for its spread. Like hot potatoes that pass quickly from hand to hand, such rumors give new meaning to the old phrase "young and green." Indonesians who eat a lot of gado-gado salads and Thais who like green papaya salad are laughing at it.


Albert Camus's "Plague" (1948) and José Saramago's "Blindness" (1997) remind us that periods of epidemics are the worst in the human race. Wider indifference to others, violence against women and petty greed. Other human beings, their touch, body and breath, mere existence, suddenly become repulsive. This certainly applies to our Great Plague, but the villains are different this time as well. Media platforms inflated panic warnings and crazy fights around toilet paper in crowded stores. Sensationalism hides the fact that real villains should be sought elsewhere.

One of the great lessons of this pandemic is this: a four-decade period of neoliberalism is not only responsible for decadence like the widening gap between rich and poor, imposed austerity policies following the imminent collapse of the banking system, global warming and species extinction. We now see that governments that have blindly pursued a market economy are also responsible for destroying public health systems and shifting health risks and debts to individuals and households. The scandalous result of such a policy is disorganized and overburdened public medicine in many environments, including the richest countries on the planet. Therefore, it was necessary to activate the army in order to deliver the emergency supplies to the hospital in St. Thomas in central London, that’s why the French government has turned TGV trains into hospital wards and that’s why doctors at New York hospitals are begging for delivery of respirators while ordering refrigerated trucks to remove patients they failed to save.

In the coming months and years, much will be said about capitalist greed and private profiteering and why the cult of possessive individualism must be placed under political control, with the support of stronger and more resilient public institutions. In this sense, the major disruption caused by this epidemic is different from that of 2008. At that time, entire systems were saved by mass injections of state funding, after which austerity policy was imposed on citizens. It was socialism for the rich, and a brutal capitalism in which only the strongest survive for others.

We now see that governments that have blindly pursued a market economy are also responsible for destroying public health systems and shifting health risks and debts to individuals and householdsThe big monster is different. Because it potentially touches and destroys everyone’s lives, saving big businesses, especially banks, is not enough. This time, citizens must also be rescued, which means direct payments to individuals, increased unemployment benefits, food parcels, freezing loan repayments and stopping evictions. Who will pay for that sudden socialism in the end, of course, is a political issue that has yet to be decided. We can be sure that plans are being made to compensate the rich for the losses that the poor will pay. A hint of the future may be the way the Greek government signs lucrative contracts for the Stay Home campaign with private media companies and pays private research institutes, rather than universities and public research centers, for virus testing. But for now, elected governments in the Atlantic and Asia-Pacific regions have abruptly abandoned their commitment to unbridled capitalism. With little or no resistance from the rich, a new era of socialism suddenly triumphed, aided by fears of economic collapse and mass deaths and billions of state dollars.

Sudden socialism certainly does not bring citizens an earthly paradise. Access to testing clinics, childcare facilities, the Internet, food and adequate living space is poorly distributed. Rates of domestic violence against women and levels of domestic misfortune are increasing. In India, Narendra Modi, the three-week confinement of people to "save every citizen" resulted in the accumulation of food, supplies and medicine among the middle and upper middle classes and imposed homelessness, destruction, chemical dusting and police beatings on tens of thousands of migrant workers. In this Great Plague everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others.

Yet, despite greed and cruel injustices, there is certainly something of deeper meaning in the sudden socialism that has embraced much of the democratic world. The nervousness of the elected governments, worried about their vulnerability to the disappointment and dissatisfaction of the citizens, is striking. It's not just that the virus is democratic. All governments are nervous. They know that their power ultimately rests on the consent of those they rule. The great scourge forced them to realize that worried and vulnerable citizens would not accept another round of austerity. And that is simply because, in these new circumstances, drastic cuts would not only mean mass poverty. Savings would bring mass death.


Future historians will tell us whether this period was a moment in which the arrogant aversion to death and celebration of the lives of a wealthy part of the modern world were again exposed in their hypocritical hypocrisy, as briefly happened during the wars in Vietnam and Iraq, but this time in much to a greater extent. Death is no longer out there somewhere in distant lands. It can no longer be attributed to "terrorism" or hidden in the statistics of car accidents and torture prisons. The Death Eater is among us. With his hair in his hand, he deftly slips through our ranks, invisibly absent but palpably present, everywhere.

The ubiquity of death helps not only to explain the sudden socialism and nervousness of governments, but also the new difficulties that elected leaders face as they try to justify their actions to citizens. The great plague cries out for leaders who know how to motivate citizens by winning their respect. True democratic leaders have style. They listen. They learn from others. They know the value of experts, wise people (as Niels Bohr said) who remind them of the limits of their own knowledge. True leaders are reasonable and calm on the inside. They know how to accept a joke at their own expense, but they refuse to be clowns. They are not obedient. In times of crisis, as now, true leaders are firm and stable. They have the courage to face a harsh reality and make harsh judgments about saving lives, protecting citizens at the same time from social and economic ruin. They avoid demagoguery. They do not worship power because of power itself. Above all, true democratic leaders humbly acknowledge their deep dependence on people who are authorities in their field. They are not trying to pull citizens by the nose. They lead people by showing them by their own example that they are worthy of their respect.

Whether countries like the United States can produce enough such true leaders in these harsh conditions, at all levels, remains to be seen. At the moment, it is only clear that some patterns of behavior are no longer valid. Lies and empty words suddenly no longer pass. Liars and charlatans look ridiculous. Those who promise "miracles" are ridiculed. The swindlers curse. Some leaders appear to be criminals who deserve nothing but trial and imprisonment for trying to keep their countries open for business, for example, by insisting that workers return to "normal" (Jair Bolsonaro) and enforcing the "herd immunity" doctrine, a deadly belief that long-term economic growth and budget cuts to public health systems are best encouraged by releasing the virus to spread and by raising mortality rates in the short term.


It is possible that in the coming months and years, more than in any previous plague, false leaders will be put on a pole of shame and punished for their rigid views that profit is the greatest value and they act as death traders. The outbreak and spread of the epidemic occurs, above all, in the era of communications and supervisory democracy [Continuous public oversight of decision-makers in government and society, J. Keane, 2009]. His whole life is imbued with the media. Elections lose their central role. Instead, a multitude of public surveillance and propaganda institutions ensure that the government is kept under the watchful eye of the media. This fact again separates the Great Plague from, say, the Russian and Spanish flu, which were first heard of when they had already flared up well, through telegraphic messages, steamboats, and newspapers. In contrast, the Great Plague is a global media event, news travels at the speed of a bullet, be it night or day, and fears of disease and death are growing at an unprecedented rate and depth.

Marshall McLuhan's famous remark is that media technologies shape and "amputate" our bodies. They redefine the body’s sense of up and down, here and there. The car threatened the culture of walking, and the phone spread its voice but amputated the art of writing letters. Today, unprecedented, local and global multimedia platforms do far more. In search of audiences, advertising revenue, and competitive advantage, they pose the Great Plague as a threat to the entire political system. Journalists state that in 80 percent of cases, the new virus causes mild symptoms, with the exception of people who already suffer from certain diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. But they also report that the new infection is 10 to 20 times more deadly than seasonal flu and is spreading much faster than previous viruses, such as SARS, MERS and HIV. They also point out that no one still knows whether the new virus will recede, as in measles, or will return in revenge, in waves or cycles, as during the 1918 flu pandemic.

Precisely because in supervisory democracies the media play such a significant role, they are particularly vulnerable to the media’s spread of fear of destruction. Thucydides noted in the History of the Peloponnesian War (431 BC) that the typhus epidemic, which had killed almost a third of the citizens of democratic Athens, had caused political devastation. As people "died like sheep," word of mouth spread rumors that encouraged survivors to care for no one but themselves. Contempt for morality spread, "sacred as well as profane." This resulted in "even greater lawlessness."

There will be a lot of talk in the coming months about capitalist greed and private profiteering and why the cult of possessive individualism must be placed under political control, with the support of stronger and more resilient public institutions.
Our Great Plague is also damaging democracy, but in different ways and on a surprisingly large scale. The mediated fears of disease and the "plague of dying that is spreading to all" (words from Giovanni Boccaccio's "Dekemeron") offer the authorities the opportunity to seize the moment and insist on a state of emergency to protect citizens from death. Their logic seems simple and convincing. We sink or swim together. Survival is necessarily a collective obligation.

Without warning, in the blink of an eye, power-sharing structures and supervisory democracy were removed. “When you go to war, you go all the way,” Emmanuel Macron said. This means that war against a tiny internal enemy with a colorful crown, requires war restrictions. Public gatherings must be limited to ten, five, four, three, two citizens. With the closure of schools, more than half a billion children have been sent home, UNESCO says.

Parliaments have been suspended, which could function as danger detectors and representatives of affected communities. Cinemas, restaurants, bars, clubs, gyms, mosques, synagogues, churches and temples were also closed. Public events have been canceled. Election rallies are not held. In the skies of Southern California, Chinese-made drones equipped with cameras and speakers ensure that citizens remain locked in their homes, with the exception of necessary exits. Older-fashioned methods are used in countries like Italy, France and Spain, so hundreds of thousands of police and soldiers patrol the streets. The government of the Indian province of Uttar Pradesh is using the law to fight the epidemic from the colonial era in order to severely punish dissidents. In Kenya, curfew is spent from dusk to dawn with tear gas and batons. In Chile, the scheduled referendum on changing the dictatorship's constitution has been postponed. And almost everywhere, it seems, there has come a time when unelected crisis management bodies are called by names from wartime. In Australia, whose national parliament has been frozen for five months, the Great Plague has spawned the COVID-19 National Coordination Commission (NCCC), an unelected body chaired by a former mining corporation tycoon, accountable only to the prime minister.

The list of emergency rules is growing day by day. We will certainly hear at some point that scheduled general elections must be postponed or canceled. True, there are signs of resistance to strict measures. Pots and pans are pounded, songs of solidarity are sung on balconies and streets. And citizens are becoming inventive. They gather at parties on Skype and organize weddings on Zoom. But it is striking, truly shocking, how little public resistance there is to the almost universal declaration of a state of war.

Such an atmosphere is further compounded by the silence and cooperation of public commentators who justify repression using the language of the classics of anti-democracy. A typical sad example is the way a Cambridge University professor uses Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan (1651) to explain that "the essence of politics" is that "some people tell others what to do." David Runciman adds: "In quarantine, democracies reveal what they have in common with other political regimes: and here politics is, ultimately, a matter of power and order."

Such excuses for a state of emergency are dangerously naive and ignorant. If they are not resisted, concentrations of arbitrary power are always "sticky": from temporary measures, they easily become a permanent condition. Devoted power is lost power; and the power we have renounced is hard to regain. A state of emergency accustoms people to submission. It encourages voluntary slavery. She is the mother of despotism and, as Percy Bysshe Shelley noted in "Queen Mab" (1813), an arbitrary government, "like a plague that ravages", strangely resembling the virus it claims to be fighting


There is another way for new ideologues and emergency experts to lead us astray. They divert our attention from useful democratic alternatives to the alleged necessity of a state of emergency. In the Asia-Pacific region, Taiwan and South Korea are exemplary counterexamples that show that an epidemic can be managed without marginalizing and circumventing institutions. Things are not perfect there, but the early warning detector and public surveillance procedures used to fight the infection give a whole new meaning to Socrates' old sayings that an unexplored life is not worth living. These governments are activating the principles of “emergency thinking” and “equality in survival” (Elaine Scarry). They are constructively fighting the epidemic by taking care to spread the spirit of resistance to the arbitrariness of those in power. They practice supervisory democracy.

Transparent public procedures and open communication flows are the key words of their universal public health systems. They “lower the contagion curve” by openly engaging and empowering citizens to take matters into their own hands, for example, by drive-in testing in cars and mobile hospitals (by mid-March 2020, the United States had an average of 74 virus tests per million citizens). , compared to 5200 in South Korea). In Taiwan, where daily life flows normally, with relatively few infected and almost no deaths, the government quickly established surveillance (December 31, 2019) of flights from Wuhan. Taiwan learned its lessons after the SARS epidemic in 2003 and the H1N1 epidemic in 2009. For several years, the country has been stockpiling masks, disinfectants, test equipment and other medical equipment. The government transparently informs the public about the use of data from the mobile phones of infected people, using that data to create “electronic fences” around others who may have been infected. Taiwan is the first country in the world to establish a state oversight body, the Central Headquarters for the Epidemic (CECC). Composed of doctors selected from all levels of the health system from across the country, it informs citizens on a daily basis and co-decides with the Minister of Health and Welfare.


The formula for action in these countries is that a state of emergency becomes necessary only when democracy fails. We know that unregulated markets are failing, but so are democracies. In my book “Power and Humility” (2018), I show that in the absence of public oversight and early warning, which ensure democratic control and limitation of government arbitrariness, things usually go wrong in complex power systems. The democratic system is collapsing. The equation is almost mathematical: without strong accountability mechanisms, powerful states and large companies become stupid and unreasonable. Reckless delays and stupid decisions that endanger the lives of citizens and destroy the environment are most often - and not exceptionally - the result.

That formula definitely applies to the People's Republic of China. Prominent anthropologist Liu Shao-hua points out that in the fight against the epidemic and the spread of the Great Plague, Beijing has re-launched the anti-democratic methods it used to suppress previous epidemics such as leprosy, AIDS and SARS. She states that initially local party officials took over everything and made the whole situation worse by initially doing nothing. The work of brave doctors and nurses, independent public monitoring of the epidemic’s growing trend, error correction and research by scientists who quickly isolated the virus have been suspended.

Recent official and independent reports by Chinese scientists suggest that, had the Communist Party launched measures a week earlier - in mid-January, the nationwide pandemic could have been reduced by two-thirds; that she had responded three weeks earlier, 95% of cases of dry cough, fever and lung disease could have been prevented. That didn't happen. Instead, political correctness and “saving the cheek” (bǎo miànzi) mixed with cynicism and unwillingness to spoil the Chinese New Year celebration or disrupt the holding of “two meetings” of the Communist Party (January 6 to January 17, 2020) caused are a mass cover-up. He defeated democratic failure. There has been a global environmental catastrophe triggered by the mutation of pathogens jumping from animals to humans. The Great Monster was born.

If they are not resisted, concentrations of arbitrary power are always ‘sticky’: from temporary measures they easily become a permanent state. Devoted power is lost power; and the power we have renounced is hard to regain. A state of emergency accustoms people to submission.
When media reports and protests were published on social media that revealed the extent of the infection in Wuhan and surrounding areas, the top of the Communist Party panicked. Knowing full well that monkeys flee when trees fall and fearing rebellion, they were forced to admit their mistakes to the public and act. The doors of state power slammed shut. 800 million people were imprisoned. Economic life came to a halt. More than 80,000 citizens were infected, 3,300 were left to die in quarantine apartments or in overcrowded wards in the hospitals in which they were housed. In typical party style, some high-ranking health officials and party secretaries of Wuhan and Hubei Province, responsible for lies and mismanagement, were sacrificed. Like deus ex machina, the masked despot Xi Jinping then appeared on the scene. Slowly, within China, the disease was reportedly brought under control.


Certainly among the strangest and least expected outcomes of the Great Plague is that the country where the virus originated will now enjoy technological power and soft power as the first major political and economic power to defeat it. No one knows how quickly the Chinese economy can return to its growth or how much its future capitalist growth model will be fairer, more environmentally conscious, and better focused on the well-being of its residents. My new book, The New Despotism (2020), shows why China’s internal resilience and global stability should not be underestimated. This pandemic could become its golden moment, Nixon-Kissinger's second milestone in which a country without a bullet will take advantage of its geopolitical advantage over U.S. epidemic chaos, advance and continue to build its global empire and finally shatter the illusion of American superiority.

If these speculations really come true, the People’s Republic of China will be the first major power to rise after the world fell. Quite abstract and dreamy hopes for "global cooperation and trust" (Yuval Noah Harari) will be destroyed. The geopolitical center of the world would finally be set in the Asia-Pacific region led by Beijing. With the irreversibly weakened U.S. and European Union states struggling to keep pace, the egalitarian ideals and transparent institutions of Taiwan’s and South Korea’s supervisory democracy would be defeated or pushed aside.

For all this to happen, Chinese citizens should do more than just suffer together and swear proud pride in their one-party regime. We should forget the basic lesson of the Great Plague: where there is no democratic control of power on our "viral planet" (Peter Piot) inhabited by trillions of tiny viruses eagerly waiting to attack living cells, new plagues will surely be born and spread democratically in China and outside of it. Citizens in other countries of the world should also reject the proven rule that mutating viruses adore a lack of public accountability. More subjects than citizens, they would embrace the state of emergency that currently reigns and disregard all the fundamental rules of democracy. Heads down, they would just continue quarantine. As a result, the Chinese model of power and governance would spread to much of the world. A new despotism, skilled in spreading voluntary slavery, which Chinese intellectuals like to call "good governance" (liánghǎo de zhìl), would thus become a major feature of the devastated future of our planet.

Originally published on Nacional

Gus Note: "It may be that the ‘democratic’ characteristics of this highly contagious virus, its remarkable ability to attack anyone, anywhere, from Harvey Weinstein, Boris Johnson to Prince Charles, without any discrimination, diminish the possibility of stigma" ISN'T REPRESENTATIVE of who dies from coronavirus Covid19. The poor, the OLD, the "ethnics" (including blacks in America) are the ones mostly bearing the DEADLY concequences of Covid19.

Read more:http://sydneydemocracynetwork.org/democracy-and-the-great-pestilence-nacional-zagreb-9-april-2020/

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Note: This article does also appear in English (the one above translated from Croatian) at:

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A disturbing in-depth exposé of the antidemocratic practices of despotic governments now sweeping the world.

One day they’ll be like us. That was once the West’s complacent and self-regarding assumption about countries emerging from poverty, imperial rule, or communism. But many have hardened into something very different from liberal democracy: what the eminent political thinker John Keane describes as a new form of despotism. And one day, he warns, we may be more like them.

Drawing on extensive travels, interviews, and a lifetime of thinking about democracy and its enemies, Keane shows how governments from Russia and China through Central Asia to the Middle East and Europe have mastered a formidable combination of political tools that threaten the established ideals and practices of power-sharing democracy. They mobilize the rhetoric of democracy and win public support for workable forms of government based on patronage, dark money, steady economic growth, sophisticated media controls, strangled judiciaries, dragnet surveillance, and selective violence against their opponents.

Casting doubt on such fashionable terms as dictatorship, autocracy, fascism, and authoritarianism, Keane makes a case for retrieving and refurbishing the old term “despotism” to make sense of how these regimes function and endure. He shows how they cooperate regionally and globally and draw strength from each other’s resources while breeding global anxieties and threatening the values and institutions of democracy. Like Montesquieu in the eighteenth century, Keane stresses the willing complicity of comfortable citizens in all these trends. And, like Montesquieu, he worries that the practices of despotism are closer to home than we care to admit.

Please note: Our own democracy are soft despotic affairs of Empire, in which we are brainwashed to believe in a certain gamut of freedom, while our brains are brainwashed with Pavlov's dog reflexes...

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