DE LA DÉMOCRATIE EN PANDÉMIE

Here is a very interesting essay published in January 2021 by the French philosopher Barbara Stiegler: “About democracy during a pandemic” (“De la démocratie en pandémie”).

It is part of a series of “leaflets” published by the French editor Gallimard and which aim to react on current social issues. I really like the idea.

The essay is concise, on spot, and pinpoints over fifty pages the concerns of this philosopher, who is also a professor at the University of Bordeaux-Montaigne.

If I use Barbara Stiegler’s words, the observation is simple: Covid-19 has only shed more light on the systemic problem of our societies based on a social and economic model that no longer has any meaning. Barbara Stiegler quotes the editor-in-chief of the now well-known international medical journal “The Lancet”, Richard Horton: “COVID-19 is not a pandemic. It is a syndemic. Syndemics are characterised by biological and social interactions between conditions and states, interactions that increase a person’s susceptibility to harm or worsen their health outcomes”.

Covid-19 is a syndemic caused by social inequalities and by the ecological crisis understood in the broad sense. Because the latter does not only disturb the climate. It also causes a continuous increase of chronic diseases, worsens the public health and creates new health risks.

To put it simply, the industrialization of our lifestyles leads to a weakening of public health, makes interpecies jumpings possible and allows the emergence of new epidemics, transformed into pandemics due to the globalization of the flows of people and merchandise.

To quote the Lancet again, “studies have found that widespread anthropogenic ecosystem degradation has played a crucial role in explaining why the rate of emergence of zoonoses has been increasing over the past 40 years. For example, deforestation, intensified agriculture and livestock production, and climate change have been linked to the emergence of Ebola virus, HIV, Nipah virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, and Zika virus”.

And to paraphrase the newspapers of that era, the Spanish flu may have been taking the train, but Covid-19 has clearly boarded a plane. Barbara Stiegler explains that “if we do not change the economic, social and political model, if we continue to treat the virus as a biological event which has to be blocked, health accidents will not stop”.

Supporting these lines written by the French philosopher mid-December 2020, Russia announced on February 20 that it had detected the first cases of transmission to humans of the H5N8 avian influenza, made possible by a crossing of the inter-species barrier by being transmitted from birds to humans.  And in fact, pandemics multiplied during the 20th and 21st centuries: cholera in 1899/1923, the Spanish flu in 1918/1920, the Asian flu in 1957/1958, the Hong Kong flu in 1968/1969 , the Russian flu in 1977, AIDS in 1981, SARS in 2002/2004, the AH1N1 flu in 2009/2010 and Ebola in 2013 – to speak only of epidemics that have spread to a global level – therefore pandemics.

Whether we are talking about countries in which the circulation of the virus has not been blocked, or whether we are talking about countries in which blocking strategies have been put in place, the final observation is unfortunately more or less the same everywhere: the breakdown of social ties, the disarmament of the health system and the impoverishment of the national education system.

Whether you agree with each of her lines or not, Barbara Stiegler’s essay is thought-provoking – that’s all I love.

On a personal level, this essay meets my own thoughts on many points, which I allow myself to share here. The management of this health crisis pinpointed the limits of the economic, social and political model in which we live – I will only speak here of France, since my in-depth knowledge is limited to this country, even if I am well aware that some of my thoughts potentially apply to other Western nations.

By a curious pendulum effect, our society, which for several decades has valued professional outperformance, excess academic background – and to put it mildly, a kind of meritocratic snobbery – has survived during the 6 weeks of the French lockdown only on an underqualified population – I (in particular) name here cashiers, I (in particular) name here garbage collectors, I (in particular) name here metro drivers. The nurses, the emergency staff – whose fate does not move anyone in normal times – were applauded every evening at 8 p.m., with the same enthusiasm including the cashiers, the garbage collectors, the metro drivers – in short all these people who made the life of all of us possible. They had become essential, but with the lockdown behind us, they were all quickly forgotten.

I am f*****g angry, you can’t even imagine.

Meanwhile – and I include periods of lockdown and curfew, the fortunes of already billionaires have increased when the proportion of people falling below the poverty line has exploded. The progression of these already existing fortunes can be explained by the ultra-capitalist lifestyle of their customers, by a more than innovative tax strategy (tax havens and/or foundations) or by a pressing lobbying on governments who are discussing the GAFA tax for millennia.

I hardly dare to speak of the students, I hardly dare to speak of the homeless people, I hardly dare to speak of the small businesses which have had to be shut down.

I am f*****g angry, you can’t even imagine.

No one dreams of being the proud owner of a fortune numbering in the billions – and certainly not the younger generations who wonder in dismay why all these multi-billionaires aren’t using this money for the public good. Especially when the OpenLux scandal hits them.

From a social point of view, we were amazed to discover the state of a dying hospital public service, stealthily emptied of its capacity for a very long time, and even offered for sale by cut-up a few years ago.

I am f*****g angry, you can’t even imagine.

We were dismayed to discover the limits of a school and university system where every student and every student was left on their own, while education is about exchange.

I am f*****g angry, you can’t even imagine.

It is now obvious that the French government is constantly weighing the rescue of the economy against the rescue of public health. The latest news is that the focus is on saving the economy as schools remain open and it is quite clear that the government is refusing to put in place a national lockdown.

From a political point of view, the superpowers of a President of the Republic ignoring existing institutions to call upon a Scientific Council created ad hoc, when there were already specialized institutions in the matter, only strengthened the reunification of powers in the sole hands of the President.

I am now f*****g f*****g angry, you can’t even imagine – doubly because I am now a human being and a lawyer.

To say that many legal experts are concerned about recent violations of fundamental freedoms would be an understatement.

When the French intelligensia applauds Chinese citizenship as part of the management of the crisis, even though we are talking about a dictatorship that encourages denunciation, I remain speechless.

When the Nuremberg Code and its legacy, the informed consent of the patient, is violated, I am still speechless. Not only were sick and healthy patients locked together, and against all medical logic, but also were they asked to survive alone and without family, then to potentially die alone, again – even if that was never their wish. I will not evoke the extremely shocking images of coffins stacked in complete anonymity. Many families could not support their dying members, many families could not organize funerals, many families could not mourn. What modern society buries its dead this way?

I am f*****g f*****g angry, oh yeah, you can’t even imagine.

The a posteriori management of a health crisis which would on the contrary deserve the questioning of a whole system of thought gently slips us towards a two-speed society: that of the good citizen who will be provided with a vaccination passport and the other, downgraded and potentially restricted in his individual freedoms.

But, but, but… this a posteriori management of a health crisis allows to set up a very convenient state of health emergency, ultimately. Very convenient, because the creation of this second pillar of fear alongside the first pillar of fear already well anchored in France for a few years in France, which is Islamism, allows the government to put in place anti-freedoms measures never seen in modern democracy.

Freedom of movement has been severely curtailed, whether during confinement or curfew. The circulation of each is subject – depending on the moment, depending on the time of day – to a certificate which the person must carry. And depending on where you live in France, depending on your skin color, you will have to prove your activity – even though the principle of certification should suffice – with no further question.

The freedom of assembly, which obviously includes the freedom of demonstration and the right to protest, has also been cut. For a country that was agitated until March 2020 by the virulance of the Yellow Vest protests, it must be said that the silence has been deafening ever since.

Freedom of expression is increasingly being muzzled with the Global Security Act, which prohibits the dissemination of images of police members – including by journalists.

Three decrees were discreetly passed on December 4, 2020 allowing the constitution of police files concerning any person “likely to undermine the fundamental interests of the Republic” (good luck with this definition), including the practice of sport, sexual orientation, philosophical convictions, activity on social networks or even political opinions.

In France, we are slowly but surely moving away from the republican and democratic ideal. “The Economist” estimates in its report dated February 2, 2021 that France has passed during this health crisis from “full democracy” to “flawed democracy”.

A whole system needs to be rethought. A system that is not able to preserve democracy, economy, health and education at the same time is a system that does not work. Never have economics, health and education been so antagonistic when they should only be working together, and this demonstrates, at least in my opinion, a structural problem.

The outrageous capitalism model allied to democratic weakening is not working – it’s time to change it.

Beyond these unpleasant observations, the most distressing point remains, in my opinion, the deafening absence in recent months of a new political path.

I am f*****g f*****g angry, as you can see.

Vintage trench and gloves – Gap jeans – Amédée Paris scarf – Massimo Dutti flat shoes – Chanel sunglasses – Valentino purse