As time goes by, we are forced to accept the reality of a new normal. The global pandemic created by Covid-19 took with it not only millions of lives, but also deeply ingrained social structures.
Among them, the modern state.
As much as we still resist the obvious now, we will eventually come to terms with the fact that we’re not going back to what it was before. That is simply not possible anymore. We may still cling to the old ways, because they’re still fresh in our memories, but the every day reality contradicts those old ways at every step.
Here’s how this new reality unfolds now. We get up and prepare to work from home, because traveling to our workplace is not allowed anymore. Just for two weeks for now, but it might be longer. We don’t know yet. They’re going to tell us in two weeks. If we go out to the grocery store, we have to put on a mask. We have to wear it all the time, that’s how we interact now. Going out without a mask is not only punishable by law, but also a reason for public shaming, similar to stealing. If we meet in our own houses, we have to keep the number down. Maximum 6 people at a time. Or 4, maybe. Or 9, we don’t know yet, they will tell us next time they announce the “results of the previous measures”. We cannot travel without a medical test and even if we are allowed to travel, most of the time we will have to quarantine on arrival for three days up to two weeks, depending on the destination rules.
Please note that I wrote “the destination rules”, not “the country rules”. We may still think in those terms, but that’s only residual thinking, inertial vocabulary, which doesn’t accurately describe the reality. Countries, as we used to know them, are a thing of the past.
There is this new layer of management processes, which comprises a few entities: old government structures, corporate actors and media outlets. Power, as we used to define it, is expressed through this new mix. Which is still young, but very effective.
The Biggest Victim Of Covid Is The Modern State
The last major social schism in humanity happened at the end of the World War II, and it was based mostly on ideology: communism versus capitalism. It was built on the ashes of another ideology, fascism, the one that actually ignited the war. On the ruins of a failed (and cruel) experiment, fascism, the winning armies divided in two and each part took a different route.
After the schism, the world was changed abruptly: countries disappeared, other countries appeared, there was a hard border between the two ideologies and strict rules when contagion happened. It lasted for 50 years and it shaped the modern world. Eventually, the communism ideology failed, structurally, but still survived, in subtler forms (from value signaling to political correctness) in the pre-Covid world.
What happens now, in the post-Covid world, is that we are witnessing a new type of fascism, only without ideology (and that’s probably why so many intelligent people have a hard time seeing it, because it happens outside an ideology). But even if it doesn’t have a political ideology, it is still a form of arbitrary discrimination, based on twisted scientific and medical “arguments”. Just like the Nazi were using “scientific” studies to prove the Jews are an inferior race, the Covid-lockdown hardcore proponents are using “scientific” studies to prove that social distancing is the most effective tool for solving the spread of a viral infection, hence, lockdowns – or some form of limited mobility – should be enforced continuously.
It is very true that in specific cases, and in specific stages of a pandemic, social distancing is not only useful, but the only sensible approach, as a way to gain more time and space for devising better approaches, like researching new medications, or scaling the public health system. What’s happening, though, is something very strange. The so called “scientific evidences” – which, by science principles, should be continuously challenged and improved – are turned into dogma, unchallengeable, almost religiously polarizing people into “protectors of lives” (by staying home) and “irresponsible criminals” (by carrying on with a normal life flow, including going outside). A temporary, and contextual approach, the fact that, in specific cases, social distancing can give us some extra time to prepare a better approach, is frozen into a new way of life.
This new way of life is replacing the modern state. Although we keep saying it will only last “two more weeks”, it lags for months and months and it’s been already a year. A year in which we’re still using concepts like “country” and “citizen rights”, but these concepts aren’t covered by reality anymore.
If you don’t believe this yet, let’s try to look closer.
For the last 12 months, virtually every state in the world is in some flavor of “emergency state”. What this means is some fundamental rights, guaranteed by a standard modern state, like the right to free speech or to free association, are limited. Every restrictive measure is enforced because this state of emergency allows extraordinary measures. But we’re living in this emergency state for more than a year, even if, and here it may be worth to slow down a little, even if we have many proved symptoms medications and a few vaccines which are already rolling out. Yet, we’re still increasing lockdowns, while still operating on de-facto restricted rights.
Another clue that we’re living in an unusual social structure is the extra powers that big corporations have. I’m talking not only about vaccine producers, which are negotiating with states, but also social media companies or tech infrastructure companies. All these are now active power vectors, stretching across traditional countries and jurisdictions. They’re enforcing their influence at various levels: vaccine corporations are geo-political influencers (by prioritizing some countries in deliveries or specific vaccination programs), social media companies are censoring information based on private agendas, and tech infrastructure companies are switching on and off media outlets (websites, podcasts, etc) following the same private agendas. It’s not the fact that they can exert some influence, per se, I think that’s normal, but the extent of that influence makes it out of the ordinary. That extent transcends traditional socio-political structures.
And yet another clue that we’re living in a post modern state world is that travel is conditioned by non-country related ids. It’s not your passport, or id, that lets (or don’t let) you travel, it’s the vaccination proof. That’s not related to a country anymore – the vaccine, as an id for traveling, comes from a private company. Which has no checks and balances in place for this kind of power.
Where Are We Going?
I could continue for a while, but I will stop, because it’s not the evidence that puzzles me, I came to terms with that. It’s the support this new form of downgrade gets from many, many people. Educated, smart, intelligent people are giving in to dogma-style thinking, polarizing everybody into “protectors of the vulnerable” versus “irresponsible criminals”. It’s like, going back to the Nazi “scientific” studies, everybody back then agreed not only there is an inferior race, but that race really is guilty for a vast majority of their problems, and they deserve to go into concentration camps and even be eliminated.
Now we’re not discriminating based on race, but on the potential effects your behavior may have on the spreading of a virus. Many educated, smart, intelligent people do believe that just because you express your intent to exercise in nature (that’s just an example) you’re guilty for spreading the disease, and you deserve some sort of punishment.
History has a weird way of repeating itself. Although we’re at the very beginning of this new fascism cycle, I do think it will have the same fate as the last one: it will be crushed and destroyed. Eventually. It may take some time, because this war is fought on many different levels, but it will eventually be crushed.
And what will happen this time is that we’re not gonna see a new, hard separation of the world, like the last schism, but mostly a two level community: a “progressive” one, and a “regressive” one. Please note the quotation marks.
The “progressive” one may eventually adapt to some sort of government-on-demand approach, which will give people the flexibility to move freely and “branch in” to whatever “progressive” hot spot allows them to do that. The “regressive” one may enforce stricter rules, paired with a reinterpretation of civil rights (at its best) or a complete ignorance of them (at its worst). The “progressive” community may be more protective to the traditional civil rights, like the free speech or free association, but it may implement them in very particular ways, depending on the core of each hot spot. The “regressive” community will probably enforce labor and surveillance, and stay in balance with the “progressive” poles by leveraging production costs and economical advantages.
Think of “regressive” like a planetary size China, surrounding various hot spots, some smaller, some bigger, all in the style and vibe of Elon Musk. Travel from one hot spot to another will be free, but it will incur a “territorial” fee from the “regressive”. And the next major tension will be between the expansion tendencies of each of these two types of communities. Hard to tell which one will win now, but I’d love to live to see this.
In any case, the concept of the modern state, with boundaries, civil rights, checks and balances, separation of powers, the type that we probably all have been born in, is now a chapter in the history books.
We will live by fear or courage, by dogma or flexibility, by intolerance or compassion, by under-the-skin surveillance or freedom.