First, principles – or why I’m absolutely not an apologist for capitalism

I’ve had a certain amount of pushback about my last article on the pandemic, so before I post any more on the subject I thought it might be a good time to make my principles absolutely clear:

Nobody could hate the capitalist system more than me:
I’ve been arguing for 30 years that we’d all be much better off if we went back to living in an extended family setup on our own patch of land, feeding ourselves and getting plenty of exercise and social interaction. And with the benefits of modern technology (healthcare, education), plus those of creativity (art, music, theatre) provided to us through professionals who would receive a tithe of our produce.

I firmly believe that capitalism is a poison to the Earth and to humanity. It promulgates an attitude of continuous and conspicuous consumption that’s totally counter to anything sustainable. I believe in a single universal wage, draconian measures to prevent/clean up pollution, and that no company should make a profit that isn’t immediately invested in making society better for all of us.

Furthermore, I don’t have a pension, investments or anything else that might suffer from an economic collapse. The two houses of which I’m a joint owner are worth maybe 200k€ in total on a good day. So I have no interest in propping up this system.

I’m perfectly well aware of the risk this virus poses to vulnerable groups:
I have a number of close friends/family who are cancer sufferers, asthmatics and/or old enough to be in the high risk group. No, I don’t want them to die because all of you can’t be arsed to stay at home for a few weeks.

I am not suffering whatsoever:
I work from home. My life normally consists of doing exactly what I’m doing now. My workload has actually increased since this crisis began. And in any case, I have a chunk of money set aside that I inherited a couple of years ago when my aunt died.

I’m currently in lockdown in rural France. I have a very large house to live in, and although it’s a bit basic (like, pretty much entirely unheated), it’s really not a struggle to be here. I can go out for walks or ride my bike around the country lanes.

And, on the lighter side of things, I’ve had dreadlocks since 1993. I’m not going to come out of this with a self-inflicted bowl haircut.


So… now that I’ve established I’m not a sock puppet for our capitalist masters, let’s move on to the serious stuff…

Coronavirus pandemic? That’ll do nicely!

As someone who can’t be doing with hysteria, either on a personal or national level, I’d been intending to write a blog post complaining about the stupidity of the Italian government’s overreaction this week to the number of cases of coronavirus in the north-east of their country. And to relate it to the insanely biased media reporting of the “successes” of UKIP, which led to Brexit and so on.

I mean, I don’t want to die of the coronavirus… but nor do I want my personal liberty removed for the flimsiest of reasons, in an uncanny parallel to the restricted security measures we now all suffer “to prevent terrorist attacks”.

But then I thought about what a pandemic would actually mean in the slightly longer term.

Let’s say a third of the population of any given region died from the coronavirus. Now, as far as I know, even the Greta Thunbergs of the world aren’t advocating that we reduce the world’s population by 33%. But would it clearly reduce anthropogenic pressure on the climate? Yes. On the environment as a whole, in the form of reduced resource extraction, reduced water use and reduced pollution? Yes. On the race to the bottom in terms of salaries and employment conditions? Yes. What about the burden on our healthcare systems? Well, initially it would be hideous. But after the death rate had stabilised again? Statistically you’d probably lose no more medical/ancillary professionals than you would anything else. And there’d be fewer of us needing their services. The same applies to education and all those other “luxuries” that we apparently can’t afford to fund properly in the 21st century. We’d have to use the skills and resources we had in much more efficient, intelligent ways. That would be great for the whole planet.

There’d also be housing sitting empty, cars unused, whole swathes of farmland untilled – and inevitably some laxity on the part of the normal authorities. We wouldn’t quite be back to the days of the tŷ unnos (or whatever the actual practice was that allowed poor people to claim squatted land), but possibly not far off.

The world would be a very different, quieter place. We’d have to rethink a lot of what we currently accept as normal.

And yeah, OK, I might be dead. But that’s going to happen some day anyway. And I’ve always had a love of post-apocalyptic stories. So… coronavirus pandemic? Yes please! Bring it on!

Max Headroom: 20 minutes into the future. The original Channel 4 film. Not exactly post-apocalyptic, but well worth watching anyway, despite the poor quality reproduction, both for the writing and the music – and particularly for Breughel and Mahler! (And if you happen to have it on DVD, HMU – I’d *love* a copy of this!)