The recent book of 2020 “Pandemic! COVID-19 Shakes the World” published by OR Books, New York and London and authored by Slavoj Zizek is of great interest. The author is a famous and contemporary Slovenian-born political philosopher and cultural critic. Slavoj Zizek is considered as ‘The Most Dangerous Philosopher In The West’ (- Adam Kirsch. The New Republic).
In this book the author discusses about communism, hidden politics, negligence and hypocrisy by the nations amid this coronavirus outbreak and at the end suggests some remedies to fight it back. The author begins the book by quoting Jesus that he will return when there is love, affection and solidarity between the people. If we see presently around the world there are wars, bloodshed, jealousy, wickedness and capitalist dominance. The world has become a cruel place to live in.
The author says if this COVID-19 too can’t bring our world leaders to fight for peace and justice then what can then? He quotes German philosopher Hegel as saying that ‘anything we can learn from history is that we learn nothing from history,’ so he doubts this epidemic will make us any wiser. The author also raises a key question that ‘what is wrong with our system that we were caught unprepared by the Catastrophe despite scientists warning us about it for years.’
The author reprimands the negligence shown by China in the early stages of the outbreak of this pandemic. As Hong Kong based journalist Verna Yu points out, ‘if China valued free speech, there would be no Coronavirus crisis.’ China didn’t made exact information regarding this pandemic available with media and concealed the real truth from public. The author says that sometimes not telling the entire truth to the public can effectively prevent a wave of panic that could lead to more victims as people will generally show negligence on their part. The author says that this mutual trust between the people and the state apparatuses was solely missing in China. It were the social conditions which made the coronavirus epidemic possible. A person positive for COVID-19 could travel different countries and infect people without knowing.
The author further says about the politics played by Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu who immediately after the COVID-19 outbreak offered help and coordination to the Palestinian authority not out of goodness and human consideration but just keeping in view that it is impossible to separate Jews and Palestinians there. So, if one group gets affected, the other is likely also. The epidemic dosen’t differentiate between a rich or a poor, a Jew or a Palestinian. That is why the author mentions Martin Luther King who had said “we may all have come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.” This epidemic has shattered the entire world with economies shrinking and all in a search for some alternative to bounce back and recover.
The author also stresses on the hypocrisy of some people who always feel tired because of confinement to homes. It is the only possible solution we can do presently to save humanity and lives. How can one feel tired while in home? As for as tiredness is concerned, it is bound presently with medical staff, health workers, doctors etc. who fight day in and day out in present crisis. Yes, one can feel bored but he/she needs to engage with something to keep oneself busy. The author further says about the storm engulfed in Europe.
Besides physical impact (quarantines, suffering and death), the economic effects too will be worse in Europe than anywhere else in the world since the continent is already shattered and is more dependent on other nations. For example the car industry is the backbone of the German economy, and the export of luxury cars to China is already at a standstill. That is why there is a need of global cooperation. The author stresses that to prevent this catastrophe further, the need of the hour is the strengthening of Europe’s operational unity, especially the coordination between France and Germany.
The author further discusses about the various elements that are at bay presently creating panic and confusion among the masses. One thing is the misusing of platforms like social media for circulating fake news, paranoiac conspiracy theories, explosion of racism etc. These ideological viruses need to be vanished. Only the information having proper source and authenticity must be made public.
The author also discusses about the five stages of this epidemics that exploded at the end of 2019. Firstly, there was a denial like nothing serious is going on, just some individuals trying to make panic. Then anger usually in a racist or anti-state form like the Chinese are guilty (as the President Trump mentioned in one of the speech’s as Chinese virus). Next comes bargaining (OK, there are some victims, but it’s less serious than SARS and we can limit the damage). Then comes depression (let’s not kid ourselves, we’re too doomed). And finally acceptance.
Similarly, when this virus first started in China, all other nations would have held the same belief like it will be only confined to there/them, showed negligence and finally when it spread across the world, it usually passed through these stages. The author further says that only those are to be blamed in China who publicly downplayed the epidemic while over-protected themselves and publicly claimed there was no danger while immediately evacuating their own families.
Nonetheless, blaming any particular nation now is not going to do anything or get rid of this and in turn will create more hatred towards that particular nation. It has come from nature for our own deeds and could have its origination anywhere. Yes, negligence was shown but it is time now to focus on what we can best do to save humanity? As the author says, ‘if thousands become hospitalised with breathing problems, a vastly increased number of respiratory machines will be needed, and to get them, the state should directly intervene in the same way as it intervenes in times of war when thousands of guns are needed.’
Indeed same enthusiasm is required now to save lives by providing every best effort in medical facilities. The author also mentions Owen Jones as saying, ‘Climate crisis is killing many more people around the world than coronavirus, but there is no panic about this.’ In my opinion the cause of this is only poor people (mostly homeless) become victims of that not like rich as in the case of COVID-19.
The author also seems to feel personally very disturbed presently with his life as daily activities, daily norm has come to a standstill. He seems to addressing those people who are like, this too shall pass, everything will be normal soon, it is a matter of time. He gives these people with an example, ‘ a university symposium I was to participate in has just been postponed to September. The catch is that, even if life does eventually return to some semblance of normality, it will not be the same normal as the one we experienced before the outbreak.
Things we were used to as part of our daily life will no longer be taken for granted, we will have to learn to live a much more fragile life with constant threats. We will have to change our entire stance to life, to our existence as living beings among other forms of life.’ The author further says that as everybody is saying for the change of social and economic system but what matters as Thomas Piketty says how we change it and in which direction?
He further stresses that it is not enough to put some kind of global health care for humans rather nature in its entirety has to be included. Viruses also attack the plants, which are the main sources of our food. Plus, we need to be cautious of our air quality in our surroundings. As Environmental resource Economist Marshall Burke says there is a proven link between poor air quality and premature deaths linked to breathing that air. So, this also needs to be bear in mind.
In conclusion, this book highlights the various things that need to be reformed to make living on earth for us and future generations peaceful without harming environment and nature. COVID-19 has come to us as a lesson to end conflicts, barbarism, poverty and above all the capitalism, and bring peace in the whole world.
Criticising or pointing fingers or targeting any particular nation or community is not going to yield anything. Global cooperation is need of the hour in present crisis to save humanity. Above all, nature and environment must be restored as masters of all on this planet.