In May 2020, while the world continued to grapple with ways of dealing with the pandemic, UN Secretary General António Guterres spoke about the “tsunami of hate” targeting specific communities in the wake of the COVID-19 crisis. One such maelstrom, targeting the Muslim community, was seen taking place in India, with allegations of ‘corona jihad’ becoming widespread during the first phase of the COVID-19 lockdown in the country.
Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s current president, is known internationally for his far-right stances. He supports loosening gun control and frequently rants against human rights and “political correctness”. His motto of “God above all” pleases the more fundamentalist sectors of his evangelical base and he promotes a particular idea of the “good citizen”, often represented by a white middle-class Christian family man. His government employs a neoliberal economic agenda and is completely dismissive of environmental concerns. He was elected on a “tough on crime” platform full of false promises on how to solve the crime and violence problem in Brazil. His racist and sexist positions are well-known and add to the conservative positions of his government.
The mandatory lockdown and social distancing decreed by the National Government of the Argentine Republic in Decree No. 297/2020 has been the policy designed to mitigate the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. This way of addressing the crisis in a timely and initially efficient manner, in contrast to other countries in the region, gained Argentina international recognition. Simultaneously, the new President of the Nation, Alberto Fernández from the Justicialist Party, (Partido Justicialista, PJ)—also known as the Peronist movement—managed to get a very high level of support from the population by promoting this set of measures to deal with the pandemic. This entailed health, social, and economic measures to protect the most vulnerable sectors and workers.
The COVID-19 crisis has put our whole lives on pause. Not because life has stopped or ended but because our world as we knew it seems to be coming to an end. We are at the beginning of a new era. This is a capitalist crisis, not a health crisis. This is the latest crisis in the era of capital; the Capitalocene has put us on the verge of annihilation. This crisis has hit us hard and in multiple ways. The resulting global financial crash is hitting every territory, country, and city in a different way. Changes abound in our way of living and working. Social reproduction as a whole is changing and so are social struggles.
The more we dive into the coronavirus pandemic analysis, the more we perceive how its emergence, development, and devastating consequences are marked by the precepts of the Capitalocene. This means we cannot disassociate the logics of exploitation, accumulation, and consumption—which characterize the current era—from the velocity, extension, and force exerted by the pandemic.
In late April, the International Foundation for Freedom, headed by Peruvian Literature Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa, issued a statement warning against the rise of authoritarianism in Latin America due to the coronavirus pandemic. Among the signatories were well-known defenders of neoliberal ideas in Latin America and Spain, such as Vargas Llosa himself and the former presidents Mauricio Macri (Argentina), José María Aznar (Spain), and Alvaro Uribe (Colombia). The statement expressed concern “about the measures taken in some countries that have indefinitely restricted basic freedoms and rights” in the name of the combatting the virus.
Ideas and ideologies can kill.[i]Derived from two Greek words that together mean “all-seeing”, the panopticon was initially conceived as a prison designed to ensure the perfectly complete surveillance of all prisoners. Panopticon refers to “the few seeing the many”. In this architecture, all those who have been turned into sub-humans by being categorized as prisoners are placed under the surveillance of few wardens. Its reincarnation in digital form has made it capable of enveloping the entire human population and to subject it to eternal surveillance. This scale of the idea has vastly increased. Its merger with the idea of the synopticon is paving the way for a 360˚ surveillance of every imaginable human activity.
The COVID-19 pandemic began to unfold as a global drama in early 2020. Since then, international organizations have urged governments to protect both the rights of their citizens and human life. In (geo)political terms, the long-term outcomes remain uncertain. Some claim that dispossession and authoritarianism will be reinforced. Others state that capitalism as we know it will not recover, and there will be clearer openings to allow for more democratic and just social and economic forms.
Brazil’s far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has struggled to keep his administration under control in recent months, destabilized by the government’s failure to stop the spread of COVID-19, confusion among his supporters, and now, potentially, an impeachment trial initiated by former supporters.