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Pandemic Shock: Digital Dictatorship or Green Recovery?

“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose . . . to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our . . . dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through . . . ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”—Arundhati Roy, “The Pandemic is a Portal.”

In the COVID-19-driven time warp of the past 90 days, politics, economics and public opinion have changed drastically.  Important aspects of social behavior seem to have improved—less non-essential travel, less consumption, more family focus, reduced greenhouse gas pollution (17 percent less worldwide in early April), increase in demand for healthy, home-cooked foods, appreciation for nature, mutual aid, social solidarity and more attention paid to the plight of farmworkers, small farmers, healthcare workers and food chain workers.

Unfortunately, other impacts of the pandemic are quite negative, in fact catastrophic: massive infections and deaths, widespread anxiety and fear, extreme political polarization and economic meltdown, including a massive number of bankruptcies of small businesses, with 40 million workers unemployed in the U.S. alone.

In addition, the federal government, led by the White House and Senate Republicans, abetted by corporate Democrats, has relaxed pollution, environmental and food safety standards, and handed out multi-trillion-dollar bailouts, with little or no government oversight, to the fossil fuel industry, corporate agribusiness and Fortune 500 corporations—instead of providing sufficient resources for those businesses, farmers, workers, families and individuals who most need help.

A Digital Dictatorship?

Driven by fear, confusion and manufactured consent, the U.S. is degenerating into what Vandana Shiva and others have described as a “Digital Dictatorship.” Or, to use Naomi Klein’s phrase, a “Screen New Deal.”

This Digital Dictatorship is held up as an exemplary model by the Chinese Communist Party. But it is also championed by hyper-capitalist billionaires, such as Bill Gates and Eric Schmidt, along with their cohorts—Silicon Valley (Google, Facebook, Amazon, et al), Big Pharma, Wall Street and a rising cabal of technocrats and scientists. This global elite, aided and abetted by indentured politicians and government officials, is maneuvering to use the current pandemic and economic meltdown to grab unprecedented power and wealth (the “Shock Doctrine” as Naomi Klein has termed it), and impose, in the name of public health and “biodefense,” draconian surveillance, censorship and control, aimed at eliminating the last vestiges of participatory democracy, free speech, cultural diversity, ecological biodiversity and individual freedom.

As Naomi Klein puts it, the “Screen New Deal” neo-authoritarians envision:

“. . . a future in which our homes are never again exclusively personal spaces but are also, via high-speed digital connectivity, our schools, our doctor’s offices, our gyms, and, if determined by the state, our jails . . . in the future under hasty construction, all of these trends are poised for a warp-speed acceleration. This is a future in which, for the privileged, almost everything is home delivered, either virtually via streaming and cloud technology, or physically via driverless vehicle or drone, then screen “shared” on a mediated platform. It’s a future that employs far fewer teachers, doctors and drivers. It accepts no cash or credit cards (under guise of virus control) and has skeletal mass transit and far less live art. It’s a future that claims to be run on “artificial intelligence” but is actually held together by tens of millions of anonymous workers tucked away in warehouses, data centers, content moderation mills, electronic sweatshops, lithium mines, industrial farms, meat-processing plants and prisons, where they are left unprotected from disease and hyperexploitation. It’s a future in which our every move, our every word, our every relationship is trackable, traceable and data-mineable by unprecedented collaborations between government and tech giants.”

And how do these digital overlords expect to convince us to give up our basic rights and become loyal serfs of Corporate America or Corporate Earth?

By fomenting and taking advantage of the fear, helplessness, divisions and confusion in the body politic, not only in the U.S., but across the world.

Fear, helplessness and confusion

Not since the Spanish Flu of 1918 (which killed 17-50 million people worldwide and infected 500 million), have so many people been terrified of falling ill and dying from an infectious disease.

And COVID-19 is scary, especially for those of us, and those of our loved ones, suffering from “prior medical conditions.” These now fearsome “prior medical conditions” include older people suffering from chronic diseases, often taking a wide variety of prescription drugs, as well as millions of Americans suffering from obesity, diabetes, lung disease, asthma, heart disease, cancer, or vaccine injury.

At-risk populations include those living or working in nursing homes (35,000 deaths so far) or hospitals, or those living in metropolitan areas like New York City with severe air pollution, or those unfortunate enough to live in contaminated urban or rural areas near industrial polluters and factory farms.  

In a “normal” year (since 2010), approximately 12,000 - 60,000 people in the U.S. die annually from the seasonal flu, with 800,000 hospitalized. So far this year, in only five months, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention tells us that approximately 100,000 have died from COVID-19, and 1.8 million have been infected. By the end of the year these casualty figures, unfortunately, will likely double.

Since the first reported death in the U.S. from COVID-19 on February 15, approximately 1,000, or one in eight deaths every day, are being attributed to the coronavirus. The other “normal” 7,000 - 8,000 deaths per day arise from heart disease, cancer, accidents, lung disease, medical errors, Alzheimer’s, drug overdoses, murder, suicide, etc.

While some believe the media and special interests are overestimating the death rate of COVID-19, others believe the opposite. But there is no doubt that 1,000 COVID-19 deaths per day in a country of 331 million people are right now causing major panic.

COVID-19 engenders fear, not only because it is highly contagious, but because of the way it is transmitted: invisibly through the air, often from strangers, or people who show no outward symptoms of the disease. The COVID-19 pandemic resembles a scary movie, like “Contagion,” that gives us nightmares.

In addition, the unending and often sensationalistic media and TV programming since the pandemic began has fueled public fear. This media barrage, combined with the nationwide lockdown/social distancing in our homes, compounded by the eerie and frightening sight of people wearing masks out on the streets, has given us all a lot of extra time and extra reason to worry.

Even though less than one in 3,000 Americans have so far died of the disease, and despite the fact that most of those dying from COVID-19 with prior medical conditions most likely would have died prematurely over the next decade from other medical causes, millions of people, even in low-risk groups, are still worried.

Even though probably 15-20 percent of us have already been infected, most of us without exhibiting any symptoms or ever knowing that we were infected, it’s still hard not to wonder if we, or one of our loved ones, will be next.

Relative risk and prevention

We need to keep reminding ourselves and reassuring others that the overwhelming majority of people getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19 are those (mainly elderly, low-income, and disproportionately non-white) already suffering from poor health and pre-existing medical conditions.

These are medical conditions that can be prevented and/or mitigated, if we have the political will as a nation to overturn business-as-usual. We not only need to take special precautions to keep our elders and vulnerable groups safe, but we also need to embark on a national campaign to eliminate highly processed junk food, factory farms and fossil fuel and chemical-intensive agriculture—a truly degenerative and deadly system fueling America’s public health crisis and the mass deaths from COVID-19 and other chronic diseases. Supersized America’s junk foods and beverages are routinely laced with dangerous levels of sugar (which destroys your immune system), chemical flavoring and additives, unhealthy fats and pesticide residues (such as Monsanto’s Roundup).

To reduce the damage of COVID-19 and other chronic diseases, we have no choice but to declare war on environmental pollution, as well as on degenerative food and farming, and to launch a nationwide campaign to promote wellness, exercise and healthy living.

The reason so many people are dying of COVID-19 and other preventable chronic diseases in the U.S. is that we have the unhealthiest population in the industrialized world. We need a U.S. food and farming and ecological restoration system that is regenerative—that cleans up our air and water, that strengthens peoples’ immune systems, that engenders healthy levels of vitamin D and other essential nutrients and trace minerals and that promotes healthy lifestyles.

This transformation will require nothing less than a political revolution, a multi-trillion-dollar Green Recovery program and a just economic transition to a Green New Deal over the next decade.

Institutional racism and class oppression

Institutional racism and classism are responsible for that fact that African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, people living in industrial pollution zones and low-income people in general are more vulnerable to COVID-19, and are dying in far greater numbers than affluent whites.

When people are forced to live and work in polluted environments, with limited access to healthy foods, nutritional supplements and enlightened medical care (including alternative and complementary medicine) they are more vulnerable.

This is why our Green Recovery and Green New Deal must embody the principles of climate justice, environmental justice, food justice and economic justice.

It’s time, as Bernie Sanders and the Sunrise Movement have reminded us, for a political revolution, a Green Recovery and a Green New Dealwith guaranteed jobs, justice and income for all. 

Therapeutic treatment and recovery

For those hospitalized, healthcare practitioners around the world are developing and sharing important drug and treatment therapies that reduce mortality from COVID-19, including pharmaceuticals (Remdisivir and interferon), vitamin injections (vitamin D, C and others), non-ventilator oxygen therapy, homeopathy and others.

In other words, we need to be careful about protecting the most vulnerable, and conscientious about building up our health systems and therapeutic practices—but we also must strive to avoid the kind of undue panic that makes us feel helpless and afraid. We need to focus on making change, Big Change, while we still can. Otherwise those who seek to take advantage of mass panic and economic meltdown will triumph.

We need to keep reminding ourselves that COVID-19 is a minor non-life-threatening virus for those with healthy immune systems, those eating healthy food and those able to maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes plenty of fresh air, sunshine and exercise. Unfortunately, many of our fellow Americans have not had the opportunity to eat healthy, organic food, stay physically fit, or live and work in a healthy environment.

In a time of social distancing, social solidarity is more important than ever. Moving beyond panic, we must strive to regenerate our mental health and morale, cultivating a healthy and positive outlook, reinforcing healthy lifestyles and food with meaningful work and community-based education, arts, and activism.

Bill Gates and GMO vaccines to the rescue?

While we’re on the topic of prevention and recover7, don’t hold your breath for a properly safety-tested and effective Big Pharma vaccine to hit the market anytime soon.

Developing safe and effective vaccines for constantly mutating coronaviruses, such as the common cold and seasonal flu, is notoriously difficult. On the other hand, side effects, including unfortunately dangerous side effects, are routine.

As I never tire of repeating, our only real defense against COVID-19 and other dangerous diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, is to build up our health and our immune systems with healthy (organic and pasture-raised) food, exercise, vitamins and herbal supplements, fresh air and sunshine.

To maximize public health and provide healthy food will require nothing less than transformation of our food, farming, land-use and health care systems from degenerative to regenerative (and climate-friendly) practices. We can have cheap, health-destroying, industrial foods and factory farms. Or we can have a healthy population capable of fighting off COVID-19 and the chronic diseases that are destroying the quality of life and killing millions every year.

The real origins of COVID-19

For the past three months, I and others, including a growing number of independent scientists, have pointed out that COVID-19 was most likely caused by a weaponized, genetically engineered virus that accidentally (hopefully not deliberately) leaked out of the Wuhan Virology Lab, where so-called “biodefense” (actually biowar) experiments have been carried out by a secretive network of U.S., Chinese and international gene engineers and virologists for years.

These “gain of function” germ warfare experiments (funding for which was banned at least partially during the Obama Administration) have been funded, in large part, by Anthony Fauci and the Trump Administration’s National Institutes of Health and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), supposedly monitored by the Chinese government and the World Health Organization.

In order to conceal their scientific malpractice and criminal negligence, to protect their “right” to carry out dangerous, unregulated research (there are over 200 biomedical or “biodefense” labs in the U.S. alone, employing 15,000 scientists and researchers), and to safeguard billions of dollars in annual Biopharm and GMO industry profits (Monsanto/Bayer, among others, is now conducting its own biowarfare research), Chinese and U.S. officials, Big Pharma, Facebook, Google and an arrogant and unscrupulous network of global scientists are frantically trying to cover up the lab origins and diabolical machinations of the COVID-19 pandemic.

We will need to identify and bring to justice the criminal perpetrators of COVID-19, and ban biological warfare experiments, such as those weaponizing viruses, forever.

At the same time, we must educate the public that “pre-existing” business-as-usual practices and policies (bad food, air and environmental pollution, pesticides and contaminated vaccines) are the real deadly drivers of this pandemic and, along with it, the lockdown and meltdown of the global economy. We need to point out, over and over again, even as Facebook and the mass media try to censor us, that eating healthy food, strengthening our natural immune systems, getting plenty of fresh air and sunshine and exercise, are our best defenses against COVID-19 and the epidemic of chronic diseases that have undermined public health.

The body politic, though still divided between those who live in fear of COVID-19, those who worry about how they are going to survive economically and those who have reached the psychological breaking point after being locked down in their homes, can still be united—if can get across the truth about how this pandemic started and clearly explain how specific government and public policies around the world have helped, or, in some cases, made even worse the death and damage we have suffered.

Once we’re united around these basic truths, we can then organize around a Green Recovery and a Green New Deal that is both regenerative and equitable.

Grassroots Regeneration?

Despite the machinations of the Digital Dictators and Gene Engineers, we have an unprecedented opportunity, based upon widespread public rejection of the status quo and disgust at political “business as usual,” to organize and resist.

As polls and everyday experience indicate, the majority (approximately 60 percent) of the body politic continue to support the concept of a Green New Deal, of solving the climate crisis, the agricultural crisis and the environmental crisis through a “just transition.”

By way of a “just transition,” Green New Deal advocates are calling for meaningful jobs for all, universal health care, free public education, debt forgiveness and, most recently, a guaranteed income of several thousand dollars a month for every worker during the nation’s recovery period and even beyond.

People are ready to tax the rich, bring the giant corporations to heel, cut military spending and develop a new green economy which is healthier, more just, climate-friendly and more decentralized and local.

We have the incredible opportunity, for the first time, to overthrow the dictators and indentured politicians and to build a new Green Commonwealth on the ruins of the old, where love and solidarity, and care for the natural world and future generations trumps hate and avarice. Where regenerative food, farming, ecosystem restoration, renewable energy and a just full-employment economy replaces dog-eat-dog capitalism and authoritarianism.  

As the pandemic starts to level off and decrease in intensity over the next 12 months, as fear and panic decrease, we must refuse to go back “to normal,” to accept the degenerative status quo that existed before the pandemic.

With U.S. and global conditions for radical change ripening for the first time in almost a century, it’s time to roll out our own Shock Doctrine. In the coming weeks and months we will share our ideas, and the ideas of others for how we can move ahead.

In the meantime, please stay in touch. Subscribe to our newsletter. Sign our petition demanding the end of dangerous “gain-of-function” research.

And stay safe, but get outside and enjoy the summer. Keep the faith. Venceremos. We shall overcome.

Ronnie Cummins is co-founder of the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and Regeneration International, and the author of “Grassroots Rising: A Call to Action on Food, Farming, Climate and a Green New Deal.” To keep up with OCA’s news and alerts, sign up here.