Whenever we ponder the political achievements of Covid-19, the first thing that comes to our mind is the concept of lockdown and social distancing. But we need to remind ourselves that politically in many countries we have been observing this situation even before the emergence of Coronavirus, especially, in Palestine and Kashmir.
Since the citizens of those countries can be shot at any time based on suspicion of terrorism, the youth can't mobilise as a group. In a way, due to threat to their life, they have been maintaining social distancing long before us.
This pandemic has come into sight as a global reality that many of us call the 'new normal'. In this situation, some states are raising the panic or fear to extreme levels, and out of our sight the medical emergency has been metamorphosed into the state of emergency.
We are observing an uprising of the authoritarian nature of the state worldwide. During the pandemic the states once again have failed to stop the oppression, violence, and suppression of their opposition.
Most of the heads of the governments defined the situation as 'war condition', it's a war where we can't see the enemy. On the other hand, many anti-democratic rules have been implemented during this time. In a way, Corona is a comrade of fascism. No social gathering, social distancing, house arrests, and so on show us that more than just a pandemic, it has appeared as a virus to serve the fascist rulers.
Like the old method, first, they invented the enemy and then tagged it in different ways such as the 'Chinese virus', and many other conspiracy theories. This proves that throughout this pandemic the game of 'inventing the political enemy' has been played by different countries. This game of inventing the enemy can generate a real war situation in the post-pandemic world.
So far we have perceived that from a democratic state to fascist state, everyone has used the pandemic circumstances for their political gain. For example, in India, the ruling party and mainstream media targeted the Muslim community with the propaganda that the Muslims are spreading Corona from mosques.
In Partha Chatterjee's words More Than Anything Else, Modi Knows How to Seize the Moment. Amid Covid-19, journalists, teachers, bloggers, and common masses have been arrested for criticising the government. This oppression has become a common scenario in South Asia.
The fascist rulers don't have any intention to control the pandemic condition, rather they are more interested in controlling the media, data, and statistics. And when people don't believe the government produced statistics, they have been charged for spreading rumours.
But the fact is, theoretically there is no such concept as 'rumour', since data or statistics do not always determine the truth. As the people don't have the basic trust in the government, they create their own understanding of truth. That means rumours show us people's lack of trust in the government.
The most important political achievement of Covid-19 is the experimental exhibition of how fear works. In other words, we have noticed how fear, on a large scale, can be used as a tool of the ruling power. At the same time, the political use of technology has been experimented with. In the name of 'health threat,' they have embraced the 'shock doctrine' instead of an individual's democratic freedom.
If technology is one side of a coin, surveillance is the other side, though most of the consumers of technology hardly realise it. They think they have freedom in social media but they are unaware of the surveillance and control in it. For example, amid corona, YouTube has emerged as 'thought police'.
RT reported that YouTube has removed a video of the respected epidemiologist Dr Knut M Wittkowski's discussion of how to understand and respond to the Covid-19 pandemic. This popular video, watched by 1.5 million people, was one of the rare resources that offered a serious scientific view challenging the official consensus.
On the other side, we are observing a radical change in the economic structure and the citizens have discovered themselves within a new economic reality. Online based economic transactions, drone-based service, digit instead of money, are some examples. Now it will be easier to control the politico-economic structure and it will be more monopolised.
American author and scholar Shoshana Zuboff in her work The Age of Surveillance Capitalism asserts that for the control and surveillance of technology, every transaction of a citizen will be in the gaze of the state. As a result, in the age of the free-market economy, everything will be under surveillance by the new 'big brother' and she terms this as 'surveillance capitalism'.
The fascination of urban life has started to change with lockdown and social distancing. The poverty prone population as well as the middle class are now in shock and returning to their village. As a result, the state will have relief from the burden of the excessive labour force and technology will replace it.
The views of the people towards religion and science will not be the same as before. Therefore, science is now a tool to rule the people and according to philosopher Giorgio Agamben, medicine is a new religion to control the people. Medical science and power will march together and serve each other. The common people will have only trauma, anxiety, mental breakdown, and so on. They will be more apathetic to politics and resistance will be beyond imagination.
Covid-19 has successfully manufactured extreme panic and fear. Frank Furedi in How Fear Works: Culture of Fear in the Twenty-First Century points out that for the insecurity of personal life, for the invisibility of the reason of fear, and for not understanding the fear, it becomes more effective. And this time, we are observing the ruling power once again using fear as a medium to spread the panic.
But despite all the political traps we need to have trust in humans as they are the possibility of the future. It has been attempted to portray humans as a potential health threat. But people have proved that humans are no threat but are comrades.
We have seen the metamorphosis of anxiety into anarchy as thousands of people came to the streets to protest against the killing of George Floyd. This event proves that not everything can be suppressed with the instrument of fear.
Life itself is a form of struggle. But we need to keep it in mind that this kind of anarchy will not bring political freedom and we need a methodological political movement to change society.
Rezaul Karim Rony is a poet and editor of Joban magazine. Email: [email protected]
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.