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Following Jean-François Toussaint, who started in the same magazine at report collateral damage blind containment instead of targeting, and by Alessandro Baricco who dared to use the iconoclastic word "disproportion" to characterize anti-coronavirus measures, let us hope that it is still possible that fear will give way to its opposite, which is not courage but lucidity, the mother of all wisdom.
This global management of the epidemic prides itself on being rational, scientifically informed, and driven by statistical reasons. It is not impossible, however, that underneath its cool-headed exterior, this beautiful assurance is driven by the most irrational anguish, quickly disguised as certain figures that silence others. To the macabre little game of measures justified by mathematical curves whose peaks must be smoothed out for reasons of hospital stewardship, we are told time and time again by public alerts, we can oppose another one also made of macabre figures, telling the same story but with other heroes from the global south, other pains and other issues. It begins with a tale:
Once upon a time there was a ploughman sweating in his field a few leagues from Baghdad, and a hideous and disturbing man dressed in black and bad omens passed him by: "Who are you stranger? Where are you going? What are you doing?" the peasant asked him. In a surprisingly sweet and kind voice, the dark being replied: "I am the plague, and I am going to Baghdad, where I will kill 500 people". Some time later, having learned about the ravages of the epidemic in the capital, the ploughman suddenly told the man in black back on the road: "Hey, liar! Why did you tell me that you were going to kill 500 in Baghdad, if there are more than 5,000 dead?" In the same gentle tone, the plague replied: "I have not lied to you, and it is not my fault. I only killed 500. The others died of fear".After the first few weeks dazed by the vitality of the viral crisis, it's time to come to our senses. And to admit that this first global pandemic halt, this sudden irruption of a global society of health emergencies, is neither a break nor a revolution, but a deepening of a trend that, as early as 1986, the German sociologist Ulrich Beck theorized as the advent of a second modernity: to the right-left logic of the first modernity, which was in conflict over the distribution of wealth, techno-scientific advances add (without resolving the problem of equity) a top-down or centre-periphery logic, which is in conflict over the distribution of wealth. distribution of riskThe peripheries pay a high price for the sordid statistical calculations of the centres of power in order to outsource the dangers as much as possible to their margins.
For these risks have become global, invisible, systemic, and therefore difficult to avoid even for the rich. From nuclear power to climate change, via the pathologies induced by society's overproduction and overconsumption, risks are no longer isolated and unfortunate accidents against which to protect ourselves and insure ourselves, they structure our collective action, our future, our emotional symbolism. And it is the same techno-scientific-economic powers that operate the Big Data (economic information) and the High Fear Technology (nanochemical-atomic-genetic) that we demand both accountability and protection, because citizen political action feels rather unable to respond to impacts that are too great for the smallness of its actions (the melting of the poles, pandemics, the collapse of biodiversity...). Hence the current absurdity, unfortunately inevitable, of asking the same companies, governments and scientists who are operating this rise in global problems for the solution to these same problems. The result is acceleration. With it comes an increase in the reign of fear and its two little sisters: the compulsion to be safe and the need to escape. Always more control, always more virtuality, always less wisdom.For at last wisdom has always told us that there is no use in fleeing from death except to die of fear before the hour, and that the king himself is naked before the scythe. It is quite remarkable that we had to wait for the public "shouting" of a philosopher, André Comte-Sponville...to regain a little bit of savvy in the face of the current collective hysteria maintained by scientists: " Not catching the Covid-19 is not a sufficient goal in the existence » ; « it's better to worry about the future of our children than our health as septuagenarians. "Trivial, yet curiously untimely, bordering on scandalous.
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Indeed, health should not be the supreme reason for existence, and a government by doctors announces nothing good, no matter what. All the Covid-19 dead would have finally died of something else, perhaps even this year (most of them are elderly people statistically in the norm of close relatives who are candidates for the final grand voyage) and they could at least, under normal circumstances, have enjoyed a final kissed farewell and a decent family burial instead of a quietly imposed trauma.
Anyone can also access the INED figures on the number of deaths per year in France (more than 600,000), where for a while deaths due to coronavirus will pale in comparison with cancer victims (150,000 per year). Not to mention that, despite all the efforts of the virus, it will probably never reach the level of 48,000 French dead emissions each year due to air pollution. Moreover, some argue that the dramatic decrease in CO2 during containment may finally have a positive effect on mortality The statistical hazard argument for absolute containment measures is not as strong as it seems, even in the case of the hexagon alone. It collapses completely as soon as the real problems of global mortality are addressed, such as these dying children every minute of diarrhea in the world.
But then, while the death of those far away may afflict us, the death of those close to us frightens us, and increasingly so, as individualism without transcendence, marvelling at the "prowess of science", escapes us into the chimeric world of medically assisted immortality and as "rational government measures" ensure access to care with the guarantee of the best technologies of the moment. At least in the wealthy countries, we no longer want to hear about the "camarde", and the fear of the citizen is echoed by the government's fear of seeing posted on some social network the video of the agony of a taxpayer in front of the door of a public hospital overwhelmed by an unusual influx. In the distribution of risks of our "second modernity", we in Western Europe have the good role of being able to give in to panic and pay for a confinement of several months with almost complete stoppage of the economy in order to "smooth the epidemic curve".This is where the era of risk distribution becomes as sordid as the era of class struggle for access to wealth.Where can we count the deaths that our containment measures are going to produce? In poor countries of course! The economic downturn is already hard for rich countries, it is unbearable for the countries of the global south. Let's take just one example: A very recent Peruvian study on the impacts of containment brings to light what may well be the final word in this global coronavirus crisis: social measures to fight the epidemic may well be more deadly than the virus. Hence our tale of departure.
Peru, a good pupil obeying the wise injunctions of the North, declared a state of emergency on 15 March and has since confined its entire population, and this country, world leader in gastronomy Since 2012, no restaurants have been open, nor any tourists to eat there. While 75%s from wealthy Peruvian households have been able to keep their jobs and more than 55%s are now teleworking, on the contrary, more than half of the poor households have lost all work and income, and 100%s are already drawing on the meagre savings that will last them for about two weeks. These savings, on the other hand, do not even exist for the 860,000 Venezuelan refugees in Peru, 85%s of whom live day to day in and from the streets, working informally, underpaid, with no social benefits because of their status, and yet sending a good part of their assets to their families in Venezuela. These refugees cannot claimGo and tell them that they are suffering because we need to smooth out the peak of the epidemic.No, really, no one can confine himself in his confinement thinking that he is acting for the good of all, and close the door to a world that is "inseparable" by nature, where the security of some makes the insecurity of others.No, really, no one can confine themselves in their confinement thinking they are acting for the good of all, and close the door to a world that is "inseparable" by nature, where the security of some makes the insecurity of others. This partial risk management has total effects where the doctor of the rich (sedentary, obese, diabetic, male patients over 60) has more right to be mentioned than the doctor of the poor.
The head of human political dignity will only be lifted when we really start to confront together with the same radicalism all pandemics, all of them: those of the environment and those of poverty, those of child diarrhoea and malaria as well as those that reach ministers and frighten kings.
The moral of the story is clear: a crisis government mobilized by fear will always tend to take disproportionate security measures, yielding to the mirage of "zero risk" that its wealthy electorate will demand of it and that its caste of scientists will have led it to believe. By this very fact, it will externalize its risks to the most fragile, the most marginalized, who will never be able to afford the luxury of drastic measures open to the rich. With the statistics of "lives saved" thanks to containment, there is no doubt that European governments will declare afterwards that "the worst has been avoided". It will take several months or even years of research to calculate all the lives lost in the South because of the containment of the North, and these late figures may no longer interest anyone. Everyone sees noon on their doorstep even in a global world. Let us only hope that these reflections on the disproportion of fear will make it possible, during the debate on the future of the world, to understand the moral of this story.
François Vallaeys, UP' Magazine's guest columnist, philosopher - university professor, founder and director of the Union of Latin American University Social Responsibility (URSULA) in Peru / promoting responsible higher education. Author " For a true social responsibility. Clarifications, proposals "PUF, 2013
Cet article a été publié initialement le 23 avril 2020. Nous le republions aujourd’hui car il éclaire bien la situation actuelle.
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