Donnerstag, 16. April 2020

In the Fog of War - Why Coronavirus Marks a Crossroads For the World

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"May you live in interesting times" is dramatically haunting so many people around the globe now. America and the whole world is at a crossroads and we all are in the midst of this "Fog of War" (General Carl von Clausewitz).

While the Coronavirus Crisis rages with many people being under some sort of stay-at-home order, doctors and medical personnel are fighting for saving as many lives as possible - regardless of putting their own lives on the line due to being forced to work with very limited equipment and under dire circumstances.

The narrative around the Coronavirus Crisis splits in two, one side arguing that health is key, public health, and we have to do everything to save lives and people's health - whatever it takes. The problem here is, that this argumentation line is mainly publicly pushed by those who are financially well-off, apparently not understanding what it is like to fight for one's life in financial terms.

In other words, politicians and public health experts with their legitimate focus on health and forcing people to stay-at-home, are not fighting for their lives financially themselves. That creates a detachment, a gap. It actually leads us to the flip-side of the argument, the financial narrative. Herein many people often argue that the Coronavirus is killing more people financially than physically, and if you bring the economy to a standstill, you are risking people's lives as well - financially and their health in so many ways. Bluntly put: If you are financially dead, it doesn't take much to be dead physically. This is what wealthy public health advocates often seem not to get, let alone the many people falling into a depression or even committing suicide by having to stay at home alone.

So the actual Coronavirus Crisis shows that the financial experts having ruled the world for many years so far are challenged, dethroned and toppled by the public health experts. In short we see not only a war between medical doctors and the Coronavirus but also the M.D.s (taking care of patients) waging war against the MBAs who for many years have made all efforts to rationalize and bring down the health care system we need desperately at the moment. The medical doctors and the health care personnel are therefore fighting a war on two fronts. But wait a minute. Is it that easy? I am afraid not: There are other parties participating in this war.

So it is not only a two-front war, on the one side medical doctors fighting Coronavirus, and on the other side medical doctors and public health experts fighting economic experts and business interests. No, the two sides merge in the third party, the pharmaceutical industry, having a huge financial interest in getting government contracts to find an effective Coronavirus vaccine.

So in the pharmaceutical industry, Big Pharma, health care and financial interests meet. Finding a vaccine is one thing, distribution is another. When the storm rages, those with no shelter are hit hardest. This experts often overlook. Much we hear of experts working on returning to normalcy. Which normalcy? Are those experts eagerly trying to reestablish the pre-Coronavirus normality excluding more and more people from society?

This leads me to another aspect of the story. It's the war within the war waging against the Coronavirus. Big data, as tracking and surveillance, is pushed in times of Coronavirus, officially for the good of humanity, many human rights organizations and data protection experts are alarmed by. As for the years to come tracking and surveillance of the movement patterns via algorithm-based analysis of people's mobile devices' usage give governments a big advantage in tackling with critics and being informed about possible demonstrations, before they even manifest, data which governments most likely will not resist to take advantage of.

It's no rocket science to anticipate: Even if one survives the Coronavirus itself, all those governmental counter-measures against the Coronavirus - despite the many governmental rescue programs to compensate the financial losses - will finish the job to kill the survivors economically. Therefore legions of small and medium-sized businesses will be exterminated by the Coronavirus Crisis.
So as mentioned at the very beginning, the world is at a crossroads right now.

On one path the world makes an upgrade via this Coronavirus finding itself on a new level of existence and consciousness, upgrading to a society taking care of each other but not in a way of spying on one another. On the other path the world makes a collective downgrade, with the Coronavirus Crisis only accelerating what has been driven successively by automation and digitation for decades, talking about mass layoffs now turning into the layoffs of the masses driven by those who were already big, who have been already driven by Big Tech and big corporations for many years, what in science is known as "Matthew effect of accumulated advantage" which sociologist Robert K. Merton derivated from the Matthew principle of the Gospel.

But let's not assume the worst. This time it could be a chance for humanity, a chance for humans to develop some (more) humanity - the hope of so many humanists working, advocating and preparing for the upgrade of humanity to the Bright New World for ages. But one question is haunting me constantly: If humanity is now leaping to a higher level of consciousness and existence, what happens to those who have ruled the world so far narcissistically and egotistically not having the reputation of being overly humanist? Which role in society will those anti-social figureheads in charge hitherto play then?

These challenging times can also bring to surface the dark aspects of the human psyche once again, especially by those on the top. Psychotherapists are well aware of, how hard it is to treat personality disorders which are quite widespread in society, how hard it is to change bad habits ingrained in ones own personality, especially when those suffering from these personality disorders don't suffer from it but only their environment.

Remember the old Cherokee tale of the two wolves inside everyone of us? One wolf is evil, full of anger, jealousy, greed, resentment, inferiority, lies, ego. The other wolf is good, full of joy, peace, love, hope, humility, kindness, empathy and truth. Who wins? The one we feed! Just think of the current racial discrimination the Chinese minorities are facing around the globe.

Doubts about the honesty of the change management process we are going through via the various government measures are legitimate. If you ask me, it's always good to ask: Whose interests are served with such measures, who profits most from them?

If human nature takes over not in its brightest form again, then the Coronavirus Crisis heralds the start of the last phase of neoliberalist globalism, with rapidly conducted accumulation of capital flanked by digitation wiping out the bulk of small and medium-sized businesses. Then neoliberalism has finally won this war against humanity by using technology against the people, against you, me, every one.

Then it's only another stage of the war, which started long before. The instance that it's not called "physical distancing" but "social distancing" is ringing the alarm bells to many, as "social distancing" can be seen as indicator of an already anti-social neoliberalist trajectory in charge doing its utmost to compel the people not to be social, to behave socially distant to each other, and ultimately defaming the term "social" once again in effort to wipe out even the last remnants of socialty in society.

So if that's how the story goes, if that's how this Coronavirus Crisis ends up, then after the Fog of War has cleared and the dust has settled everybody can see that only a few remaining well-equipped and well-funded ruthless multinational corporations have survived the Crisis ruling the world widely unchallenged in control of the legions of indebted people without rights, unable to organize and form resistance without the corporate governments' notice.

Then Big Tech's extended crowd control via Big Data and surveillance devices handily used in everyday life unfolds its full potential. Then no longer "Cash is King" but Digital Money is King and everything connected to digitation. And when most people use surveillance gadgets (IoT), the one who opts out from using these "smart technologies" which infringe our privacy, bit by bit, byte by byte, becomes suspect in this change process of digitation towards an Orwellian totalitarian system, wherein Big Tech meets Chinese standards on all levels in this Dark New World.

Dr. Dr. Immanuel Fruhmann
Systemic Analyst and Philosopher

Sonntag, 5. April 2020

Why we are personally affected by the Coronavirus?

The whole Coronavirus Crisis shows one thing very clearly: The Coronavirus has absorbed media attention (coverage and broadcasting time) like no other issue for weeks. Gone seem to be the world's other problems, issues and figureheads. Why is that?

Little to none airtime the climate crisis gets, the burning amazon, as well as the refugee crisis, and more and more people living at or under the poverty level even inside so many countries which consider themselves developed. Gone seems the constant broadcasting about US-President Donald J. Trump, the personal nemesis of so many in media. Gone seems the irk Donald J. Trump provokes for so many in media.

All of a sudden, the world seems to have no other problem anymore except the Coronavirus, of course. Please get me right, the Coronavirus is a problem, a huge one, but it is not the only one. The Coronavirus is one of the many problems the world has. So the question is, why the Coronavirus gets so much media attention, eclipsing even US-President Donald J. Trump?

The Coronavirus Crisis makes obvious that it is a crisis the elites take care of, and that's different from so many other issues. But how so, after the same elites have crippled the health care systems through financial cuts and rationalization?

Arguably the reason for this is that so many public figures, from politicians to celebrities, themselves are infected by the Coronavirus and it's not just a problem of the middle and lower classes anymore. And other than so many regional conflicts and wars - which anti-social personalities all around the world easily can wipe away and forget about - like Yemen (The Forgotten War) -, the Coronavirus potentially affects all of us, the whole world - therefore it's called pandemic and not epidemic.

Seemingly politicians, celebrities and figureheads around the world are outraged by the Coronavirus, because it affects them personally even more than US-President Donald J. Trump and his moves and utterances. It seems as the rubber hits the road with personal experience - when you are affected personally. Apparently elites only take action when personally affected, otherwise only paying lip service - only saying they would take care of the issue but doing very little about it. Here Sir Bertrand Russell's famous philosophical distinction occurs to me between the Knowledge by Description (i.e. reading books, being informed by media) which expands one's perspective versus the Knowledge by Acquaintance (personal experience) which outweighs the former, when it comes to affection and direct action.

So apparently, if politicians were personally affected by poverty, inequality, climate change these issues were elevated to issues of national emergency as well as soon as you can say Jack Robinson.
In other words, if not only the Coronavirus but also poverty, climate change, the burning amazon, you name it, would reach and affect the elites, those were just as engaged and personally motivated to tackle these and the many other burning issues of the world as well.

Fake news vs. news aside, that's not the point in this case, because the fact that the Coronavirus absorbs the world's attention for many weeks shows the very fact that there is a connection of the elites and the media, which are broadcasting mainly about the issues relevant to elites, the rich and powerful, meaning broadcasting chiefly about elites themselves and the content relevant to them which in this case coincides with the Coronavirus also affecting the people directly.

So having in mind media science, philosophers such as Vilém Flusser, Theodor W. Adorno and Max Scheler's differentiation in communicating content ("information", "selection" and "context of use" - "how, when, where and by whom content is processed and used") this Coronavirus Crisis makes one thing more than obvious: Fake news versus news aside - supposing we get the facts via the news - it is also a fact that we only get a selection of facts.

This means, right now so many things happen in the world we never get word of by media and most-likely we never will. In other words, as news time is limited, we only get the relevant content, which is the content news stations think are relevant. This is not necessarily a problem. But the problem is, in times before the Coronavirus Crisis the bulk of the content/facts which news media presented didn't represent the problems of the people, as by most media the burning bread-and-butter issues were mostly considered irrelevant. 

The Coronavirus Crisis is making crystal clear, how little the media cover the crippled health care systems in many countries - that consider themselves developed - in which even in times before the Coronavirus Crisis many people couldn't afford to get proper medical treatment. The Coronavirus Crisis shows that for decades we lived in a careless society, in which people cared less and less for each other - starting from top-down. Now it's a wake-up call for everyone.

In short, naturally only those contents which affect the rich and powerful are most relevant to the rich and powerful. The very fact that chiefly those contents/facts affecting the rich and powerful get the lion share of the media coverage indicates that media in general are too much in liaisons with the rich and powerful, meaning many media proponents neglect most of those facts and contents which mainly affect the underprivileged in society. This makes the media appear as the accomplice of the rich and powerful.

What's relevant? What does this all mean? Relevance is a filtering mechanism also in our developed world so many consider as developed and as information society, as knowledge society, you name it. What does the Coronavirus Crisis show? Our world is a media society, in which media by putting emphasis on certain topics are creating reality (Constructivism). In simple terms, we only get word of what media filtering systems considers relevant to us. And what does this mean to us? It all depends on, where you live and in which circumstances?

In times of Coronavirus Crisis even "liberal media" considering themselves humanist and seeing all people as equal, concentrate its attention on people dying from the Coronavirus in the Western Hemisphere than elsewhere, as if one at risk in the West was more important to broadcast about than someone anywhere else dying silently and uncovered by media. So even so-called liberal media are apparently discriminating against people via selection.

Therefore in effort to be aware of and take responsibility for society I perpetually emphasize the importance for media to self-reflect in order to compensate what media accuse politicians to lack of. 

So media has to refrain from clinching with the elites, celebrities etc. and detaching with those public figures into another sphere, into a bubble of their own. This means media has to constantly abstain from being overly focused with the privileged few and with their luxury problems, in order not to reserve the limited airtime for the privileged few. Otherwise the media's filtering criterion of relevance - what's relevant? - will have a strong leaning to overly focus to cover what's relevant to the rich and powerful.

So for the sake of democracy, participation and representation of all the people, it's important not to chiefly report about the rich and powerful and what's relevant to them, but about the people and their bread-and-butter-issues, otherwise Marie Antoinette and the French Revolution comes to mind quickly and media proponents degrade to underlings, to courtiers in terms of court reporters, even in democracies.

So from media philosophy perspective it's not so much a matter of fake news vs. news and facts - that's a side story, albeit an important one - but the pinnacle question is: Which facts do we get, and in fact the facts of whom? So of course in times of crisis and in effort to show compassion and solidarity we have to remember US-President Franklin D. Roosevelt's famous statement: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself!" But as the actual Coronavirus Crisis shows clearly that for decades we have had the wrong priorities and now we are all in this together, I want to recall: It's on all of us to take care that society doesn't fall apart!

Dr. Dr. Immanuel Fruhmann
Systemic Analyst and Philosopher