The Platform

Mehr News Agency

It is a disaster to see people around the globe suffer and die because of this atypical coronavirus pandemic. It’s just heartbreaking! However, our pre-coronavirus world was never normal either. Our world was already contaminated with frustration, inequality, exploitation, the maldistribution of wealth, and environmental degradation.

Nobody wants to underestimate the chokehold of this coronavirus outbreak, but, at the same time, we shouldn’t accept the idea of going back to the pre-coronavirus world, either.

Today I find myself telling the students in my globalization studies class: “coronavirus is just a crisis among many other crises our modern world has experienced for some time now.”

Coronavirus is the iceberg. What is repressed or what is hidden from the public is atrocious. Our modern world has been in crisis for a long time now. The existing global system is based on catastrophic realities and trauma is what shapes our world. It has failed the majority of humanity.

We live in an already crisis-ridden planet: massive environmental devastation, energy crisis, incessant war and refugee crisis, economic problems, massive debt, and tyranny everywhere all of which reveal that many people around the world, especially in third world countries have already experienced traumatic and catastrophic problems to the point they “faced an imminent end of the world.”

Our planet entered the 21st century with more than 1.3 billion people living in extreme poverty – living on less than $1.25 a day. According to UNICEF, in 2018 alone, an estimated 6.2 million children died due to causes related to poverty, and an estimated 385 million children live in extreme poverty.

The numbers or statistics that describe the (mal)distribution of wealth in the world are mind-blowing, too. For example, in the 1960s, the richest 20% of the world’s population had 70% of the world’s wealth. By 2000, they had 86% of the world’s wealth. In 2009, the combined wealth of the world’s richest 380 people equaled the wealth of the bottom 50%. Such extreme wealth has been accumulated on the backs of the poor people and the world who work for minimum wages and under poor conditions.

On the other hand, Third World countries have been leading atrocious lives since colonialism! Just decolonized, these countries started to get some lavish loans from the World Bank. Most of these loans were “foolish loans” propping up dictators and the corrupt elite class. It’s now the countries’ poor people who must pay back and suffer the brutal Structural Adjustment Programs imposed by the International Monetary Fund.

As for the environmental health of our natural environment, the scenario is as gloomy as that of the socio-economic one. Our planet has experienced dire consequences of the polluting of our natural environment. The free-market-profit-driven economic system has always tended to expand the market and maximize profits, regardless of the ecological consequences. Our ecological system has been subjected to atrocious assault in order to keep profits coming in and to maintain our lavish consumerist lifestyle.

Climate change is one of the major consequences of ecological degradation. The first two decades in this century are considered to be the warmest on record in human history: we have seen record incidences of floods, fires, and drought in different parts of the world. Arctic ice has thinned 40 percent in the last 50 years. If we keep burning fossil fuels without restrictions, the planet will warm four to five degrees in a few years and more disasters to come! The food crisis is one of the consequences of climate change – in the world, 805 million people don’t have enough food, and more than 750 million people don’t have access to clean drinking water, according to the FAO and the WHO.

Just as the coronavirus pandemic is too overwhelming to comprehend so is our existing neoliberal system.

Our planet has been in crisis for a long time now! What needs to be done? It’s time to reflect on and re-evaluate our lifestyle, our values, our priorities, our relations with ourselves, with others, and with our ecological system, and to move slowly and mindfully to overhaul the existing economic systems. The question now is, in the current crisis, will the coronavirus outbreak result in definitive action to modify the existing global system? I do hope so even though just a couple of days ago Trump decided to no longer contribute to the WHO, an organization whose job is to combat global health emergencies.

Abdullah Dagamseh is Associate Professor of Literature and Cultural Theory in the Department of English at Yarmouk University.