The new cosmic fear produced by COVID-19 has become a great challenge for mankind. The process of overcoming it is connected to a large extent with the establishment of effective cosmopolitan solidarity and humanely-oriented global medical surveillance with the aim of working out effective means to prevent fake news that traumatise the social consciousness, writes Sergey Kravchenko, Head of the Department of Sociology at MGIMO University.
According to Ulrich Beck, the global risks of the “World Risk Society” have the following three characteristic features: 1) delocalisation (their causes are not limited to one geographic location); 2) incalculability (their consequences are in principle incalculable); 3) non-compensability (human genetics makes possible irreversible interventions in human existence). All these features are seen in the risks of COVID-19 and they have even increased and become more complex. Thus, the delocalisation concerns not only the geographic location but also bio space: some scientists point to the proliferation of viruses that can move from animal to humans and back, making illnesses more difficult to cure. The incalculability has redoubled due to the fact that there are no commonly recognised methods to estimate them. Besides, we have to make do not only with the damage produced by real viruses but with the one made by their mystifications. I mean that many risks of COVID-19 are socially and culturally constructed; a lot of myths and fake news have appeared about their influence. The whole of humanity is observing the deaths of many people in real time. Some viewers may not even realise that their consciousness is being traumatised –very often they accept exaggerated news as real that increases the effects of “liquid fear” (Bauman), which is now becoming global in nature. This blurs the distinction between the risks of COVID-19 and the cultural perception of them. The non-compensability depends not only on irreversible interventions in human body but on the incurable traumas of humanness and substantial rationality; the life-worlds of people.
At first sight, it seems the recognition of the complex risks posed by COVID-19 might lead to a kind of post-national sense of responsibility, give a start for elaborating a humanely oriented global system of medical surveillance, which is aimed at preventing different epidemics. Some political leaders argue that the consequences of the pandemic might unite the human inhabitants of the Earth after their years of confrontations.
However, the real picture is the reverse. In Europe and throughout the world, one can see disintegration, isolation, and even the rise of nationalism and xenophobia. The declared European values do not function. Reaction to risks presupposes decisions and actions. For Italians, the risks posed by COVID-19 are more important than other threats. Consequently, they expect the help from the European Union, but the organisation is paralysed and does not make decisions rendering the necessary medical, financial and monetary support. The difference in interests of practically all the countries of the European Union is evident. They do not only close their borders on quasi-laws but apply to a national mobilisation, stop the social and medical cooperation which is very acute for the management of the new global risks. Nothing is done to overcome the myths of the pandemic. Moreover, new enclaves with sick people have appeared.
At the same time, I believe that this tragic situation will not last forever, and we should think about the post-COVID-19 world. Here are some glimpses at the possible hopes and the visions of the future world. The consequences of the pandemic have not produced simply the growth of world disorder. The common challenges to humanity may foster the establishment of a completely new world order based on cosmopolitan ethics and solidarity. Certainly, the realisation of this depends on people’s agency, and the concrete humanely oriented deeds of the political leaders. A good example of it is Vladimir Putin’s idea to make “humanitarian corridors”. In order to realise this, Russia has already rendered medical help to China, Italy, the USA, and Serbia.
The countries and their elites have reacted differently to the risks of COVID-19, with positive and negative results. This will influence the characteristic features of the futures of these nations. Undoubtedly, in the nearest future, there will appear new political movements with demands for global medical surveillance and health security. Consequently, new leaders will come to power. Whether Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump are among them depends on the results of the struggle against COVID-19 and the effect of the pandemic on their countries. The challenges of the pandemic will change the essence of Europe as a turbulent and mighty continent. In order to limit the existing turbulence and achieve sustainable development, the new political leaders will pass over from confrontations to different forms of cooperation with a diverse array of actors on the world stage. It is highly likely that in the renewed European Union, China, which displayed achievements in overcoming the pandemics and rendered concrete support to different countries, will acquire a special friendly status. Consequently, there are basic grounds for re-establishing good political and economic relations between the West and Russia.
Certainly, the birth of the post-COVID-19 world will be difficult, perhaps, accompanied by a recession which, however, may become a significant factor of the new world order based on sharing economy, social solidarity and integral forms of freedom and disciplinary. I believe the fetishism of modesty in the consumption is being born. There have already appeared collective forms of consumption – not only the sharing of cars, places of living but food and medicine sharing.
There are some trends toward the achievement of social justice and equality in the organisation of medical help. During the pandemic, the Norwegian authorities have done a lot in constructing the possibilities for all the people to have proper access to medical care. These practices might be developed in other countries. The significance of social insurance would be revised. Its high organisation in Germany helped to save the lives of many more patients if we compare it with other countries. The distant care systems based on digitalisation have proved their efficiency – these activities should be extended.
It is necessary to re-discover the place and role of nations in world politics. In addition to the existing criteria (economic development, the possession of weaponry, etc.), new ones should be taken into consideration – the power to effectively struggle with epidemics, to produce ecological and pharmacological safety for citizens, the possibility to re-orient the digital, from pragmatic consumerism to health care. Human rights should be extended, including the right to health care, safety, and a friendly environment.
The new cosmic fear produced by COVID-19 has become a great challenge to mankind. The process of overcoming it is connected to a large extent with the establishment of effective cosmopolitan solidarity and global humanely-oriented medical surveillance, with the aim to work out effective means to prevent fakes that traumatise the social consciousness. All these prepositions might make the emerging post-COVID-19 world more rational and humane.