12 July 2020 — Investigating Imperialism
By William Bowles
Why can’t I shake the feeling that the Virus is really the back story, a story that diverts us from something far deeper and much more threatening than the much-maligned Virus? The social distancing; the masks; the lockdown; the shutdown; all designed to distract? And the glue that cements it all together? Fear.
There are so many colliding stories coexisting in the history of the Great Global Lockdown, that serve to confuse and misdirect investigations, that figuring out what’s actually going on, is very, very difficult. Conflicts of interest abound, hidden agendas can be briefly glimpsed, then vanish under the waves of state-directed propaganda. But if there’s one overriding aspect to this event it’s fear. Fear engendered in the populations and the fear the ruling classes are experiencing that their rule might be coming to an end, either through environmental collapse or (praise be) revolution.
Global Heating and the Crisis of Capital, two earth-shattering issues. One threatens the future of Humanity and the other, the future of Capitalism. That the two are intimately interconnected, is surely obvious to all who care to look. And then we have the Virus. Taken together, the perfect storm?
Once more, the inherent contradictions of the capitalist economy are manifesting themselves, also in the usual manner; a falling rate of profit leading to reduced investment leading to bankruptcies and the meltdown of the economy, leading to, as before, mass unemployment and ultimately of course, war. At least, that’s how it used to be. But is war on a global scale now possible, or indeed even necessary to solve the crisis of the over-accumulation of capital and the falling rate of profit and all the other paradoxes and contradictions that capitalism creates for itself?
Enter the Virus
The ruling classes of the Anglo-American Empire have concluded that the coming environmental collapse will deal with the ‘problem’ of surplus labour and the propitious arrival of the virus will between them, take care of these twin problems and the problem of the falling rate of profit but without recourse to turning the planet into a radioactive cinder first. Well that’s the theory. As they say, a ‘global reset’ is in order, that is to say, a reset of the major capitalist economies. The weak and unprofitable will be eliminated, the losers absorbed by the survivors. A global fire sale of bankrupt corporations will take place. An even vaster concentration of capital will take place.
This is not to say, that it was planned, the ruling class are nothing if not opportunists and in any case, are they really masters of their own destiny, driven as they are by forces that most are, at best, only dimly aware of? You need proof? Dominic Cummings. Donald Trump. Boris Johnson.
The virus is merely the catalyst, the global lockdown will take care of the ‘surplus’ population as it already is. Predictions of a billion starving people, virtually all in the Global South, are already coming to pass. But we, in the so-called developed world have, for the most part, been well-insulated from the reality of a planet in lockdown. Fear rules us and makes us impotent.
The run-up to the Reset
Back in February, the doomsayer of the British state, Neil Ferguson, told us that his ancient software predicted half-million deaths from the virus. Fear ruled us and in that moment, the Coronavirus Bill was ushered through Parliament with nary a dissenting voice. The Lockdown State was upon us. Within weeks millions were made redundant. Small to- medium-sized businesses make up 80% of the real economy and the High Street died, probably never to recover. But note that the major supermarkets that control the bulk of purchases were allowed to remain open. As was Amazon. Make no mistake, this is all about Big Business.
Then Ferguson revised his Nostradamus-like predictions downwards, from 500,000 to 20,000 and still got it wrong but for an entirely different reason. Having set the virus of fear loose, it was vital to take back control of the narrative. But the half million served its purpose. Time to move on to the real business of saving capitalism, from itself.
There is some kind of insane logic to the way the Tory government operates, I believe it’s called ‘flying by the seat of your pants’. The British capitalist class has a bunch of total incompetents trying to run the state on their behalf as if it were merely outsourcing business opportunities to some very flaky ‘entrepreneurs’. Corruption and incompetence rules. A crew of nasty imperialist racists who can’t see beyond the current ripoff, that’s who is pretending to run Great Britain. Churchill must be revolving slowly in in his grave.
What appeared to be the government’s apparent indifference to the arrival of the Virus was in fact a thinly disguised Fascism in the shape of ‘Herd Immunity’, itself a variant of the theory of Eugenics or Social Darwinism or survival of the fittest, an idea that first surfaced in the 19th century and was enthusiastically adopted by the ruling classes of Britain, Germany and the USA. Let the Virus spread and the ‘weak’ will die and the ‘strong’ will survive, best exemplified when the virus was given free reign to spread through care homes and the proof is in the numbers, and although it’s proving difficult to find accurate figures, it’s estimated that at the very least 16,000 people died in care homes who needn’t have had their lives cut short and so brutally, about half of the total number of deaths, so far, though because of changes made to how deaths are recorded by the Coronavirus Bill, making accurate estimates is now all but impossible.
About 3,500 people died in care homes in Germany compared with more than 16,000 in the UK, despite Germany having a care home population twice as large. Its test-and-trace system and 14-day quarantine for people leaving hospital have been credited with protecting homes from outbreaks. – The Guardian, 28 June 2020
Benign neglect? I don’t think so. Discharging people sick from the Virus back into care homes, turned them into modern versions of Typhoid Mary. Care home workers were given no protection whatsoever, guaranteeing that their carers would both spread the virus and get infected by it, from those they cared for!
Hospitals were emptied for a flood of patients that never materialised! The so-called Nightingale Hospitals, 17,000 beds in total and launched with great fanfare had a total 60 patients and those were moved from regular hospitals. People were discouraged from visiting their local doctors, operations were cancelled, examinations were cancelled. Will we ever know the real death toll, not from the Virus but from the denial of needed care or from those too afraid to go to hospital? I’m prepared to wager that the total number of these ‘excess’ deaths will far outnumber the deaths from the Virus.
And of course, the destruction of vital social services by the Tory government fed into how the government responded to the Virus and it was directly expressed in the propaganda blitz; ‘Protect the NHS’, ‘Save Lives’, an NHS that had been emasculated by the very government that now claimed it wanted to protect it! Worse still, the same propaganda assault, blamed the public for the government’s failures in stemming the spread of the Virus.
But lest we forget, because the government’s initial reaction was to ‘let the virus rip’ through our communities, all the subsequent ‘social distancing’, ‘lockdowns’ and ‘face masking’ was rendered useless (if any of it ever worked in the first place) as the virus had been allowed to spread throughout the entire British population! It’s this initial event that was the single cause of the UK having one of the highest death rates, per capita, in the so-called developed world.
And to this engineered disaster, we haves the destruction of our social services after 10 years of Austerity as part of the neoliberal agenda of privatising everything! 50% fewer hospital beds than 10 years ago; a shortage of 40,000 nursing staff; the closure of hospitals and Accident & Emergency departments, as the state gears up for the total privatisation of health care in the UK. No doubt, the profitable bits will be fire-saled to US investors and the public will pick up the costs of the unprofitable bits left behind, after being raped by international capital. Again, the irony is not lost on the writer, of a former empire that ripped off the planet, now being picked clean by its successors. But it’s no justice to the millions of people the NHS still tries to serve, or to the millions who work for the NHS, the biggest employer in the UK.
After all, the virus and the methods chosen to allegedly, ‘deal’ with it, do not affect the rich, for them life goes on, no need of a ‘furlough’ for the 1%. Yes, it is an inconvenience but nothing that the ruling classes haven’t dealt with before eg, World Wars I and II come to mind. And indeed, as we have seen over the past three months, specific sections of the capitalist economy have made vast profits from the virus, especially the new digital industries. And for the most part, the professional middle classes have been only minimally affected by lockdowns and closures, so the core of neoliberal Britain, finance and consumption, appears, bizarrely, to continue as if everything is hunky-dory! Watching tv commercials brings it all home, to me at least. A parallel universe in garish colours, close-up, where people play out fantasy consumption roles for an imprisoned audience.
I predicate this view on the fact that the capitalist class knew quite well that its predations of the natural world would, at some time lead to ‘novel’ diseases, they even carried out a ‘dry run’ just prior to the appearance of the Virus and shortly thereafter produced the Coronavirus Bill here in the UK, consisting of hundreds of pages that had obviously had been in preparation, if not already written, well before the Virus’ arrival. Precognition? I don’t think so. More importantly, the Bill handed the state ever more draconian powers over our liberties, powers that as I write, are being further extended. We are now living in a de facto police state. Except the rich.
It’s also obvious that the government knew quite well the consequences of its actions, whilst at the same time, proved totally incapable of acting on the basis of all the studies and dry runs that the government had conducted prior to the arrival of the Virus. Incapable or unwilling, or both?
In other words, the government is a ‘ship of fools’ and this is probably the most dangerous thing about the this Tory regime when you add their incompetence to their bankrupt, neoliberal ideology.
Giving the state ‘permission’ to Imprison us
A lot of the mystery of the British state’s use of the Virus as a means of social control, became much clearer after I’d read the UK Cabinet Office’s document called ‘Mindspace’ – Influencing behaviour through public policy‘. Engineering opinion so that the public ‘gives its permission’ to be herded like cattle, locked up, pauperised and deprived of a future. The tools used are called Behavioural Psychology and involve evoking Pavlovian responses in the populace, which is how they get us to ‘give the state’ our permission, to do stuff:
‘Mindspace’ – Influencing behaviour through public policy‘
This report is not just an overview of theory; it addresses the needs of policy-makers by:
- Condensing the relevant evidence into a manageable “checklist”, to ensure policy-makers take account of the most robust effects on our behaviour
- Demonstrating how behavioural theory can help meet current policy challenges, including full case studies of its application in the UK
- Showing how government can build behavioural theory into its current policy-making practices
- Exploring important issues around the need for public permission and the role of personal responsibility [my emph. WB]
The Report continues:
But when applying MINDSPACE in practice, it should not simply be seen as an alternative to existing methods. “Behaviour Change” is part of policy-making, rather than a novel alternative that can be bolted onto policies. Therefore, civil servants need to better understand the behavioural dimension of their policies and actions. MINDSPACE can help them do so in three different ways:
- Enhance. MINDSPACE can help policy-makers understand how current attempts to change behaviour could be improved, for example through a better understanding of how people respond to incentives and which types of information are salient. The logic here is that if government is already attempting to shape behaviour, it should do so as effectively as possible.
- Introduce. Some of the elements in MINDSPACE are not used extensively by policy-makers, yet may have a considerable impact. For example, there is room for more innovative use of social norms and commitment devices in policies. Of course, introducing new measures in this way may require significant efforts to ensure there is public permission for the approach.
- Reassess. Government needs to understand the ways it may be changing the behaviour of citizens unintentionally. It is quite possible that government produces unintended – and possibly unwanted – changes in behaviour. The insights from MINDSPACE offer a rigorous way of analysing whether and how government is shaping the behaviour of its citizens.
MINDSPACE builds on existing methods of policy-making government produces unintended – and possibly unwanted – changes in behaviour. The insights from MINDSPACE offer a rigorous way of analysing whether and how government is shaping the behaviour of its citizens.
The use of MINDSPACE (or other “nudge‟ type policy tools) may require careful handling – in essence, the public need to give permission and help shape how such tools are used. [my emph. WB] – ‘Mindspace’ – Influencing behaviour through public policy‘.
At the same time, this kind of approach to ruling people has a downside. The state can’t keep people in a state of fear indefinitely, any more than it can curtail economic activity indefinitely. The irony of the situation is that trade unions are demanding no return to work for fear of the Virus, even if for the vast majority the virus poses no threat.
[T]he great majority of people will not die from this and I’ll just repeat something I said right at the beginning because I think it’s worth reinforcing:
Most people, a significant proportion of people, will not get this virus at all, at any point of the epidemic which is going to go on for a long period of time.
Of those who do, some of them will get the virus without even knowing it, they will have the virus with no symptoms at all, asymptomatic carriage, and we know that happens. – Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England, 11 May, 2020
Whitty spilled the beans, almost at the beginning of this nightmare, which may explain why we see so little of him these days.
The mindbenders are hard at work invoking the ‘Spirit of WWII’, Churchillian rhetoric, kindof, Spitfires, the Blitz and Sacrifice, which translates as more and even worse Austerity for us all. After all, somebody has to pay for this mess and it won’t be the political class or its masters, the ruling class. As usual, it will be the poor what gets the blame and pays the price.
So it would seem that we are all in for a wild ride into an uncertain future, with the state pressing our buttons – fear then less fear, then more fear then back to less fear again. The effects are already apparent with a rise in mind injury, especially amongst the young. Fear keeps us from resisting this outrageous assault on what’s left of our liberties and all to preserve the rule of BIg Capital.