by Ramin Mazaheri, exclusive for the Saker Blog
In the UK an average of just 600 people die from influenza every year, a testament to the major socialist concept the incredibly rich island has tolerated – the National Health Service.
In the US, where the biggest socialist concept they have tolerated is Social Security – to prevent mass elder-class starvation – the lack of health care annually kills 11 times more people than in the UK (proportionally). “It’s fine,” they say in the US – the price of freedom. Freedom of expression above all.
However, all of a sudden everyone across the West cares about preventing mostly-preventable flu deaths. Really?
In fact, apparently the West cares more than anybody: South Korea quarantined some neighborhoods, China one major city, Iran encouraged a national quarantine, but the West wants two entire continents to stay at home.
What overreaction? The West just has a huge heart – haven’t their capitalist and Christian evangelists been saying that for four centuries?
In fact, how dare you possible micro-trigger a Westerner by suggesting an overblown macro-triggering? The vastly, vastly, VASTLY greater reaction of the West than of China, South Korea and Iran is entirely merited, and this cannot be questioned. Or so they keep shouting.
The problem in the West is that those in power during the corona crisis should not be in power.
Firstly, whereas in China it is as hard to get into the vanguard Communist Party as the Ivy League, in the West all one needs is rich friends or friends with clout. So of course the quality of the West’s public service response to corona could have been predicted to be comparatively inferior.
The fourth estate and unofficial branch of government, the media, is similarly compromised: I can’t read Chinese to verify if they are calming a panic instead of inflaming it, but I can read the dire warnings broadcast 24/7 by the Western MSM, whose ratings are surely through the roof. Very over-dramatic, indeed. Personally, I have encouraged anyone who will listen to heed my professional media opinion regarding this corona crisis: the less time you spend watching the Western MSM the saner and more stable you will be during this crisis. Your family will thank you.
In the West technocrats are in power: thus, in an epidemic we must all listen to doctors and statistical-modelling specialists. Both are quite well-paid jobs. Western technocratism means that the West absolutely cannot have policy even partially dictated by the needs or experiences of their legion of middle-aged, single-mother waitresses; or any of the 40% of Americans who don’t have $500 to cover an emergency; or any part of the Yellow Vest-supporting Europeans who have had their social safety net slashed by unending banker bailouts and austerity measures.
The interpretation of statistics, and the public policy such statistics should influence – these things surely cannot be influenced by ideology, can they? I agree though – better to listen to nerds than to not get a second medical opinion.
Let’s not act like they are Cuban: US doctors are perfectly at ease with you being homeless over unpaid medical bills, and they don’t want you forcing them to go work on the front lines to cover this flu crisis. Cynical? Well, I am a daily-hack journalist, but is it such a taboo thought to think when you see yet another doctor handing down a life-and-death proclamation with smug certainty, yet again? Doctors are never wrong… yet the third-largest cause of death in the US is malpractice.
Given this undoubted difference in terms of public policy servants and public policy explainers, why on earth should we assume that the West’s public servants are going to outshine Eastern ones? However, what can and cannot be achieved in these countries is also very different.
On a social level China, South Korea and Iran are Asian societies which are fundamentally more patriarchal and social, whereas Western societies are more matriarchal and individualist. This means that in the West many overworked single mothers are being inflamed into OCD-level sanitizings, while non-deadbeat divorced Dads are proving their all-conquering filial love by fist-fighting over toilet paper for Junior.
As stay at home orders – which vary from suggestions to promises of fines – proliferate across the West I will go out on a limb and say that many Westerners will go far further and treat the orders as if they were martial law. Yes, Westerners insist that they are more freedom-loving and unable to tie down than any Muslim nomad, but I recall a quite compliant response during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent lockdown. American libertarianism is only for good times, it seems.
Contrarily, it is rather amusing that on the first day of spring – a day celebrated as Nowruz in Iran – some regions reported that holiday traffic was 98% as high as in 2019 despite official pleas to stay at home. That is very European of Iranians – nothing stops an Iranian’s vacation, too. Of course, their vacations are not to go and cheaply break anti-nudity laws in Tunisia but to visit relative after relative after relative. But the point is made: with warmth, happiness and in a group, all of the Islamic Republic of Iran simply must celebrate this pagan holiday. What a bunch of fundamentalist Muslims, indeed. As regards to the “Great McDonald’s Satan”: Nothing starts their vacations: worker instability and workaholism incredibly translates into half their workforce with paid vacations being too unwilling to use their paltry number of vacation days; half of all US workers overall work in “low-wage” jobs, meaning they can’t afford vacations period.
But the incredibly elevated conscience of the West is indicated by their incredibly more drastic response that that of the East’s: they are apparently willing to trash their already weak, corruption-rotted, unsuccessful austerity/QE economies to prevent flu deaths among the elderly with significant existing medical conditions.
Bottom line: the West is choosing to avoid flu deaths among the sick elderly now but may wind up with far more deaths due to the mass unemployment and economic chaos they view as the only solution to corona. But bad economics kills, too.
Whatever it takes… not to the save the Eurozone, but to end it?
But economics can’t be discussed in the West: TINA – there is no solution to “capitalism with American characteristics”. Those are “global values”.
Anyway, bad economic policies don’t kill – the market does. And the market cannot be stopped or regulated.
Sure, markets can crash, and ruin the 401k retirement plans (i.e. the US “pension system” – ugh! Terrible… but it makes NYC bankers and stockbrokers happy), of the elderly class, but the US can’t close or control the markets. Sorry Gramps! You survived corona but you’re 30% more busted.
Say goodbye to the Bernie Sanders campaign – in a crisis US (fake) leftists will fall in line for stability, pragmatism and personal safety, just like in 2008. The US is a dog-eat-dog capitalist-imperialist society and in a global crisis the US dog has to make sure they can keep eating the foreign dogs, after all. International solidarity is for socialist suckers; Western sanctions on corona medicine must remain to try and implode Iran, Cuba, etc.
But, as I have written about for years: the Eurozone remains the largest macro-economy and yet also the weakest link in the macro-economy. They have, few want to admit, already had a Lost Decade. Quantitative Easing and Zero Interest Rate Policies have only re-inflated the 1%er bubbles in the FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) markets. It’s incredible: the Western economy is so kindly shutting down for weeks even though they are even more over-leveraged in 2020 than in the 2008 economic crisis, which was sparked by over-leveraging. Don’t the doctors, epidemiologists and helicopter moms know that?
Contrarily, China has had recent decades of spectacular growth, as has South Korea. So has Iran, from the end of the Iraq War until 2012, when the inhuman triple sanctions (EU, UN, US) were levied, and then successes were further delayed by the 2014 oil price collapse.
Incredibly crucially for the ambitions of the corona virus, those three nations have ideologies, histories and cultures which have given their governments far, far more control over their economies. Certainly, in a time of crisis they have more levers to pull to help their nations as well as the willingness to pull them (unlike, say US Republicans/Libertarians).
Some smart journalists have pointed out to Westerners that corona is showing what life is like under Western sanctions. Nations like Iran, Venezuela, China (sanctioned for over two decades post-1949) are quite used to such a life, but: welcome to the party – you appear quite awkward and nervous.
I understand your concern: the US is proudly dog-eat-dog, and the neoliberal, post-1989-inspired structure adopted by the European Union is the dog-eat-dog model the US wishes their Founding Fathers had been dumb enough to implement.
Corona is bad, certainly, but bad economics kills too. Are we trading fewer corona deaths now for even more regular flu deaths in 6 months, caused by all the people pushed into poverty by the Great Recession tipping into the Great Depression 2? This is a vital question, and not a heartless one at all.
We are all in this together, and that’s yet another affirmation of post-1917 socialist worldviews, but at the end of the corona crisis we can all only reap what we have nationally sown.
China eats dogs, and they will pick up the pieces of those whose sowings compounded the corona crisis; whose overreactions – provoked by a lack of economic stability, physical security and emotional trust in many social areas – threaten to pop Everything Bubble 2, which is a verifiable economic reality and not journalistic hyperbole. Russia and Iran will likely be forced to play custodian, too. This is the same century-old story that we have seen in fascist Germany, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, etc.
I hope wherever you are that you and your family are healthy, and that you have faith in the goodness and capability of your nation’s leaders. You’re going to need them, and me as well. (Joe Biden, really?)
Me, I’m going out. I’m a journalist, the most despised – and by a huge margin – of all the first-responders, LOL. However, watching many of my Mainstream Media colleagues during the corona crisis reminds me why this is the case.
If the West’s response does prove to have been an overreaction – if China’s shut down of Wuhan and a few smaller cities was not supposed to replicated on a multi-continental level, in large part because the West does not have the socialist-inspired policy tools to take such extreme preventative measures – then resentment towards mainstream journalists will, and should, only increase.
So that would be something good from corona. In fact, here will be a lot of positives from Corona, but many of them left-handed.
The new year just began; it’s the second day of spring; the world will not end in the next 30 days – I find it hard to be hysterical, negative and over-dramatic, personally. Enjoy being home alone, if that’s what you insist on.
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.