The veil of ignorance during COVID-19

Every COVID-19 experience has been different depending on where we stand geographically. What indeed has been fascinating, is to understand without the so-called veil of ignorance the world as it is. A world that seemed to be growing socio-economically, a world where poverty had been decreasing for the past decades, a world where we thought we knew what our global leaders were doing.

Today, the reality is uncovered. Our economies rely on natural resources, poverty is expected to increase after five decades (World Economic Forum,2020), and our anthropo-centrism is worse than what I can say I imagined. Our exploitative system and consumerism lifestyle are one of the main reasons why we are here today. This reality has meant outstanding but short-term economic and social developments and long-term unsustainability.

The Red Cloth in Soacha, Colombia. The red cloth symbolizes the urgent need to help the lower class to survive economically during COVID-19. Picture by Esteban Vega

The veil of ignorance has fallen from my eyes, let me take you through the journey:

In March 2020, an oil price war between Russia and Saudi Arabia began. Triggered by the break-up in the dialogue of the OPEC with Russia to agree to cut the oil prices amidst Covid-19, Saudi Arabia decided to slash the pricing for its oil by the most in three decades. This led to a massive economic impact worldwide, directly affecting the oil-relying economies such us Saudi, Russia, Iran, UAE, Oman, Lybia, etc. This is the moment where I realized countries seek individualism above international cooperation; economic prosperity for one country goes above economic prosperity for all in times of a global crisis, or at least, this attitude is the one we encounter in nations during COVID-19.

This situation has been genuinely insightful, proving Bruno Latour´s main argument in his book “We have never been modern”. Indeed, we have not. Why? Because we need nature to survive. If an economic or geopolitical crisis prevents our access to natural resources, sustainability for our species would be endangered. We will only be genuinely modern when we are able to coexist with nature.

Photo by sebastiaan stam on Unsplash

Economic domination by the West, and not by the rest of the globe has shown us the inequality in which we live in today. 47% of the population in Colombia lives in a “day by day style”, this means they work, and with their daily work they buy what they need to provide their families (Revista Semana, 2020); quarantining for these people means starving and hoping for governmental help. In India, millions of migrant workers were left unemployed homeless after the quarantine began (Abi-Habib, 2020), and the World Bank (2020) has estimated Sub-Sahara Africa to go to its first recession in 25 years. Now, this is reality 2.0. There is globalization, there is capitalism, there are world powers, and this is the long term effect of those three together. We are living in an unsustainable and international world were exploitation to the poorest prevents the possibility of real development. How do we break this disadvantage? By counter-fighting, the system, as Antonio Gramsci would suggest. How easy is it? That´s another discussion, but it all comes to the creation of alternatives to build opportunities for a just and circular globalized economy.

The World Economic Forum has released graphs and satellite images showing the decreasing pollution levels worldwide since quarantine started. This tells us something which does not take much to figure deductively: our system is broken. Our lifestyle and the industrial economy is based on cheap nature (Hamilton, 2010). The environment as a commodity and as undervalued. These are the consequences we face today: extreme weather patterns are already affecting communities, deforestation leading to climate migration, loss of biodiversity, and pollution levels affecting our physical welfare among many others (WWF, 2018). The pandemic is allowing the opportunity for governments and companies to re-define our economy; this is their chance! Wild animals for the first time since the neolithic revolution have reclaimed what was first theirs, and what is also ours (Daly, 2019). Living in a dualism between nature and humans will not reach the economic development needed for the Earth and the countries in the long term. Once our natural resources are over, so will be the welfare of citizens around the world due to the long-lasting consequences.

Photo by Tatiana Rodriguez on Unsplash

The so-called veil of ignorance has been uncovered, and today, we truly understand how badly equipped our leaders are for an unexpected crisis where our natural resources as our primary economic driver are no longer claimed for. The oil crisis has led to the financial sinking of oil-dependent countries, and the COVID-19 turmoil has led to a global recession which seems particularly unfortunate for the developing countries. Their development will be further halted, taking them back years if not decades, and as a result, inequality will be also be pronounced. This all comes down to our modes of production: the capitalistic system where we live in today affecting the welfare of countless countries, and our eco-system. Politicians and some major corporate companies are blinded by short-term economic development, but today, the veil has fallen, showing how the so-called excellent economy will drown sooner or later due to our lack of awareness and long-term capacity of thought.

References

Abi-Habib, M. (2020, May 15). Millions Had Risen Out of Poverty. Coronavirus Is Pulling Them Back. Retrieved May 18, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/30/world/asia/coronavirus-poverty-unemployment.html

Daly, N. (2019, July 4). Domesticated animals, explained. Retrieved May 20, 2020, from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reference/domesticated-animals/

Hamilton, C. (2010). Requiem for a Species: Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change (1st ed.). Wembley, Australia: Allen & Unwin.

Latour, B. (2012). We Have Never Been Modern. Amsterdam, Netherlands: Amsterdam University Press.

Revista Semana. (2020, April 20). El virus de la pobreza, a propósito de covid-19. Retrieved May 20, 2020, from https://www.semana.com/semana-tv/el-poder/articulo/coronavirus-en-colombia-el-virus-de-la-pobreza-a-proposito-de-covid-19/664783

World Bank. (2020, April 9). COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Drives Sub-Saharan Africa Toward First Recession in 25 Years. Retrieved May 20, 2020, from https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2020/04/09/covid-19-coronavirus-drives-sub-saharan-africa-toward-first-recession-in-25-years

World Wildlife Fund. (2018). Effects of Climate Change | Threats | WWF. Retrieved May 20, 2020, from https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/effects-of-climate-change

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