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The dilemas and challenges of facing a viralized world

By Margarita Bolaños Arquin, Costa Rica

The consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic portend the decline of a civilization cycle that focused economic growth on the ruthless appropriation of natural resources, the productive capacity of human labour and the knowledge of peoples as mechanisms for accumulating exorbitant wealth in very few coffers.

We assumed, on historical grounds, that at some close but uncertain moment, nature and the millions of “stragglers” of the capitalist system would not hold out any longer and would find the route for their transformation. This would require a new social pact, driven by sustainable development, social inclusion and human rights.

But without warning, an unknown virus, which appeared in China, surprisingly provoked an unprecedented global health and economic cataclysm. How could it be imagined that, together with China, the powerful powers of the West and the other countries of the world would tremble before a virus, a stowaway of global passers-by?

The disease does not discriminate between classes, gender, race or nationality, but advances in the footsteps of global travelers. Thus, in the absence of a vaccine, along with hygienic techniques and social isolation, it has also been necessary to close the borders that the neoliberals so painstakingly opened when they forged the multinational systems under the hegemony of the great world powers: the institutionalization of globalization (IMF, IDB; FTAA, CAFTA, OECD, WTO, etc.).

The crisis is always an opportunity to find new and better directions, and there were various signs that it was being walked towards, particularly because of the increasingly heated disputes between economic giants. However, it is surprising to see how the appearance of the COVID-19 has triggered a series of unusual measures, in almost all areas of daily life. So sudden and unexpected has been its origin and its rapid planetary reach that it has revealed the total inability of multinational bodies and the market to regulate tensions, generate balances and manage the economic crisis that has been unleashed. Global networks burst without warning, like high-voltage cables in a pool of water, snaking without direction. Run for your life!

Unprepared and isolated at our borders and in our homes, it is now up to us to take on the commitment to reinvent ourselves as a society, based on a new collective awareness of our vulnerability, interdependence and the strength of acting in solidarity, the main lesson of the current crisis.

In Costa Rica, thinking and actions have been forged, not without difficulty, that today emerge as the best alternatives for successfully facing these times of global crisis with measures based on equity, the economy of solidarity, the care and responsible use of our common environmental and cultural wealth, and the practice of individual and collective rights. Today, more than ever, the need for a strong, effective and transparent State that, through public policy and the work of its institutions, satisfies the aspirations of its people has become evident. This must be rescued and strengthened.

The economic stagnation caused by the COVID-19 crisis, the unleashing of the global economy as a result of urgent health measures and the recession that will result in the very short term, makes it necessary to resize the value of the domestic market and its intraregional linkages, the significance of food self-sufficiency and therefore the strengthening of agricultural production, local industry, sustainable tourism ventures and alternative forms of marketing and redistribution, within the paradigm of sustainability, in the face of a capitalism in crisis, predatory and generating growing inequalities. There is no other way to defeat the greed of the markets and financial interests that today show their limits and their harmful consequences on ecosystems and the rights of the majority.

The crisis is a period of re-accommodation: the forces of capital will aspire to regain ground on the basis of even more centralized models, taking advantage of the destruction of capital and markets in the current situation. In the face of this force, it is necessary to demand other alternatives; it is equally possible to position them in the times to come, if strong alliances of public and private actors committed to social justice, economic progress and democratic coexistence are grouped around them.

We insist that this planetary upheaval that we are experiencing forces us to focus on the construction of alternatives that consider a profound change in our relationship with Nature, a new conception of our health and our body, a relationship of respect for cultural differences and a new and more efficient use of resources.