Even when the apparatus exists, novelty ordinarily emerges only for the man who, knowing with precision what he should expect, is able to recognize that something has gone wrong — Thomas S. Kuhn
COVID-19 madness is generating a massive upheaval of social, political, and economic norms. I suspect the shocks to our civilization will be profound. We might be witnessing a revamp of our most fundamental beliefs and a consequent reconceptualization of reality.
But how can we be sure? Is all of the brouhaha really as it seems, or simply a delusion brought on by the transient strangeness of social distancing, alienating masks, and the relative stillness of isolation? Will we be brainwashed into believing there were no alternatives to the draconian measures we so passively accepted? Or eventually, be persuaded that none of it happened? That it was just another blip in the journey we call progress?
Even these questions are elusive for social and cultural transformations result less from shared sensations and more from alertness within individual minds that eventually cohere into a community of mind.
I have long been of the opinion that the West has been in transition from an industrial society, globalized and under the spell of neoliberal political and economic dogma, to a different level of societal development for at least the past decade. As the years flew past, and we watched capitalism flexing its steroid-enhanced muscles, we began to see past its façade. The litany of essential truths was incapable of gaining universal acceptance. But at that point reform stalled. Indeed all sectors of society seemed to double-down on the neoliberal doctrine, pursuing the indefensible with even more enthusiasm than before. The affluent accumulated more wealth, while the middle class started to collapse.
Like all disruptive events in transitional times, this pandemic has been confusing, ambiguous, and nerve-wracking. But also uncommonly enlightening. The wealthy elite has been working overtime to stymie any change of direction. They want to resume business as soon as possible. This is not surprising — they find the prospect of any alternative to capitalism disconcerting. There is too much to lose to give up without a fight — or at least that is the entrenched thinking. I am unsure to what lengths they will go to. But I know old strategies of resource acquisition, economic growth, debt, and repression are being even more enthusiastically applied.