I’m still chewing on this line from Giorgio Agamben’s book, Where are we now? The epidemic as politics (to read my earlier book review click here). Agamben’s thesis, repeated throughout the book, is that:
We are experiencing the end of an era in the political history of the West, the era of bourgeois democracy founded on constitutions, on rights, on parliaments, and on the division of powers. This model was already facing a crisis: constitutional principles were increasingly being ignored, and the executive power had almost entirely replaced the legislative by operating — as it now does exclusively — through legislative decrees [aka “executive orders”]. With the so-called pandemic, things went further: what American political analysts called the “Security State” — which was established in response to terrorism — has now given way to a health-based paradigm of governance that we term “biosecurity”. It is important to understand that biosecurity, both in its efficacy and in its pervasiveness, outdoes every form of governance that we have hitherto known. As we have seen in Italy — but not only here — as soon as a threat to health is declared, people unresistingly consent to limitations on their freedom that they would never have accepted in the past. (p. 60)
This is an astonishing statement — new and terrifying in its implications. Yet it lands like common sense and something we already knew but just did not dare say out loud. In the movement for medical freedom and personal sovereignty we keep trying to return to a reset point, whether that is 2019 or 1985 or 1950. Agamben is saying that the horse has already left the barn and it ain’t coming back.
If indeed western bourgeois democracy has come to an end (and that’s a big if) the first question is why? Why did this system that seemed so stable and to deliver so much freedom and prosperity to so many come to an end? I have two answers:
1. It was never thus. I’m a huge fan of the book Contract and Domination by Carole Pateman and Charles Mills. They argue that in every era, logic and reason are constructed to serve the interests of capital. What seems civilized and enlightened in every era is just cover for a much more brutal reality that is happening behind the scenes.
Western liberal democracy was always a velvet glove that hid the iron fist of conquest, colonialism, and exploitation. For 500 years the flourishing of western liberal democracy was financed by staggering levels of violence — first in the colonies of the new world and then through a system of global neocolonialism maintained via a vast military industrial complex. Workers in the developing world who wanted higher wages and nations that wanted to control their own natural resources were smashed. And the benefits of this system were not widely distributed and instead tended to accrue to about 10% of the population in the developed world.
For a brief period, from about 2005 to 2015 when the internet was ubiquitous and free, it appeared that billions more people would soon have a voice and become enfranchised. We saw that with the uprising of the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, and popular movements for democracy in Southeast Asia. But this alarmed the ruling class and so they have taken steps to control the conversation and prevent actual democratization from happening again. And the social justice warriors who were cheering on the uprisings in other countries have now been PSYOPsed into welcoming censorship and totalitarianism in the U.S.
2. Monopoly capitalism is more powerful than it has ever been. Industries are more concentrated than ever and characterized by monopoly or oligopoly. In a previous era, the East India Company was powerful and had global reach (and controlled the British state and British military). But we’ve never seen a concentration of power and wealth to this degree. The predatory billionaire robber barons of today — Gates, Zuckerberg, Pichai, Dorsey, Bezos, Soros, Bloomberg, Slim — destroyed western liberal democracy because they could, because they just prefer Pharma totalitarian and a Chinese-style high tech surveillance state. They figure, if Pharma can help them to reduce the global population by 15% or more, all the better.
What comes next?
IF western liberal democracy has fallen and is unlikely to return, then what comes next? Agamben, without spelling out the details, hints at a bleak future, “governments are preparing an even more inhumane and unjust world” (p. 97) . But I’m not sure that he is correct. I think we have at least as good a hand as the ruling class right now. The ruling class has wealth and capture. But their ideas are cartoonishly dumb and all of their plans (like vaccinating the whole world) end up in ruin. A revolution is building and we are already running circles around the ruling class intellectually, morally, and spiritually, in spite of the largest surveillance and censorship campaign in human history.
If we accept that western liberal democracy was not as just and prosperous as it was made out to be and also that it is not coming back, then what shall we replace it with?
My initial answer is hyper-localization. Why do we even have a federal government and nation states anymore? They only existed to wage war on other people in order to promote the interests of capital.
In the case of the pandemic, the U.S. federal government created the chimera virus in collaboration with a Chinese bioweapons lab in the first place. The highest paid bureaucrat in U.S. history, Tony Fauci, has killed more Americans than all foreign wars combined. All of the federal agencies are captured by Pharma — FDA, CDC, NIH, NIAID, DOD, etc. In the absence of a federal government, if a natural viral pandemic did occur, we could solve it in about 30 days by letting doctors be doctors and allowing the best ideas to flourish through conversation, competition, and rigorous & free debate.
But I think we should go even further. Individuals and families should have far more power than cities; cities should have more power than counties; counties should have more power than states; states should have more power than nations. Right now we have that exactly backwards. The W.H.O. and U.N. are have completely discredited themselves during the pandemic and are captured by the Gates/Pharma Cartel. I see no reason why we should defer to international organizations given this dismal track record. Centralized power leaves institutions vulnerable to capture. I think our goal should be to have power be as decentralized and localized as possible.
Please let me know how you would revision the role of government after the debacle of these last two years. In order to successfully organize a revolution, we need to get really specific about what we are fighting for. I look forward to learning from you in the comments.