Civilizational Decline Is Nigh, and It's Our Fault

Coronavirus highlights the untenability of our current systems.

For a brief moment after the collapse of the Soviet Union, we thought this was surely going to be the end of history–a slow but steady strengthening of the neoliberal order, with little to liven up our days aside from the pursuit of wealth in a capitalist society. After 9/11, there were already rumblings of that reality coming to an end–the cogs of history were moving, but in an inopportune manner for many, with nefarious political forces sustaining the march of imperialist America towards yet another campaign of global domination. From there, it seemed like the norms of geopolitics were starting to solidify, but comes 2016, and a cataclysmic event came to signify the end of modern human civilization as we know it–a reality TV star found himself at the helm of the most powerful nation in history, and things have only been going downhill from there.

If Donald Trump wasn’t personally responsible for all that has gone wrong since the beginning of his tenure in office, he symbolizes what happens when a reaction to the march of change backfires — and horribly so. What happens in America, doesn’t stay in America — the consequences of Trump’s actions have rippled their way throughout, and the coronavirus response is only a small fraction of what has gone wrong since he took office. If there was ever a pretense about putting people before profit in the past, the handling of the crisis has made it abundantly clear there was little to consider about those who will be affected the most.

Technocrats will blame the lack of a good response to COVID-19 in the land of yanks on ill-preparedness, but what will sure ensue after a ceasing of economic activity can’t just be solved through sound public health policy–the well-being of people has to be completely decoupled from the profit-motivated incentive structures of the free market. A focus on procedure ignores that Trump’s ineptitude is only downstream of a belief deeply anchored in America’s collective consciousness about prosperity — the American dream — wherein accumulation of generational wealth suppresses upward income mobility, conditioning the attainment of material fulfillment on an abundance of luck.

What we’re witnessing before our very eyes isn’t too far off from what many predicted would be the only natural outcome to a society that puts the interests of those at the top above everyone else’s. How coronavirus came to be is due to the greed of animal farming conglomerates in China who left the poor nothing but wild animals to lift themselves out of poverty with, ushering in an industry that became perfect fomenting ground for viruses to trial and error interspecies transmission, making the unlikely scenario of a global pandemic suddenly a genuine threat.

This will only be exacerbated by climate change, in which prehistoric strains of disease will find their way out of permafrost to potentially cause a similar seismic shift to our day-to-day proceedings. The onslaught of the vulnerable to come isn’t any one’s sole burden to bear–it is what years of ignoring the basic needs of our natural ecosystems results into. As much as pushing for a better future for our planet is gaining ground — with Greta Thunberg proving you can build a successful global movement on that pledge — the incrementalist nature of current climate policy significantly lags behind what needs to be done to not cause massive irreversible damage to our planet.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick told senior American conservatives on national TV that they should be willing to die for the sustenance of the economy, but is it about time to ponder whether the economy should instead die for us? The time justifies no other than a positive answer. As America readies to decide who should be their next leader, their options very much reflect a reticence to embrace radical change–however, the unsustainability of the current system might yet compel them to reconsider that position.

The clock has been ticking for decades now, and the more time we continue to delude ourselves into accepting the current state of affairs, the harsher the whiplash from its abrupt stop will be. If a pandemic swept the rug from a shallow semblance of stability in a matter of weeks, just how much damage will climate change have caused before we realize that squabbling over the details of a revolution have superseded the need to move forward with it right now? This isn’t the time to beg our leaders to do what they should’ve done a long time ago–the politics of civil discourse become a paltry consideration when the need to commit to the unthinkable has become more necessary than ever. Demand better of them, instead of writing them unwarranted praise on Vogue for the bare minimum.

The urgency of the situation demands it–it has become clear that the current crisis is foreshadowing the sharp decline of human civilization. Capitalism has stripped us dry of a bright future for many, and is promising to soon make our aspirations of a better tomorrow a mere pipedream. For so long, we’ve been promised that the wealth concentrated along the top would soon trickle its way down to us, but it only seems like the specter of utter ecological collapse may find its way sooner to us than whatever riches we’ve been promised. If some wondered before why no foreign civilization has taken interest in us — provided they made the journey — it’s because we’re showing them that even when the existence of our species is under heavy threat, we still can’t coalesce under which that will collectively save us.

It has been the conception of some that coronavirus is divine punishment for our sins, but quite frankly, who needs the punishment of hellfire when we’re already conjuring up our own on this very plane of existence? Even if superstition is a comforting thought to have about our current dire straits, it’s important to realize that COVID-19 needn’t to have been conceived in a lab for us to have created it–our disregard for human plight is just as effective an incubator for mass suffering.