COVID-19 THOUGHTS AND NEWS
No two days are the same. I brought forward the date of this newsletter because it's all shifting so fast, so there's no shortage of necessary new thoughts to fill these pages. I don't think I ever truly expected to see times like these, when the irreversability of the flow of human life is so obvious, when there is no turning back to what went before.
None of what follows pretends to completeness.
SPRING HOME BREW
An old family recipe for the Spring: how to make Dire drink.
Be Like Odin, by Matthew Frederick (@putmyspellonyou)
Last newsletter I featured a tune composed from the DNA sequence of the coronavirus. Now people are doing something similar with the virus's protein structure, and for a different purpose. Audio sequences are helping scientists get their heads round the complexities of the virus's spike protein, which is how it attaches to human cells. 'This, the researchers say, is faster and more intuitive than conventional methods used to study proteins, such as molecular modeling.'
A book called The Knowledge: How to rebuild our world from scratch came out a few years ago, but of course is having a popularity surge. I have it but haven't had time to read it yet, but it looks interesting. Even if you're not planning to build a toaster from raw materials, you may still be curious about what it takes for such a thing to exist at all.
Now for the good news: Spain is introducing Universal Basic Income. Better still, 'the government’s broader ambition is that basic income becomes an instrument “that stays forever, that becomes a structural instrument, a permanent instrument”'.
In November 2019 David Graeber in Against Economics was wondering what it would take for the political world to come to its senses:
'Breaking through neoclassical economics’ lock on major institutions, and its near-theological hold over the media—not to mention all the subtle ways it has come to define our conceptions of human motivations and the horizons of human possibility—is a daunting prospect. Presumably, some kind of shock would be required. What might it take? Another 2008-style collapse? Some radical political shift in a major world government? A global youth rebellion? However it will come about, books like this—and quite possibly this book—will play a crucial part.'
That was just five months ago. Obviously, no-one in their right mind would have chosen the covid-19 pandemic as an ideal means to a better society, but now it's here, it'd be criminal not to make use of the opportunities it presents for change. Now we are seeing even the Bank of England admitting that 'money is just an IOU', and therefore the economic theory that has supported decades of neoliberalism is a fraud.
The bad news: some governments are of course enjoying the new powers that they are taking to themselves to 'flatten the curve' of infection. Emergency powers acquired by those in charge are seldom relinquished willingly when the emergency is 'over'.
Following up thoughts on the theft of the commons, and why we need and deserve UBI, here's an excerpt from Prof. Guy Standing's The Idler article.
To answer that question, we need to keep in perspective the whole covid-19 pandemic, and the high probability of similar pandemics in the future. We need to understand pandemics as just a part, albeit a very big one at the moment, of the business of life and death.
I'm definitely not suggesting as some are that 'the economy' is more important than people's lives. If you need to sacrifice people who' ve become vulnerable because of a broken social contract, then you've got a broken society and some kind of mantra of economic growth is a symptom of that dysfunction.
Rather, we need to keep in mind how big a demon coronavirus is compared to other diseases, or, say, to road accidents. Or to bad government. After all, we've been sold a crock of crap with the 'War on Terror'; off the top of my head, the figures go something like this: you are seventeen times more likely to be killed by your own furniture than by acts of terrorism. In lipservice to that tiny extra risk we spend extra hours on pointless security theatre every time we catch a plane, and that's a pretty minor inconvenience when laid aside what some deranged authoritarians would like to do to us using covid as an excuse.
So when you cast your next spell for a better world, remember to consider carefully the freedoms we have now and which we stand to lose.
'Keep your hands sanitised and your sanity handy as you dig into that panic-purchased apoca-poca-popcorn and enjoy the show.'
Danny is well worth reading. Follow him on Twitter.