Authors: N.S Abhilasha and Aishwarya Bhuta
The COVID-19 pandemic has dealt a devastating blow to lives and livelihoods across the world. No nation-state, be it rich or poor, strong or weak, rogue or failed has been spared by this unanticipated catastrophe. A superpower such as the United States of America has had to kneel before the mighty crisis, while other European giants the likes of Italy, Spain, UK, and France have also been forced to lay their arms down. At the same time, the small island nation of Cuba has been exemplary in extending international medical support to severely affected Italy as well as Qatar, South Africa, Algeria, and Venezuela. Such contradictions compel us to engage into a critical interrogation of the idea of development itself.
The Age of Improvement
It is useful to look into the origins of modernization before we analyze development in contemporary societies. The 1550s mark the onset of the early modern period. The eighteenth century was called the Age of Improvement. Empirical sciences such as botany and geology enabled human beings to see, classify and replicate natural resources. Desired improvements could be brought about by dominance over natural and human resources in order to produce crops and commodities of the highest economic value. To improve was to be able to see and use every tree of well planned, neat-looking forests, as Richard Drayton observed in Nature’s Government (2000).
Science with its power of reason aided Europeans to colonize unknown lands, but there was no dearth of challenges for them. Epidemics, famines and earthquakes followed in quick succession. Serious investments in medical science started only by the mid-nineteenth century. One of its objectives was to rebrand their image as benevolent rulers. Scientific societies with ‘experts’ were appointed in-charge of surveys and documentation. However, there was little emphasis on basic amenities such as nutrition, safe housing and sanitation in the colonies. Private interests of mine owners, plantation owners and traders invariably held a sway on scientific pursuits.
Modern State and Welfare
The late twentieth century saw increasing movements for independence and growing demands for equal rights. A welfare state is one where social services such as education, health-care and nutrition are considered to be rights, i.e. citizens need not depend on market forces for the same. But the newly formed governments could not undo the image of mai-baap (guardian). In The Three Worlds of Welfare Capitalism (1990), Gosta-Esping Andersen argues that there are no welfare states without conditions. If the welfare measures are exiguous or of poor quality, then the privileged do not hesitate from approaching private service providers. In contrast, when social assistance is provided to those who ‘demonstrate’ the need for it, the beneficiaries must bear social stigma. Moreover, inefficiency in mapping mobile labour results in many migrant workers being omitted from receiving their share of social assistance.
The ongoing lockdown illustrates how migrant labour is commodified and dependent on capitalist market forces. A long chain of contractors, sub-contractors and petty bureaucrats stand between the government and the worker. In India, the relief measures announced by the central and state governments have been not only tardy but also grossly inadequate. A stark contrast is visible in case of professionals and students stranded abroad. Special flights and quarantine facilities are arranged for their repatriation, while poor migrant workers are forced to walk thousands of miles in scorching heat to return home. Class and caste are important factors that shape the interactions between the state and the people.
The Malaise of Modernity
Development and modernity cannot be studied in isolation. Rationality, reason, secularization, advancements in science and technology, and the capitalist mode of production are the features of contemporary modern societies. While Marx located the source of the problems of modern industrially advanced societies in capitalism, Weber attributed these to increasing rationalization and bureaucratization. As social interactions come to be governed by calculations and methodical procedures, we see the world trapped under an ‘iron cage of rationality’. It is astonishing how the industrially advanced Western countries could neither anticipate nor avert the spread of the contagion despite being home to the cream of the world’s research centres and institutions.
What unfurl before us are both the juggernaut of modernity as conceptualized by Anthony Giddens as well as Ulrich Beck’s ‘risk society’. As argued by the former, modernity has emerged as a potent force nearly impossible to tame. Further, the pandemic has exposed our risk societies wherein the central concern remains not inclusive development but the prevention, management and control of risk; in this case, that of mass contagion. Scientific communities all over the world are rushing to manufacture a vaccine against and cure for COVID-19, with little success so far. Even if a vaccine is discovered, its effective distribution will be a huge challenge given the inequalities of access.
The Development Conundrum
Development has been an uneven process with some developing at the cost of others. In The Myth of Development (1999), Vincent Tucker traces the beginning of the development discourse to the end of the Second World War (1939-1945). Proclaiming that it had achieved the highest level of economic and cultural evolution, the USA soon began urging the ‘left out’ countries to ‘catch up’. This process of catching up or ‘development’ was to be achieved at two levels – economic and intellectual. Backed by the might of rich and developed countries, international development agencies began providing loans and aid under the pretext of helping the ‘underdeveloped’ countries harness technologies and institutions for accelerating economic activity. Besides, Western educational institutions continued to strengthen their hegemony over knowledge production.
The post-War period witnessed rapid growth and expansion, especially in the two immediate decades from 1950-1970. But as J. R. McNeill notes in Something New Under the Sun (2000), this period also marked an uncontrolled experiment on the earth. Greed for cheap energy forced countries in perpetual conflict, a prominent example being the Gulf War of 1991. More subtly, the West defined the one-dimensional path of progress in culture and knowledge, education and politics, religion and community. Forcing the underdeveloped countries to follow the path charted by the developed countries without considering the unique historical experiences of the former gave rise to what A.G. Frank called the ‘development of underdevelopment’.
Pandemic and Biopolitics
The pandemic has legitimized what Foucault termed as biopower, or the mass control of bodies and populations. Science and technology have become indispensable tools for controlling nature and human thought. The state has established complete dominance over our lives through its various institutions, mainly bureaucracy and military. Instances of police brutality are surfacing every other day during the lockdown. Added to this is the power of technology which facilitates round-the-clock surveillance. The Indian government is trying to mandate the download of the Aarogya Setu contact-tracing application notwithstanding several apprehensions regarding violation of privacy.
Human life can scarcely remain untouched by larger socio-political processes and strategies. This crisis has endangered life itself, making biological life the object of power. The state emerges as the sovereign authority governing every aspect of our public as well as private lives during the pandemic. While the urban upper and middle classes can work from home and be safe inside their gated communities, migrant workers are left with neither work nor home. The logic of biopolitics considers some lives to be dispensable and less equal than others.
Be it for ‘improvement’ in the eighteenth century or for ‘development’ in the twentieth, natural resources and the poor have been exploited as means to greedy ends. In their scramble for development, the most powerful countries of the world have shown little regard for anything, be it the weaker countries or the environment. The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken our belief in the technology-empowered invincibility of human beings. Despite unparalleled advancements in medical science, millions are being infected by the novel coronavirus and thousands have lost their lives. Why are the most developed regions the worst affected? Are ecological disasters and diseases the dialectical repercussions of development?
Epidemics and pandemics have been a part of human history since ancient times. While diseases such as smallpox and plague have been subdued, new infectious ones are emerging. Nevertheless, public health has not received the attention it deserves. The exoticization of diseases tends to dominate our daily discourse rather than holding our governments accountable for their structural failures.
Amartya Sen emphasized the instrumental as well as constitutive values of freedom in the conception of development. Freedom from hunger, morbidity and early mortality are not only instrumental to other freedoms, but also constitutive of the larger development project. Universal access to education and healthcare facilities promote general well-being and are pivotal to growth and development. The dominant idea of development rests on a paradoxical combination – more control (bureaucratic, technological and military) and less freedom. One way to resolve the paradox is to heed Sen’s advice of development as freedom – to ensure substantial freedom through quality education, healthcare, political participation, and social security.
Post Pandemic Recovery: The Rise of the Alpha Dreamers
There are five billion alpha dreamers across the world; why because they are connected globally with all sorts of devices, more so ever than any other time in the history of civilization, and secondly, interacting at 1000 times faster than any invasions of the largest marching armies ever assembled in history. They select and they choose; they browse, click and chat, they like and dislike. All ages and all cultures, opinionated or neutral, but informed they are, evermore than any other civilization ever existed on the planet. Who are they and what are they after?
First, observe, how their silent whispers are still inaudible in the rotundas of power, notice how their hidden power is sweeping the global mind, sharing something never ever dreamt before. As, during the First Word War, symbolized by digging rotten trenches until death or the Second World War symbolized by senseless revengeful carpet-bombings all organized under deep silent agenda. Now in a new differently connected world of today, the common voice of the common person struggling for common good becoming the loudest whisper starts to emerge.
Today, if they all agree to flush the toilets simultaneously around the world it will dry out an ocean the same afternoon. All such mathematics is based on large numbers, few billions here or few billions there, the real power still deeply hidden on 24x7x365 free access culture keeping global dialogue live and global mindshare active. Political punditry ignoring such power seems only waiting for a big slap on the face when dealing with the next coming elections. Study the rise and fall of leadership, scheduled over next 500 days, the outcomes of next 100 national elections across the world. What is happening in your nations, who is vocal and who is silent, but why? The major shifts are on the way.
This is all about five-billion-minds active on global-circuitry learning live-facts in real-time.
Who are they and what are they after? Why the name ‘alpha’ because they are the first largest group ever assembled since Homo erectus? Why the name ‘dreamers’ because the majority are simple common people with simple common dreams of seeking common good and humankind going forward.Alpha dreamers are chasing a better world, not because they have a united cultish agenda but because they treat themselves as ordinary humans and respect humanity. In a world wrapped with fakery, this is a simple goal of a common person, when this multiplied by five billion it automatically becomes an unimagined force. Truth is the shield, diversity and tolerance the only platform left. The world of seek and destroy doctrine will eventually end. The claims to any exceptionalism unless demonstrated in common good is just fakery and tyranny.
Is shutting down the world’s electricity or snatching seven billion phones the next calamity?
Such moves will only prove the panic in rotundas; it is all about courage to face the mirror and deal with the truth, why many billions of people are challenged on issues of humanity, and why such issues come to the forefront. The emergence of a new world is now challenging political agenda, global policies, economic goals, educational values, environments, rights, diversity and tolerance all tested to pursue common good. The five billion connected alpha dreamers will not be fooled all the time. Global public opinion is a simple opinion of social-justice on any street, in any town; village or city, now connected as a multi-billion force.
The elite practitioners of the fine art of image positioning and election punditry always understood that sometimes a one single picture at a wrong or right time decides the election winner. Today when a silent bullet kills a person in the dark of the night, it sometimes shoots billion minds equally when billion images ricochet around the globe. Today, dark alleys and hidden torture chambers becoming live broadcast shows on social media uprooting leaderships, shattering ideologies and exposing false narrative. The tragedy hidden in denying the power of connected global populace and accepting short-fuse of superiority while ignoring common global connectivity. The credibility of the media is gone on the streets of the world, so are the institutions and most leadership. Will this dark silent vacuum filled by the global whisper strong enough to burst eardrums of leadership? Will it make them come together on a new page and listen deeply?
Smart leadership will not survive just by manipulation; hot notions of controlling masses with AI centric facial recognition and profiling will result in more confusion, but with deeper understanding of truthful dialogue with citizenry to downstream real vision of creating grassroots-prosperity will save leadership. Change without pain is not a change rather just a theme based public relation campaign, as if upskilling midsize economies without measuring current levels of lingering competencies is not going forward but in reality sliding backward in slow motion. No single country in the world is either capable or skilled enough to solve all global problems, nor is any single nation exclusive enough to claim any exclusive superiority in humankind. However, each single country is very capable to play a big positive role in the global arena and contribute in big ways with diversity, tolerance and peace. Everyone is important and everyone is needed.
Political leaders with one ear to the ground to listen to public opinion NOW need the other ear also on the planet to listen to the global public opinion and to demonstrate courage to face the music and demonstrate skills to articulate on global issues. Study more on Google.
The rest is easy
Bitcoin Legalization In El Salvador: Heading Towards A Crypto-Friendly Regime
Cryptocurrencies are surely one of the hotly debated topics across the globe. There’s always an ambiguity surrounding the usage and permissibility of crypto assets. Various government entities fear that crypto holds the tremendous power to disrupt the financial and banking sector & it will surely replace the existing financial systems present across the globe. This is 21st century & with the growing technological advancements, the world is rapidly getting acclimatized into the domain of crypto currencies. With this move, some government entities are also changing their perception of cryptocurrencies. The recent legalization of bitcoin in El Salvador can be construed as a prime example of this which apparently came as good news for crypto enthusiasts. The news made El Salvador appearing at the forefront of leading international news channels and websites. By this move it became the first ever country across the globe to legalize any cryptocurrency. The step came after the El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele announced via twitter that bitcoin will now be accepted as a legal tender across the nation. Earlier in the bitcoin conference 2021 held in Miami, the President gave subtle hints of passing a bitcoin legalization bill. From using bitcoin/paypal hashtags to modifying his twitter profile image depicting red lazer eyes (a trendy way to used in internet by crypto enthusiasts to exhibit their support for crypto), the President’s fascination with bitcoin can be construed prominently. The congress passed the bill on 9th June 2021 by the margin of 62 votes out of 84 favoring for legalization apparently termed by the President as what is called a supermajority. The successful execution and implementation of this bill will make way for the proper legalization of bitcoin. The prominent excerpt from the bill said – “The purpose of this law is to regulate bitcoin as unrestricted legal tender with liberating power, unlimited in any transaction, and to any title that public or private natural or legal persons require carrying out.” To further promote the acceptance of bitcoin the president also made it clear that persons holding bitcoin or persons investing in bitcoin in El Salvador will be offered citizenship of the country.
This pro-active stance by the El Salvador government was very much applauded by the industry experts and crypto enthusiasts around the globe. One of the reasons why the congress took such a drastic step is that El Salvador doesn’t have any currency of its own. Up till now, it has been using the United States Dollar as official currency across the nation. With this move the dependence of nation on US Dollar is likely to be diminished. Nevertheless, the President made it clear that US Dollar would be used for accounting and official purposes. As a matter of fact, the El Salvador government also promised to provide training and necessary guidance to the fellow citizens on the usage and holding of bitcoin. For the purpose of creating a robust bitcoin economy, the government will take assistance from newly launched home country based payment service provider platform Strike. Jack Mullers, the founder and CEO of Strike said – “Adopting a natively digital currency as legal tender provides El Salvador the most secure, efficient and globally integrated open payments network in the world.” The announcement of this legalization increased the value of bitcoin which faced a sharp decrease after the infamous crypto market crash few weeks back.
Apart from authorizing a potential future currency, the legalization will have a plethora of benefits for the country as a whole. For instance, it will boost the overall economy, create new job opportunities for citizens, facilitate faster remittances, help in increasing the low banking penetration rate among others, enable citizens of El Salvador living abroad to send tokens into their home country among others and permit the government to officially own bitcoins among others. It will also make El Salvador future proof from the crypto perspective as there is a strong possibility that crypto market will takeover the traditional banking and financial systems of the world in near future. When formally enacted, the citizens will be able to pay taxes in bitcoins, the price of commodities will be displayed in bitcoin, and almost everything related to price can be calculated from bitcoin terms apart from creating a alternative currency working simultaneously along with US Dollar.
The legalization of bitcoin in El Salvador also holds the potential to make a remarkable shift in crypto perspective by other Latin American countries given the fact that the region may become a hub for crypto powered finance. Observing this move many Latin American nations have raised a voice to show support for this move. Countries like Argentina, Brazil, Panama, Paraguay and Mexico have given signs of making a similar move. The top-notch politicians fo the above mentioned countries have already commenced the discussion for providing legal backing to crypto assets.
But taking such a big leap of faith won’t give fruitful results unless & until there’s a strong backing and support provided to it. To realize this bitcoin powered project, the government officials have made it absolutely clear that the geothermal energy will be used for mining bitcoins considering the fact that the country has large repositories of volcanoes. The state-owned geothermal electric company LaGeo will work in assistance with the government officials. Since the President is aware of the ill effects of bitcoin mining on the environment, only the renewable energy source would be used for this project. As per the estimates the carbon dioxide emissions from worldwide bitcoin mining industry has reached a whopping 60 million tonnes, equal to that of exhaust fumes from 9 million cars. Hence keeping in mind the environmental concern, the President gave assurance via twitter that the nations geothermal energy exclusively will be used. He also took to twitter to show his followers about the zero emission bitcoin mining process being tested by the engineers.
A major obstacle in this project comes from the reluctancy of International Monetary Fund (IMF) with this move which highlights the tensed relations between El Salvador and IMF citing the intricacies in economic and financial conditions currently prevailing in the nation. The IMF is of the view that providing legal backing to bitcoin will make El Salvador a safe haven for tax frauds and money laundering. Since bitcoin doesn’t involve tax on capital gains, it will surely pave a way for wealthy individuals and organizations to save themselves from paying heavy taxes. Also, it may facilitate laundering of billions of dollars by criminal enterprises and drug trafficking organizations. Although IMF earlier gave green signal to this move but lately it has been skeptical about the aftereffects of bitcoin legalization.
All in all, what future holds for crypto market is hard to comprehend. However, the scale at which crypto usage is growing, one can easily anticipate that the 2021-30 decade will observe a boom in the crypto financial market. Considering the disruptive nature, potential and audacity of cryptocurrencies, it will definitely replace the traditional financial systems present across the globe. Even then nothing can be predicted with 100% surety. Being a crypto enthusiast, I hope the world adopts a crypto-friendly policy so as to make sure crypto market is being regulated by regulatory bodies to ensure the authentic, safe and secure environment for crypto investors. Meanwhile, we can speculate, make bets and invest on various crypto assets based on our own perceptions and calculations. Till then let’s enjoy the existing regime of crypto around the world.
Assessing the trends of Globalization in the Covid Era
Coronavirus largely represents acceleration in existing globalization trends, rather than a full paradigm shift.
Globalization has ebbed and flowed over the years, but the event panelists agreed that the 2007-08 global financial crash marked a turning point and kicked off a trend “slowbalization”. Falling income, increasing unemployment and inequality proved fertile ground for the rise of nationalism and anti-immigration rhetoric. One of the most potential shifts towards domestic production, which is well underway before corona virus, can accelerate, as rising barriers to the free movement of goods, people and capital that underpin globalization. Technology is at the heart of this unilateralism. In the past two decades, we have seen a shift in the global economy, from a reliance on tangible to intangible assets such as software, which does not require complex supply chains. The rise of artificial intelligence could also displace cheap labor and drive restoring in advanced economies. COVID-19 lockdowns have only accelerated such digitization. Another rise in populism could be on the horizon as well, the whitepaper noted, as millions of people around the world are plunged into poverty. And the reputation of international organizations such as the World Health Organization has been weakened, which may further reduce global cooperation.
Compounding this is the deterioration in US-China relations and an escalating trade war. The resulting uncertainty is delaying companies’ investment decisions and curbing the global capital flows which are a key pillar of globalization.
It will categorize the globe in losers and winners. The most successful countries in the near future are likely to be those that can generate social consensus on policies; small economies that are protected by nearby large markets like China or Europe; and countries with strong public finances that can prop up their domestic economy, such as Switzerland. Exporting countries that cannot rely on domestic markets will be the big losers, such as India and many African nations. Oil exporting countries may also run into trouble because of growing sustainability concerns. So-called green policies will become a key differentiator for countries, as will taxation to finance the post-pandemic recovery.
Globalization has proved to be game changer for whole world in terms of mobility of people resources and capital; flow of people and resources has also made the flow of diseases especially viral diseases through global interconnectedness. Since the occurrence of Covid-19 on December 2019 in China, the world has totally changed and it has left strong impacts on global security as states have faced many challenges in health, domestic and economic sector. The Corona virus was reported in China initially and later due to free movement of people across borders and lack of availability of knowledge on its symptoms and causes it spread to almost all over the world and hit the states from highly developed states to least developed states and alarmed the Global Health and Security.
According to World Health Organization, the total number of covid cases registered is 162773940 and 3375573 people died due to Corona. The pandemic has also posed a great impact on health care systems and huge burden on world economy and social set-up and contributed to the shift in Globalization trends.
Although globalization has ensured economic and cultural growth in recent past but as mobility of people across borders become easier, the spread of diseases also became easier as the bubonic plague was transmitted from China to Europe through trade routes and influenza pandemic spread during WW1 due to movement of armies and Asian flu of 1957 was spread via land and sea travel. Hence, the phenomenon of globalization has amplified global transmission of diseases and there is link of how the close integration of people and flow of trade and commerce also causes disease transmission. The year 2019 proved to be fatal for whole world as novel coronavirus (SARS-Cov-2) observed in Wuhan city of China spread so rapidly that in March, 2020 WHO declared COVID-19 as pandemic and by October 2020, over 41 million confirmed cases and 1.13 million deaths have reported worldwide. The lockdown measures adopted by states to counter the spread of virus during the global pandemic in has not only impacted our livelihood but also affected economy in terms of supply and demand as market places were closed most of the time and decelerated the economic growth of affected countries which reduced trade and increased poverty. As with all forms of volatility, there are both losers and winners as discussed above, and the case of COVID-19 is no different. While globalization may be negatively impacted in the form of the trade of goods and certain services such as travel, other sectors may experience heightened demand. More remote forms of work will only spur on the cross-border flow of data and of dispersed but easily exchanged professional services. As such, not only the suppliers of these services but also the enablers such as Zoom and broadband providers will be the beneficiaries.
Moreover, the low and middle income countries like Pakistan have faced a collapse in health care systems. The lockdowns and restricted movement has put pressure on transportation systems resulting in loss of income, disruption of global trading and halt of tourism sector, decrease in production, consumption, employment and supply chain. Globally centralized supply chains in low labor-cost countries are also being challenged by the increased use of robotics and automation, allowing firms to keep production in relatively expensive countries. COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of automation, as the threat to operations posed by “non-essential” business closures is based on the need to keep people at home. As such, operations that leverage robotics will be less affected. Ironically, among those countries that have weathered this pandemic the best are many with high levels of robotics usage such as South Korea.
Moreover, unemployment has become major issue with 14% decline in jobs related to industry. Moreover, globally over 140 million people are estimated to face extreme poverty along with food insecurity. Along with economic system, countries with active corona cases are vulnerable like Ireland, UK, and Italy despite having good health care facilities. In African continent, the countries that are more vulnerable are South Africa and Egypt, In Europe, Germany, Russia and Italy are more vulnerable and in Asia and Oceania, Pakistan, India and Saudi Arabia and Turkey and in America Brazil, Chile, USA, Mexico and Peru. The Covid came in three different waves and posed more challenge for states like India where the whole health system collapsed and people were helpless.
In Addition to Health care system and economy, the education sector has been affected too mostly in developing and under-developing states. For example, initially when the schools, colleges and universities were closed the students as well as teachers couldn’t adapt immediately to online mode and that made it difficult to acquire quality education. Moreover, the states like Pakistan where internet availability is limited and there are many household that lack access to internet especially rural areas, education could not be provided through online mode. Although the studies at University level continued through online mode, but primary and secondary education sector were severely affected. And this is clear , that the learning acquired by attending institutions and learning at home through online mode are very different and the later requires self-regulation that is very less in today’s youth who have various other distractions in terms of electronic gadgets, social media and mobile phones.
COVID became a global issue in past two years and all the states and international organizations were active to cooperate and spread awareness and adopted measures that could halt its spread. It affected all states and posed challenges on economy, health, education and has exposed the urgent need to revisit disaster preparedness and health care systems as health care capacity of powerful nations have been tested during pandemic. The developed states like US have faced difficulties in controlling the spread of epidemic and less developed have been further unable to respond to and control the situation. The Covid has not only posed challenges to economic and health system but the trends of globalization have also shifted. The states adopted counter strategies where institutions were closed, lockdowns were implemented, travel banned and people have to restrict movement.
In short, Covid has been and still is a challenge that states are facing and all states and international organizations have cooperated to fight this evil through research on its causes and effects. The Global community has been successful to produce vaccine that will control the spread of Corona in future and generate immunity for Virus among people. The fight against corona is still there and future hold secrets of this Global Virus that has changed the whole global structure and posed challenge to developed and under developed sates equally as no one was prepared for this deadly outbreak.
We are shifting to a new model of globalization that is more localized, focused on services, less capital and energy intensive. Globalization will survive in the COVID-era, but it will look vastly different.
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