The year is drawing to a close, memorable for its unrelenting spotlight on coronavirus. Reflecting on the past 12 months, imagine what you would do if you were in a position of great power and influence. Two scenarios are offered, each with different underlying goals. The Global Power Elite scenario is geared toward protecting the right of the super-rich to continue amassing ever more riches, and the One Earth Family scenario is aimed at ensuring every human being can live in dignity and harmony with the earth. I’ll start this exercise; then it’s your turn.
Global Power Elite Scenario
The Global Power Elite[i] described by Peter Phillips include many of the world’s wealthiest and well-connected people in high finance, mega-corporations, information technology, intelligence agencies, public relations, media, academia and politics, in other words, the 0.01%. Some are famous, most are not, but together they exert enormous influence on our daily lives, often without our being aware of it. Their primary goal–endlessly growing capital markets to amass for themselves ever increasing wealth, power and control—is alien to me, so it’s quite a stretch imagining what I would do if I were one of them, but here goes my best attempt:
The emergence of COVID-19 is turning 2020 into a pivotal year for advancing our agenda. As long as we carefully formulate and manage the narrative surrounding it, this humble virus can be utilized to generate significant immediate and long-term investment and profit-making opportunities for those of us with excess capital at our disposal.
It’s about fear. Fear is the fuel that drives the pandemic engine. Early and constant messaging to generate and maintain widespread alarm is essential. People must be led to believe this year’s strain of coronavirus is utterly new, dangerous, highly contagious, lethal and with no known treatments. We convince them that even those who aren’t sick at all are potential disease-causing asymptomatic carriers.
Our vast PR muscle is kicked into high gear, mobilizing global media contacts and planting horrific stories, backed up by our friends in academia and public health. WHO and CDC spokespersons are given talking points, while terrifying predictions of apocalyptic proportions are published. We alert all Epidemic Intelligence Service fellows and alumni to remind them of their critical role in mitigating this dreadful scourge. We silence and demonize any scientists or medical professionals who might produce evidence to suggest otherwise.
Once a sufficient level of fear is internalized by most of the world’s population, deep-seated emotions suppress critical thinking capacity. They believe everything we say, and the rest of the plan falls inexorably into place.
People trust the tests. The PCR test for COVID-19 is the linchpin on which the roll-out of pandemic measures depends. Despite its flaws and limitations, people trust the test because they believe it answers that burning, life-or-death question, “am I infected?”.
The beauty of this test is that the data can be manipulated simply by increasing the number of PCR cycles to levels that produce a higher number of false positives. Since most tests are negative, we massively ramp up the amount of testing over time to yield increasing positives. The test can be used to augment mortality statistics, blurring the line between those who die “of” COVID-19 and those who die “with” it, i.e., of other causes, but happen to test positive. To fulfill the “second wave” prophesy, modest seasonal increases in the fall and winter can be distorted dramatically. Media reports are periodically peppered with “uptick”, “spike”, “surge”, “explosion” of cases.
Financial impact: Soaring demand for universal and frequent testing will favor investments in numerous companies marketing a wide array of testing instruments, including PCR, antigen, antibody, and coming soon the quick and easy at-home version people can take on a daily basis.
People accept unprecedented lockdowns. Lockdowns are the blunt force instrument to make it clear life as we know it is changing for good. Once most people believe that any close contact with another person could have deadly consequences, they accept varying directives to isolate themselves for increasingly extended periods of time. Freedom of assembly and legislative checks on authoritarian executive power are gladly set aside with barely a peep of protest. To placate those captive in their homes (never mind those with miserable homes or no homes at all—we don’t talk about that), our messages instill a sense of purpose and solidarity: “Flatten the curve” becomes a mantra. “We’re all in this together” comforts. The “new normal” will be “inclusive” and “sustainable” (inclusive in our control over everyone and sustainable for us at the top). “Social distancing” is now a way of life.
Financial impact: Endless investment opportunities to fulfill growing demand for video conferencing software and hardware for an array of business, governmental and social activities. Increasing automation, robotics and reliance on artificial intelligence drive values of major on-line retailers, wholesalers, and delivery services sky high. We ensure big corporations and banks get a large chunk of any lockdown relief funds the government allocates. As bankruptcies and lost tax revenues proliferate, we take our excess capital on a veritable shopping spree, snatching up foreclosed properties, failed small businesses and public assets (schools, parks, public transit, postal service, police, fire) at rock bottom prices. We get a jumpstart in profiting from the 4th industrial revolution’s great reset, facilitating electronic control of whole populations.
People willingly mask. Face coverings serve as a useful gauge to measure overall compliance with our fear-based regimen. While awkward at first, people quickly come to accept masks when recommended by celebrities and public health spokespersons. No matter whether worn improperly or constantly being touched and adjusted, masks give people who feel helpless in the face of the virus something visible and tangible to do. Mask requirements make political leaders look decisive and purposeful. Mask avoiders are denounced as selfish. Our PR teams can take care of sidelining and debunking the large body of research showing that masks outside of a clinical setting are not effective at preventing transmission of respiratory viruses. Constant reminders of “Don’t let your guard down” will avoid slippage in compliance.
Financial impact: Investment opportunities in mass marketing of a medical grade, cloth and other types of masks (with endless options for styles, patterns, décor, sports team logos, kid-friendly images, etc.) are just the tip of the iceberg. Demand skyrockets for a whole palette of personal protective equipment in homes and workplaces, including face shields, head coverings, outer wear, booties, gloves, hand sanitizer, plexiglass dividers, disinfecting tools and products, touchless business transacting equipment and more. Prolonged universal masking increases the value of screen time for advertisers, as people come to depend entirely on their devices to see human smiles and other facial expressions.
People demand vaccines. COVID-19 vaccines are the “deus ex machina” that allows the terror of our raging COVID-19 drama to finally be quelled, until the next deadly virus enters the scene. From the beginning, a universal vaccine must be seen as the ultimate and only solution to the rampant pestilence. Pesky doctors who dare make known their positive experiences with effective, safe and inexpensive early outpatient treatments for COVID-19 must be defamed at all costs, and their work censored as needed. Vaccine development will be fast-tracked under the guise of “Operation Warp Speed”. We exaggerate vaccine efficacy and downplay side effects after short-term trials. After all, we’re shielded from liability, so if adverse events arise in the future, it’s not our problem. Those vaccine-hesitant who worry about safety are dismissed as “anti-vaxxers”.
Financial impact: Investment and profit potential for expanding the vaccine market from children to all ages worldwide is staggering. Beyond initial COVID-19 vaccines, there will be booster shots and new vaccines for new viruses in the future. We’ll allow minimal patenting of new treatment drugs, because the vaccine bonanza is the endgame. Treatments can only be marketed to the subsets of populations that are sick. The vaccine market extends to the entire human race. And once we buy enough politicians to overcome annoying barriers of sovereignty over one’s body, there are pots of money to be made in vaccine verification check point systems for sports and entertainment venues, airports, and work places, as well as mandatory injectable surveillance tools.
Children are the future. Children are the prototype human commodities of our blockchain-driven new world order. The sooner they see screens and electronic devices as their primary source of education, social and cultural life, the more malleable they become. Hence frequent school and playground closures, plus cessation of in-person extracurricular activities are a must. Where schools do re-open, children are insulated from their peers by strict social distancing and mask requirements. They are told, “You don’t want to kill Granny, now, do you?” to keep them from breaking the rules. The key is for children to view everyone outside their immediate household as a bio-hazard and to fear touching anyone else, becoming more and more dependent on their electronic devices to meet their emotional needs.
Financial impact: The investment and profit-making opportunities for new educational software, games and social interaction apps are endless. Future generations eagerly acquire virtual reality headsets and software, allowing them to travel the world and experience anything they want from the comfort of their own armchair.
Don’t like the above? Don’t let it happen! Now to switch gears……
One Earth Family Scenario
“Each year, poor nutrition kills 3.1 million children under the age of 5.”[ii] For me, this rarely heard statistic from 2017 utterly eclipses COVID-19 misfortunes. Think about it and let it sink in. “Each year, poor nutrition kills 3.1 million children under the age of 5.” Imagine the profound grief of their parents. Imagine your own small child or the child of a friend or relative dying from starvation. The stories of each of these children and their families are not told, and as long as they’re far away we can easily ignore them. Yet they should play a pivotal role in any strategy to mitigate preventable suffering and death. Pursuing our goal of ensuring every human can live in dignity and harmony with the earth is a collective effort that must include everyone. I offer here a few of the multitudes of constructive voices we should listen to.
Total Harm Minimization:
Yale University doctor and researcher David Katz emphasized early on that we should strive for “total harm minimization” in all decision making about COVID-19. Just as side effects of pharmaceutical products are evaluated prior to their approval, so must we evaluate the profound and far-reaching side effects of proposed COVID-19 mitigation measures like lockdowns, masks, distancing and closing schools, businesses, and civic events before implementing them over prolonged periods of time.
Drs. Sucharit Bhakdi and Karina Reiss [iii] challenge the faulty science driving fear-based decision making, joined by many other experts who have examined the data and assert COVID-19 is comparable to a bad seasonal flu (which also causes fatalities). Bhakdi and Reiss enumerate extensive collateral damage of lockdowns, including intensified poverty, deferral of treatment for other serious ailments and despair. Correlation is lacking between strictness of lockdowns and mask requirements in different states and nations, and COVID-19 incidence and deaths. There are less harmful ways to deal with this virus.
Oxford epidemiologist Sunetra Gupta points out how lockdowns benefit the well-off who have comfortable homes and can work remotely with steady incomes, but they are disastrous for the poor. Lockdowns worldwide have driven up the heartbreaking toll of deadly malnutrition in children. Dr. Gupta is far from alone in suggesting communities and governments can offer needed temporary added protection for the elderly and vulnerable until the virus runs its course, while the rest of us do what we’ve done for generations: collectively shoulder the low risk of a fatal disease outcome as the price of living with each other as social beings. Sensible, targeted measures should be combined with addressing broader and more far-reaching health concerns, including the underlying causes of persistent health disparities among different racial and socioeconomic groups.
Rather than fomenting constant fear, an empowering sense of authentic and optimistic solidarity should be fostered. Visionary physician Zach Bush reminds us joyfully of the miracle that is the human immune system, our prime asset in dealing with potentially harmful pathogens. He encourages immune system boosting via stress reduction, fresh air, exercise, nutritious diet (a big challenge wherever major corporations heavily market junk food), vibrant social interaction, laughter, and an attitude of gratitude for the beauties and mysteries of the human biome and virome, full of useful microorganisms we live in harmony with. Dr. Lissa Rankin[iv] has documented how excessive fear, stress and anxiety weaken us and make us more susceptible to illness. Bush calls for a “Let’s get Healthy Again” campaign using simple means to augment the remarkable self-healing powers humans are endowed with.
Living in balance with ourselves and our surroundings can eliminate the need for many pharmaceutical products, but judicious use of effective remedies (avoiding over-reliance on patents and profit-boosting marketing messages) is appropriate when needed. Rather than accepting the hopeless and near universal message that there is no cure for COVID-19, let’s openly dialog with the countless doctors who have had remarkable success with early outpatient treatment of COVID-19, including ivermectin, hydroxychloroquine, zinc, high dose vitamin C, vitamin D, and more, all of which are safe, effective and cheap. Cuba, a beacon in health promotion, has also developed successful early interventions. Pro-active early treatments can save lives and could reduce reliance on vaccines.
Human dignity impact: Promoting social cohesion, healthful living and harm minimization at all levels helps us avoid illness and builds a foundation for facing each day’s tasks with joy, connection and purpose, until our time comes to move on. We all die eventually, so let’s allow our elders to decide how to spend their last days–in total isolation, or within the warm embrace of community and loved ones.
Cooperation for mutual and equal benefit
TMS readers are no strangers to Johan Galtung’s life work promoting positive peace, beyond the absence of war, with a guiding principle of cooperation for mutual and equal benefit to ensure a dignified life for all. In her recent book Oneness vs. the 1%[v] Vandana Shiva elaborates on themes raised by Phillips around the monopoly-building consolidation of wealth and power by the global elites through the merging, networking and escalation of biotechnology, information technology and financial technology, too often at the expense of our health and deeper humanity. She juxtaposes this bleak and pathological trend with a vision for healing the earth and all people through the concept of our One Earth Family, enabling “a transition from scarcity, competition and fear to the co-creation of abundance through sharing.”
Shiva stresses Gandhi’s guiding principles of Swaraj—self-governance for the common good of all, Swadeshi—self-reliance through local living economies, and Satyagraha—force of truth fueling non-participation in destructive systems. We see millions of Indian workers and farmers go on strike against poverty and unemployment. Nonviolent racial justice demonstrations and anti-lockdown protests (both masked and unmasked) erupt worldwide without causing spikes in COVID-19 illness or death.
We can phase out all health destroying enterprises–toxic industries, nuclear weapons, foreign military bases, killing machines, unsafe pharmaceuticals–and invite our best minds from the bottom up to devise technologies that actually meet everyone’s needs rather than enrich those at the top. Workers in harmful sectors can be redirected to jobs that make people’s lives more wonderful.
Major redistribution of wealth and priorities will make for a happier and healthier human family. Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz concurs: “Ensuring those at the top pay their fair share of taxes — ending the special privileges of speculators, corporations and the rich — is both pragmatic and fair. We are not embracing a politics of envy if we reverse a politics of greed. Inequality is not just about the top marginal tax rate but also about our children’s access to food and the right to justice for all.” It’s time to end the pandemic of greed.
Human dignity impact: We are truly all in it together only when all are equally valued and interconnected with each other and the rich resources of our mother earth. A quality of life floor and a personal wealth ceiling make a house we can all live in, warmed with love and opening to a beautiful garden under the sky, where everyone can enjoy unlimited intellectual, social and cultural riches.
Children are the future
Children are wondrous beings, full of intelligence, curiosity and resilience, reflecting the love we shower on them. Fortunately, COVID-19 has minimal adverse impact on children; much less than various strains of influenza we live with continually. Therefore, children should keep on mingling with friends, attending school, engaging in sports and cultural activities, and exploring the world around them.
Children’s immune systems are strengthened by repeated contact with all the impurities of their environments. Playing outdoors, touching plants, dirt and other people is good for them. Purely sterile settings are hazardous to their health in the long run. Since body language is their primary communication tool, extensive masking hinders children’s development. Reading facial expressions enhances their emotional intelligence. Our youth require a steady stream of mental, social and physical stimulation and sustenance. Let’s collectively strive to say next December, “This year, not one child died from poor nutrition.”
Human dignity impact: Well-nourished and cherished children grow into adults who use all their senses, intellect, creativity, intuition and emotions to thrive in an interconnected world, bringing generation after generation closer to a dignified life for all.
Two years ago, Galtung anointed 2019 as the Year of Health. Let’s make 2021 another Year of Health in the broadest and deepest sense of the word at both the personal and societal level.
[i] Peter Phillips, Giants: The Global Power Elite, Seven Stories Press 2018
[ii] Quoted in Phillips, p. 31
[iii] Sucharit Bhakdi and Karina Reiss, Corona False Alarm? Facts and Figures, Chelsea Green Publishing 2020
[iv] Lissa Rankin, Mind over Medicine: Scientific Proof that You Can Heal Yourself, Hay House Inc. 2013
[v] Vandana Shiva, Oneness vs. the 1%: Shattering Illusions, Seeding Freedom 2nd edition, Chelsea Green Publishing 2020
Marilyn Langlois is a member of TRANSCEND USA West Coast. She is a volunteer community organizer and international solidarity activist based in Richmond, California. A co-founder of the Richmond Progressive Alliance, member of Haiti Action Committee and Board member of Task Force on the Americas, she is retired from previous employment as a teacher, secretary, administrator, mediator and community advocate.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 14 Dec 2020.