QUICK SUMMARY OF PART ONE
- The origin of the new corona virus remains unclear. One question hangs in the air: is this virus a natural occurrence or is it man made?
- 94% of the infected are asymptomatic (no symptoms) or paucisymptomatic (light symptoms). In most cases it is a mild disease which heals by in about ten days and without complications.
- The fight against the Covid disease is a race against time, the medical intervention must be prompt.
- As of today, no one has provided an official therapeutic plan.
- Hydroxychloroquine has shown “on the field” to be a highly effective treatment for COVID-19.
- 1.24% of all Italians have tested positive to the PCR test.
- PCR test is unable to measure viral load correctly. When the test is run at 35 cycles or higher it is useless and misleading. A PCR test that was run over 35 cycles of amplification will give anything between 50% and 91% of false positives. Italy uses anything between 35 and 45 cycles.
- Patients hospitalised with symptoms in Italy are 31,200 that is 4.1% of those tested positive or 0.05% of all Italians.
- The virus has a mortality rate (number of people who died due to the disease divided by the total population) of 0.09%. So its mortality rate is extremely low.
- 90% of the dead were over the age of eighty and/or had other preexisting diseases.
- The latest survival rate estimates from the Center for Disease Control (CDC-National public health institute in the United States) are:
Age 0-19 … 99.997%
Age 20-49 … 99.98%
Age 50-69 … 99.5%
Age 70+ … 94.6%
DISCLAIMER: As for the first part of the article I will use Italy as a case study.
TWO VISIONS OF THE WORLD
We are at war! Not with a virus but with a thought. The two fighting sides are camped in two diametrically opposed visions of the world.
On the right corner we find the thinking currently known as neoliberalism. It’s vision of the world is rooted in extreme materialism, nihilism, competition, hedonism and the search of individual power at all cost. It is a profoundly separative thinking which promotes and creates conflict and injustice. It is a thinking that stops at the level of ordinary reason. Compared to the fundamental problems of life it is a dull and often criminal thinking which puts personal will against the will of the whole. It offers no possibility of orientation in the world other than violence and supremacy.
On the left corner we find the thinking currently known as constitutionalism. It is a spiritual thinking rooted in a universal ethical conscience based on the declaration of human rights. It promotes and creates connection, collaboration, peace and justice. It’s vision of the world is rooted in spiritual intelligence and aims to reach a level of consciousness where the heart and the intellect walk side by side. It offers many possibilities of orientation in the world all based on love and compassion. It is a thinking that puts personal will in harmony with the will of the whole.
The war between these two visions of the human experience has been raging since men have walked the earth. Of course the names and the weapons have changed over time but the fundamental dichotomy of vision has remained intact. It is the old and mythological war between good and evil and the Covid crisis is nothing more than it’s latest battle.
HOW WE GOT HERE
To understand our current situation, it seems to me, it’s imperative to give a bird-eye view to the historical trajectory that led us where we are.
After the Russian October Revolution of 1917 the economic system known as capitalism was kept in check by an alternative reality called communism. We will not enter the discussion about the pros and cons of each system but simply point out the fact that there was a duality in political ideology. Each system needed to prove to it’s people that it was the best.
This translated, in the West, into the fear, of political and industry leaders, that workers could “go red”. And that meant that workers had to be kept happy. The proceeds of growth were shared. Trade unions were strong. Welfare benefits were generous. Investment in public infrastructure was high. In short capitalist countries experienced an extraordinary period of decreasing inequality from around 1920s to 1980s mainly because they incorporated a touch of socialism within their system.
Then the Berlin wall came down and once the Soviet Union collapsed there was no need for capitalism to be so generous no more. The surprising fact of the end of the cold war is that both communism and capitalism, at least in it’s “kinder” version, were destroyed (I write surprising but it should not be surprising at all considering that both systems are nothing more than two sides of the same medal; both expressions of materialism and productivism). Communism became a relic of History and capitalism became a “let the bull loose” (Reagan dixit) neoliberal extravaganza. Or, as I like to call it, capitalism on steroids (and lots and lots of South American imported cocaine).
In the 1990s market forces began to reign supreme. They spread all over the world, namely in the poorest countries; that meant cheaper goods but it also put downward pressure on wages. What’s more there was no longer any political and/or economical need to be constrained by social fairness. Governments and companies could take much larger slices of the profit pie, reduce workers’ rights, remove benefits and begin to dismantle the welfare state because there was nowhere else for workers to go. If citizens did not like these “reforms” they could always hang themselves. Instead of the triumph of democracy, we witnessed the triumph of the elites.
Then came the financial crisis of 2008 which, to those who were even vaguely paying attention, revealed the dark side of the post-cold war model. The crisis cost 30 million jobs worldwide and yet, it was not used as an opportunity to set up a serious regulation of the financial market, nor a profound critical reflection on neoliberal practices and the consequences in terms of inequalities that derive from them. Instead, in the US, president Obama gave billions of dollars to these criminal systems (too big to fail, remember?) and in Europe one magic word was on everybody’s lips: austerity!
CUTS TO THE HEALTHCARE SYSTEM
Shortly after the financial crisis, in 2011, following Silvio Berlusconi’s resignation (under blackmail from the European Central Bank and the financial markets), Italian president Giorgio Napolitano asked Mario Monti (an economist, advisor to Goldman Sachs, member of the trilateral commission and trustee of speculative markets and great no border capitals) to form a new government with a single purpose imposed by the European Central Bank: to apply austerity measures in Italy (a carnage for the working and middle classes). The purpose of the operation was to dismantle what remained of the welfare state and advance the privatisation agenda. The Monti government was the mask of the dictatorship of the markets against the interests of the people. It was the bearer of a vision of politics as a practice intended to guarantee the free play of the deregulated market, free from any kind of Keynesian interventionism without hindrance or slowdowns.
One of the first things to be cut out of the welfare system was healthcare. The reason why is simple to explain: healthcare is very expensive. Furthermore this allowed private healthcare to fill the void left by the public one. And it goes without saying that private healthcare is where speculators can make money.
The Monti government imposed a maximum standard of 3.7 beds available per thousand inhabitants, causing a decline of 26,708 units. His work was continued by the following governments (Letta, Renzi, Gentiloni and the current Conte).
In the past ten years the Italian public healthcare was the victim of financial cuts worth 37 billion Euros. According to the OMS during this period 70,000 hospital beds disappeared, and so did 51% of the beds for intensive care which went from 575 per 100 thousand inhabitants to the current 275. From 2007 to today 200 hospitals were shut down.
Staff cuts followed a similar trend: 46,000 employees (doctors, nurses, emergency medical service, family doctors) were lost in those years. Now, with the coronavirus emergency underway, the government was obliged to urgently hire 20,000 doctors and nurses whom, however, have not yet passed the state exam. Yes, you read that correctly, the current pandemic is being fought by an army of students.
The situation of the Italian health system is similar to that of the British health service, the famous NHS. According to research by a think tank close to the Labor Party, the “hollowing out” of funding to the NHS has caused about 130,000 avoidable deaths in the last 20 years.
As a final “fun fact” it is worth pointing out that a country should renew it’s pandemic plan every 3 years. Due to the cuts in healthcare, the Italian pandemic plan dates back to 2006.
I invite you to always remember these numbers when the political class proclaims its action in the interest of the health of the people.
One might be tempted to blame this on Italians and their passion for pizza, wine and “making-the-sex” but the reality is that the same principles (destruction of the welfare system) have been taking place all over Europe. And then came Covid.
In an attempt to come to the defense of governments and to mitigate my criticisms I don’t think we can point fingers on how the Covid crisis was handled at it’s dawn. One could make the point that we were hit by a new disease, mistakes were made but the situation was unusual and unexpected and governments were trying to do their best. But nine months have passed and what could have been magnanimously classified as “mismanagement under pressure” must now be considered highly suspicious.
With the data in our possession (as listed at the top of this article), and attempting to reason through a “risk and benefit” analysis, I feel there are only two possible explanations for the way governments have been dealing with the crisis: complete ineptitude and idiocy or connivance with a criminal intent.
There are multiple elements that make me think that governmental response to the crisis cannot simply be excused by ineptitude but must be looked for elsewhere.
The most serious one being the prohibition and obstruction of autopsies because considered dangerous. From a scientific point of view this is an absolute idiocy! The autopsy is the basis for knowing and studying a disease. It is a fundamental medical procedure and has been practiced at least since the time of ancient Egypt in 3000 BC, in an attempt to understand and prevent diseases. It is unbelievable and unacceptable that in 2020, with all the necessary technological precautions at our disposal, an autopsy would be deemed dangerous by our governments and forbidden on such grounds. We can only ask ourselves: why was this done?
The second element is the multiple attempts to prevent, in every way possible, trained and honest doctors, who demonstrated they had multiple solutions to treat the disease, from doing their job. In the first part of this article we talked about how hydroxychloroquine was banned even though it was used to cure thousands of patients. The suppression, obscuration, and systematic rejection of any possible low-cost treatment that emerged (see plasmapheresis, hydroxychloroquine, cortisone…) must, again, make us ask this simple question: why?
Third we must consider how since the beginning of the health crisis doctors have been begging governments to implement and strengthen care from home. As soon as they understood that time was a key factor in treating the disease (and this happened very early in the crisis), they set up protocols to treat patients from their home. The latest numbers demonstrate the effectiveness of such approach very clearly: of all patients (who were treated early and from home) only 5% were hospitalised and the lethality rate within these people is close to 0%. Yes, you read that correctly: in Italy almost no one died from Covid-19 if treated early and from home. Following these protocols would have saved thousands of lives. Why was this not done?
Fourth we must ask ourselves why every and any dissenting voice coming from the medical field, no matter their degree of talent and recognition, was immediately and violently shut down through threats and expulsions from the medical order (a tactic that reminds of the Spanish inquisition or the trials of Galileo)? Why only the unison voices of doctors singing the official version were listened to? It is worth remembering that medicine is not an exact science (it’s not a dogma), it proceeds by trial and error and by sharing information and points of view. Furthermore please keep in mind that there is no such thing as a Covid-19 expert, simply because the virus is too young. Discussion between experts is at the heart of scientific discovery (and coincidentally at the heart of democracy) but these discussions never took place. Why?
Finally we must consider the continuously contradictory and confusing governmental directives. A good example of this is the back and forth of opening, then closing, then opening with precautions, then closing again of bars, restaurants and shops. This is a form of persecution of the citizens who no longer know what to do nor how. Reason, it would seem, was abandoned. If this was excusable at the beginning of the crisis it no longer is today and must force us to ask, yet again: why? Why no plan has been put in place other that advising us to wash our hands and stay at home?
As I said I only see two possibilities: we are either ruled by incompetent people or by criminals. In the first case they must be democratically removed from their position, in the second they must be judged in a court of law.
I find it interesting that the expression used to describe the confinement imposed by governments is “lockdown”. They could have chosen ”stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place”, for instance, but they went with lockdown, a term that is most often used in penitentiaries all over the world to describe a prison protocol used to control the movement of inmates. A protocol used to confine all prisoners to their cells to prevent prison riots or unrest from spreading. I know this will be read as “conspiracy theory” by some but I suggest to never underestimate the importance of words. Humans are humans because of the logos (from the Greek: word, reason) after all.
But definitions and etymology aside it is undeniable that the practice of locking down entire countries will have tremendous consequences in the short, medium and long term. It is clear that lockdowns have led to a number of adverse consequences such as unprecedented economic retraction, psychological stress, suicides, and disruptions to all sorts of important social and democratic institutions. These factors alone, combined with the questionable efficacy of lockdown policies in preventing Covid-19 deaths, should encourage us to consider the true utility of these measures.
Although the idea of “Flatten the Curve” may have been a suitable strategy in the beginning, in order not to overload hospitals, there are significant unintended (maybe) consequences of lockdowns, especially in public health. Furthermore we must consider the fact that nine months of off and on lockdowns have had no significant effect on the spread of the virus. But what they did do is have an effect of the health of young healthy citizens. On this topic it is worth noting that a recent study showed that most deaths from Covid-19 occur in people close to life expectancy, while lockdown-induced deaths occur in young people far from life expectancy, resulting in a high number of total life years lost. So in a spirit of “costs and benefits” reasoning we must ask ourselves: was it worth it?
Dr. David Nabarro from the WHO doesn’t seem to think so, as he appealed to world leaders telling them to stop “using lockdowns as your primary control method” of the coronavirus.
He claimed that the only thing lockdowns achieved was poverty. “Lockdowns just have one consequence that you must never ever belittle, and that is making poor people an awful lot poorer,” he said. “We in the World Health Organisation do not advocate lockdowns as the primary means of control of this virus,” He continued, “The only time we believe a lockdown is justified is to buy you time to reorganise, regroup, rebalance your resources, protect your health workers who are exhausted, but by and large, we’d rather not do it.”
It is also worth remembering that a number of health experts from all over the world came together to write a petition, called the Great Barrington Declaration, calling for an end to coronavirus lockdowns because these were doing “irreparable damage.”
They wrote: “As infectious disease epidemiologists and public health scientists, we have grave concerns about the damaging physical and mental health impacts of the prevailing COVID-19 policies, and recommend an approach we call Focused Protection” A strategy that can be resumed as follows: “Adopting measures to protect the vulnerable should be the central aim of public health responses to COVID-19”. The petition was authored by Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford, Jay Bhattacharya of Stanford University, and Martin Kulldorff of Harvard University amongst others.
Now it’s not my place to judge the quality and effectiveness of their proposition, my ignorance on the subject is too great, but as a citizen I would like it to be openly discussed rather than silenced a priori.
What is certain is that, according to the UN, lockdowns may put the livelihood of 1.6 billion people at acute risk and may push an additional 150 million children into poverty. Unemployment, bankruptcies and psychological problems have reached record levels worldwide as we will see in the next chapter.
So it seems clear that although shutting down entire countries, as you would a prison, has not brought us clear benefits, it’s having some deep, deadly and long lasting costs. In other words there are more risks of dying from the consequences of lockdowns than from COVID.
ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL CONSEQUENCES
A spokesperson of the International Monetary fund (IMF) said it best: “It is very likely that this year the global economy will experience its worst recession since the Great Depression, surpassing that seen during the global financial crisis a decade ago. ‘The Great Lockdown’, as one might call it, is projected to shrink global growth dramatically.” The same institution calculated a global growth contraction of 3% for 2020 alone. To have a comparative idea of what that means let me point out that the near meltdown of the global financial system in late 2008 made global activity shrink by 0.1% in 2009.
The rich economies of the west are forecast to shrink by 6.1% on average. Italy and Spain, the two worst-affected European economies, will see GDP falls of 9.1% and 8%, respectively. Here’s a list of the rest:
- US -5.9%
- Germany -7.0%
- France -7.2%
- UK -6.5%
- Russia -5.5%
The International Labour Organization has warned us that almost half the global workforce (1.6 billion people) are in “immediate danger of having their livelihoods destroyed” by the economic impact of Covid-19.
According to the UN:
- another 207 million people could fall into extreme poverty from the severe long-term impact of the coronavirus pandemic (personally I claim from the political handling of the pandemic rather than the pandemic itself), bringing the total number to over one billion by 2030.
- 80% of the economic crisis will persist for over a decade.
Anyone bragging about a rebound in the next year is either delusional or a liar. The director of the United Nations World Food Program, David Beasley, warned that the year 2021 will be “catastrophic” and added that in a dozen countries famine “knocks on the door”. He addd that this is “the worst year of humanitarian crisis since the beginning of the United Nations” 75 years ago.
Furthermore, for the first time in its 70-year history, UNICEF has launched an emergency response to help feed children in the UK. According to UNICEF, 2.4 million British children already grow up in food-insecure households and over a fifth of these households with children have gone hungry during the lockdown due to financial difficulty.
In Rome food aid has increased by 600%.
In Italy more than half of the country’s companies (51.5%) say that liquidity may not be sufficient to meet expenses in the current year. The situation worsens as the company size decreases.
Unemployment, bankruptcies and psychological problems have reached record levels worldwide.
In Italy alone:
- Suicides have increased by 15%
- Suicide attempts have increased by 40%
- Femicides have increased by 15%
- Violence against children has increased by 20%
- Consumption of anxiolytics has increased by 3 times.
- Psychological trauma is counted in millions of new cases (a recent study has found that 3 out of 4 children have had some kind of psychological trauma during the crisis)
- 4 million medical consultations have been postponed (how many lives will be lost because of this?)
I will stop this list here because I feel like crying. I will simply conclude with a simple question that I think we should all ask ourselves (preferably in the middle of the night, when alone and watching ourselves in the mirror): was all of this worth it? To fight a disease that has a 0.09% mortality rate.
Or, to be even more provocative, we ask, is poverty the only way to fight a virus that in 99% of cases is non-fatal?
How was the majority of people convinced that we must cancel constitutional rights, let government officials govern by decree, devastate the economy (or at least small and medium businesses), make multinationals censor any dissent, force everyone to wear surgical masks, place in house arrest whole societies, psychologically terrify children and transform the planet into a paranoid and totalitarian society because of a virus that has a 0.09% mortality rate?
The short answer to that is fear! Fear, fear, fear! Fear is the great obstacle that blocks all other feelings. There is no love where there is fear, no reasoning, no mental clarity, no rationality, no bravery. Fear destroys people’s psyche and generates inability to reason. It is the most effective way to topple down the rights of a people because only fear provides masses who are not very lucid, confused, afraid and therefore willing to do anything, to accept anything. The greatest pandemic we’ve witnessed in the past nine months has been a pandemic of fear and panic. And it was spread by the so called mainstream media, the great source of terror.
The media tried to scare us in every possible way (and in most cases succeeded) using refined tactics and techniques to create anguish, terror, pessimism, discouragement, resignation and above all division among human beings isolated in their fear of the dark.
The fundamental idea of these techniques is to control the “perception” of the situation. In other words, how the real situation is “received” by the subjects. This “perception” is artfully manipulated through the use of these techniques.
These are well known by people who (like myself) have studied the field of communication, especially advertising, or the work of Edward Bernays (a nephew of Freud and father of modern mass propaganda). They should also be recognisable by any serious historian for countless times they have been used by totalitarian regimes’ propaganda machine throughout history. I will simply point out the most common ones:
- Ad nauseam propaganda: this type of propaganda relies on the power of repetition. As Joseph Goebbels (Minister of Propaganda of Nazi Germany) famously said: “Repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth.” In the case of Covid we have a thumping information: at least two war bulletins a day.
- Card stacking: to present selective information to paint an incomplete and incorrect narrative to influence people. A clear example of this is the whole discussion and purposefully created confusion on the difference between people who died “of Covid” and people who died “with Covid” (a huge difference from a medical and statistical standpoint). This not only allowed to hide the real numbers of the crisis but also created a perpetual state of confusion and fear. Another example of card stacking is the fact that every news would begin by stating the number of new “cases”, leaving out the fact that all that “new cases” means is people who tested positive to a PCR test (a highly inaccurate test as we’ve seen in the first part of this article). It does not mean that the person is sick or that they have symptoms. Another example is the fact that most of the time the numbers of new cases and deaths are announced, but only rarely (or as background news) are the numbers of asymptomatic and people healed from the disease reported.
- Glittering generalities: it employs loaded words and strong slogans to leave an impact on the audience receiving the message. In Italy we had “All will be well”, in English speaking countries “we’re all in this together”, in China ““Mask or respirator, you have to ponder and choose one out of the two” just to give some examples (there were plenty more).
- Testimonial: to use well-known or credible figures to influence the target audience. How many singers, Hollywood stars and sports personality have we seen parroting the official narratives over and over, calling for the population to “stay at home” (of course from the comfort of their villas equipped with swimming pools, large gardens and Swedish saunas).
- Name-calling: name-calling propaganda is based on putting the other party down by all rhetorical means necessary. In the case of Covid anyone who dared ask questions or contradict the official narrative was immediately accused of being a “conspirationist”, a “fascist”, an “anti-vaxxer”, a “criminal”, a “subversive”, a “fool”, a “danger for himself and for others” and so on and so on. This helps cover up and marginalise any form of dissent.
In short the communication around the Covid situation is based on the “worst case scenario” approach, on confusion, exaggeration, frenzy and loss of reason that spreads the fear of contagion and death.
Fear has become virulent and contagious; common sense, reasonableness and critical ability to evaluate data for what it shows have been lost. Sadly reasoning and common sense are not contagious (being virtues of the few).
The conduct of most mainstream media, under the terms of the law, is called “Intentional alarm” and is punishable with imprisonment. I sincerely hope to see that day!
END OF PART TWO
In PART THREE, the final part of this article, we will discuss the most pressing question of them all: cui prodest? We will see who are the winners of this situation (because rest assured there are winners, there always are), how the political response to the pandemic has produced one of the greatest wealth transfers in history and the possible outcomes of this in the years to come (or what I call the new capitalist feudalism).