Saturday, March 28, 2020

Coronavirus - we can change the world

An inteview with Rutger Bregman,  author of 'Utopia for Realists: And How We Can Get There', makes interesting reading.

"There is certainly a longstanding idea within western culture that civilization is only a thin veneer. As soon as something happens, say a war or a natural disaster or an epidemic like we're going through right now, the worst comes out in each of us. We revert to our true selves and we're all selfish and turn out to be animals. This is an old idea in western culture. You find it as far back as the ancient Greeks and with the founding fathers of the Christian church and with the Enlightenment philosophers. I think it's one of the central dogmas of our current capitalist models. But scientifically we know now it's wrong. What we've seen in the past 15 to 20 years is that scientists from diverse disciplines, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, archaeologists, you name it, have moved to a much more hopeful view of humanity. If you look at the data and at the actual behavior of people and experiments in history, you see that most people are actually pretty decent."

"Obviously, today it's also relatively easy to see the selfishness. You just switch on the TV and you see reports about panic purchases, or people hoarding or fighting over toilet paper. Although I think that the vast majority of the behavior we're seeing right now is pro-social in nature.  For every panic buyer, there are a thousand nurses working as hard as they can. For every hoarder, there are a thousand civilians setting up WhatsApp groups and Facebook groups and people in the neighborhood trying to help each other."
"My hope is that the corona crisis will help bring us into a new age of cooperation and solidarity and a realization that we're in this together.  Since the 70s and the 80s you see the rise of neoliberalism. The central dogma of neoliberalism was that most people are selfish. So, we started designing our institutions around that idea, our schools, our workplaces, our democracies. The government became less and less important.  But now as we're living through a pandemic we realize we need to do these things together." 
"This is what a crisis does: It makes you question the status quo. That doesn't mean that after a crisis we move into some kind of utopia. But it is an opportunity for political change."

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