No one doubts that the world will suffer huge losses as a result of the pandemic. Yet, dialectics says that losses must co-exist with gains, and losers with winners.
Most of us will lose, but who will gain? First, a general observation: following a major upheaval, the world never emerges at the other end the same as it was going in.
The Black Death put paid to the Middle Ages. Napoleonic wars drove the last nail into the coffin of Christendom. The First World War killed what was left of traditional Europe and gave birth to two satanic regimes. The Great Depression followed by another world war enshrined the big corporatist state with strong socialist overtones.
Squeezing all such developments under the same umbrella is difficult, but some common tendencies are detectable.
The state steadily gets stronger, bigger and more centralised. The West becomes more secularised, with a tendency towards neo-paganism. Political extremism thrives, starting at the margins and slowly seeping into the mainstream. Society becomes more stratified, a tendency made even more obvious by the backdrop of incessant egalitarian propaganda.
Alas, neither history nor common sense points at things being substantially different in the aftermath of the current pandemic. Now, Cassandra’s plight shows the danger of making predictions. But hell, nothing ventured…
Hence, in no particular order, here’s my starter for ten:
The EU will soldier on, but the fault lines, already noticeable before the crisis, will steadily turn into chasms. That ugly construct has always shown its impotence at crisis time, and now more than ever.
Even the two seminal EU countries, Germany and France, are appealing to national, rather than pan-European solidarity. The choral finale of Beethoven’s Ninth has been effectively replaced as the EU anthem by each member screaming Sauve qui peut! at the top of his voice.
The state will assume greater powers throughout Europe. Major industries will be nationalised either outright or under the guise of rescue packages, and public spending – which is to say state power – will grow exponentially.
This will happen by popular demand, for Europeans have been brainwashed to regard ‘capitalism’ with suspicion. Their fickle affection for it has to be bought, and the price is steep: greater and more conspicuous consumption.
When an economy’s ability to deliver is hampered by either its own mistakes or force majeure, it’s seen as being in default of its promise. The people’s craving for a paternalistic state, carefully fostered over decades of strident propaganda, comes to the fore.
Thus a current poll shows that more than 70 per cent of the French want the state to nationalise key industries – and the same slant is observable throughout Europe, if perhaps not everywhere on the same scale.
Since European, and generally Western, countries are governed not by sage statesmen but by self-serving politicians, they’ll treat such polls as their marching orders.
As always, when a shift to greater corporatism happens, the money supply will be inflated. Savings, pensions and investments in long-term securities will collapse, while the value of properties will inflate in parallel with the money supply.
This will set the stage for a carbon copy of the 2008 crisis, but blown up to a greater scale and accompanied by wider unemployment. That will both increase the size of the dependent class and lower the purchasing power of those in work.
As a result, fascisoid authoritarian parties, of either left or right, will take over in some European countries, starting with the continent’s low rent part. Even if they don’t, they’ll acquire a more prominent role, and not only in Eastern Europe.
Hungary and Czechia will probably be the first to go that way, although in Hungary’s case the future tense may be misplaced: her nationalist PM Orbán is already ruling by decree, and his country is widely regarded as the first authoritarian member of the EU.
Orbán, Czechia’s Zeman and Poland’s Duda have close ties with Putin and his kleptofascist clique. Their countries may drift out of the EU, de facto at any rate, and into Russia’s re-established sphere of influence. That will effectively invalidate Nato and shift the global strategic balance towards Russia and, even more so, China.
Western European governments, including Germany, France and Britain, are all governed by ineffectual, what I call spivocratic, elites. However, bad is better than worse, and worse is better than worst.
Much as I may mock France’s Macron, for example, he is preferable to Le Pen or Mélenchon; and I’d rather Britain were governed by Johnson than by Corbyn, Tommy Robinson or their typological equivalents.
However, the Macrons, Merkels and Johnsons won’t stay in power for long – and even if they do, they won’t stay the same. The gravitational pull exerted by extremists will force the mainstream parties to abandon their few free-market policies and push them towards greater corporatism. Since their instincts already point in that direction, the shift won’t take long.
A swing to either extreme is bound to lead to an upsurge of chauvinism, xenophobia (in its real meaning, not as shorthand for opposing the Islamisation of Europe), anti-Semitism and other manifestations of pond life.
In France, Jews (either as such or as the embodiment of capitalism) are already being blamed for the pandemic. That seems counterintuitive, considering the origin of the virus in communist China, which is neither excessively liberal nor particularly Hebraic. But such emotions come not from the mind but from the heart and, as the French say courtesy of Pascal, le cœur a ses raisons.
European governments will rail against extremism in public, while doing nothing about it in reality. They’ll gauge the public mood and act accordingly.
No moral counterweight will be provided by Christianity, for even Catholic churches, to say nothing of Protestant ones, will empty out even more than now.
Brace yourself, in other words. Things will probably get tough, and they’ll certainly change beyond recognition.