The real cost of the pandemic may change the world
Like many others in 2020, I lost my job due to the economic upheaval caused by a global pandemic unleashed by an irresponsible hegemonic superpower which as early as 2013 experimented with bat viruses in its biochemical warfare labels.
I was a witness to some of these invents and at the end of it the ostracism of Taiwan which warned first about the Chinese experiments but was ignored by the WHO.
Thankfully, COVID-19 has a low mortality rate, although it is not the flu and the long-term health effect effects on the respiratory system, nervous system, heart and even musculature may take decades to become apparent.
The real costs of the virus, however, will be economic. Already, the hospitality industry, hotel and travel business around the globe are suffering. Even in countries with low infection rates, businesses are closing down due to lack of vIsitors.
Already pummeled by technological changes, many industries are automating no longer need the armies of workers that made the middle class rich in the second half of the 20th century. The skills needed today can increasingly be complemented or replaced by computers. Unemployment is not rising because we are creating low-pay jobs and those catering to the rich, not meaningful careers that guarantee a livelihood.
A pandemic ruins the travel industry but also the arts. Those dependent on live performances, real spectators rather than the written word or remote endeavors, are going extinct. In most countries museums and theaters are now entirely financed by states, something that cannot last forever. Medication is either unobtainable or prohibitively expensive an countries that have produced generics for e.g. cancer and HIV cannot be visited atm and are even shutting down medical tourism to keep their own citizens alive.
In this situation, the calls for a Universal Basic Income are becoming louder and its implementation inevitable. We can no longer rely on an arbitrary, complicated system of social benefits dependent on antiquated rules. We need to reform tax systems that have impoverished the middle class, diminished the chances of the poor, and is universally exploited by the rich.
A universal basic income is now more necessary than ever because millions will never get back on their feet. Especially for those over 50, finding a job has become near impossible. And if they do, it is a low paid meaningless work far removed from the skills they acquired over the course of a lifetime.
In order to save a generation, we must improve everyone’s life, not just those of the rich. Global decrease in poverty as measured by the UN or WEF is meaningless if millions of middle class citizens fall back into relative poverty. Poverty is measured by a certain amount of dollars per day someone needs to survive. That is nonsense. For worker in a low level income country, driving for Uber Eats may be a godsend; for a flight attendant who lost their job due to COVID, it is a brutal step down – in incoming, quality of life, and self esteem.
Let’s not forget the ailing population. Not ailing from any particular sickness, but ailing from that most trying of old conditions: old age, frailty, and simply the loss of ability to do what a 20-year old could do. Their skills and knowledge no longer have the same value as before. For every person retiring in security and safety, these is another one who lost everything, usually between 50 and 60, to unscrupulous banks, investment advice, loss of income opportunities, or the financial burden of taking care of one’s parents.
We can continue to muddle on, or we can make permanent changes to the way society is organized. Winner takes all capitalism is not the way forward.