Coronavirus and “Common Sense”

By Emilio Bueno (Writing from Vera, Spain)

The neutral ideology

We are constantly witnessing how the right and left-wing are fighting, debating what is good for people or what is not. But today, in the times of the coronavirus, attention has shifted towards the management of the crisis. In this struggle, another point of view has appeared, which I will call the “non-political view”. A lot of people are demanding unity, solidarity, abandoning the old fight between parties and shaking hands (obviously, from a distance of two meters) to defeat the virus. We hear statements like: “This is not a political question”, “We need to be together against this”, “Stop this nonsense”, “In this fight, there are no ideologies”, etc. I don’t know what the reader thinks or if they have a similar situation in their country. But to me, this is terrifying, because all these sentences are lies, which however appear as common sense.

I want to say something and I want to be clear: remember this with passion. EVERYTHING IN LIFE IS POLITICAL. The way you love, the way you eat, the way you sleep, talk, EVERYTHING IS POLITICAL. It doesn’t matter whether someone is telling you that some issues are neutral: everything can be evaluated from a moral perspective, and “common sense” is what the masses are conditioned to think.

But, to return to the main point: I´m scared about these arguments searching for a non-political answer because they are pretending that there is some pure, universal “good”, and that the ancient fight between right and left is nonsense. Nowadays- at least in the richest countries- it seems like all basic rights are conquered and no more struggle is needed. The message is that communism was really bad, fascism was really bad, but democracy is good, is neutral, it’s you. That is what lies under all of the claims to neutrality. If we believe this shit, we will accept there is a way of responding to a crisis or resolve a problem outside of politics; this would also mean that this approach is “absolutely right”, or, in other words, “common sense”. But is something like this possible? I want to examine this based on the theory of “how propaganda works” by Jason Stanley, who gave us some ideas of how to conceptualise our governments’ current actions.

The logical strategy

How can we change the definition of things? How can we adapt the meaning of our concepts to gain some political revenue? Mixing ideas with each other, or applying them to an apparently different logical category, is the answer. There is an example to explain this. Let’s see how it works:

In the words of Aristotle, different kinds of adjectives exist: substantial and accidental. In the same way, adjectives provide ways for us to consider the intentions of the person they are describing or their material situation. If I say that someone is unclean and poor, or tall and lazy, I am mixing different categories of adjectives. Because I can decide more or less if I want to clean myself or be more energetic, but I cannot decide where I am born and therefore how rich I am, or how tall I am. When fascists are telling you that “all immigrants are lazy and poor”, they are mixing categories and therefore saying that the responsibility for being poor is the same as that of being lazy. It is easy to blame someone if you believe they are responsible for a certain characteristic.

The non-political option

Let´s get on with the nitty-gritty: if we consider something which is wrong or right according to our moral and political view, how can we evaluate, something which is outside of this frame? It is clear that we simply can’t. Therefore, this movement of making everything non-political is eroding our capacity to evaluate our reality, and it is justifying capitalism as something neutral, something natural and beyond politics. If we analyse these supposedly neutral politics we would see how the priority of the government is the economy. They don’t give a shit about the wellness of population, they are only concerned about the economy. The government’s biggest concern is the rich; not your health, not your family, not even people’s lives. The most important things here are inflation and debt.

Don´t fool yourself with this nonsense of being non-political or let yourself believe in the existence of some extra-moral consideration beyond good and bad. There are no such things. It is a capitalist decision to allow unnecessary activity and prioritise it over your freedom to take a walk with your family and friends, even when it is more likely that you’ll get coronavirus in work than during a walk. The focus is not on your health or on the “neutral moral obligation”. It is on the economy and the big circus of capitalism, and capitalism is right-wing. Wealthy people who govern you know what is good for them, but they are pretending that it is also good for the majority of the population. They are convincing you that the priority of all of this is the health of the economy, not yours, because the economy is apparently beyond politics; it’s natural, it’s everything, it’s you. Even if you don’t understand anything about interest rates or inflation.

Another question and conclusion

Why can´t we just pull over and wait for the storm to pass by? Imagining how I would have conducted the measures against coronavirus, I would have locked down all unnecessary businesses and replaced the necessary workers who are members of higher risk categories with others who are under less risk. And when all of this would have passed, we would have been able to restart the old life. But why aren’t governments doing this? Why are they are trying to keep the life of the economy above your well being? A short answer is because the motor of the economy is payment and debt. And if we just ignored these conceptions, stopped the economy and nothing happened, everybody would realise that all this is a fraud: an excuse for the richest people to have more money than the others.

How would material conditions change if we only stopped everything that’s unnecessary, including debt and payment? The truth is that nothing would happen, nothing but dust in pubs and streets. Try to imagine this on a small scale. Imagine a town where people stop unnecessary work, and they keep producing what’s needed and delivering to all people according to their necessities. Will markets and pubs stop existing? No, they will be in the same place. The real problem is what will happen with all of these people that are not producing but are “earning” money without working. If we would just stop, we would realise that they are not producing but are still rich. Maybe we would realise that this “neutral” point of view is, in reality, arguing that nothing, not even our lives, is above the economy. Today, we must think about how immoral the moral and political decisions of our capitalist states are. The most important thing is to not passively accept the “neutrality” argument. Don´t let them tell you what’s 2+2.

About the Author: Emilio is the kind of person who is usually called in Spain “Nini”, meaning that he doesn’t work and doesn’t study. Believing the problem is himself, one day he decided to study philosophy and realised that the problem is society.

Featured image: Markus Spiske on Unsplash