On December 2019, clear signs of the emergence of what a few months later the WHO would define as a new pandemic appeared. Crucial months went by between December 2019 and March 2020, in which a more responsible management at a global level (that is, a coordinated, solidary one) of transits and the distribution of health resources and prevention would have made the difference.
But, this was not so. The measures were taken by territorial segments, by countries, disjointedly. Spaces and borders were closed, flights, trains and buses were canceled, routes and accesses were blocked: a good part of the world population was confined to the limits of their own homes, while the other part of the population worked -in production of food and supplies of all kinds, in care, maintenance of structures, health, resources research to fight the virus, and so on- so that some of us could take care of ourselves.
Between March and May the closure was virtually global and the planet was able to breathe. Meanwhile, many speculated with different theories about the scenario that led us here and the potential future prospects. Some of us believed that this catastrophe, in its ability to show the failure of humanity in its management of natural resources as well as in the coordination of global policies, would illuminate other avenues towards what we believed would emerge as “a better world”: more just, supportive, equitable, healthy, in the broadest sense of the term.
Yet in July we began to see, with great disappointment, that none of this would happen.
The fact that patents for vaccines have not been released –back then under study, experimentation and development- in different parts of the planet, discarding the Indian proposal at the WHO world meeting, clearly showed that humanity had failed.
Today, with vaccines in an advanced stage of development and some already in conditions to be distributed and on various application processes, we confirm this when we hear the news that the most powerful countries have bought more vaccines than they need for their own inhabitants. We also verify it when we notice that once again capitalism -wild and inhuman- triumphed over the people, over their rights and needs, even making use of public resources (yes, those that exist thanks to our work and taxes) to develop the vaccines that today are sold for the benefit of private laboratories.
Knowing that Latin America will not have vaccines available in time and form as it was imagined, or that Africa will be able to access vaccines only at the end of 2022 – that is, if lucky- is not only discouraging, but also makes one think of the vaccine as a sophisticated version of a new chemical weapon, one that operates by suppressing its access instead of by inoculation, but in the end the effect is the same: subjugation of populations, and weakening and extermination of important segments of the world population.
Some naive people, with Zizek at the helm, believed at the end of February 2020 that this would be the beginning of the end of savage capitalism and the transit towards another more solidary one, in which the wellbeing of the majorities is privileged over the benefit of increasingly fewer people or economic performance.
So then I wonder: Welcome 2021?
Diana Wechsler is an art historian and main researcher at CONICET. She is the Director of the Department of Art and Culture of the National University of Tres de Febrero, Argentina.