Beyond Bailouts and COVID-19 vaccine, what do we really need?
“The unexamined life is not worth living” — Socrates
Taking advice from this wise scholar, I examine life as of today Apr 22nd, 2020. My news feed reads as the following:
The US currently has around 820K active COVID cases with 45K deaths. $2.3T (11% of GDP) of stimulus announced by the government is not enough respite, as we still wait for the spread of infection to peak. Further relief cheques are both required and much anticipated as we hit the election at the end of this year…
India, the largest democracy, has managed to put 1.3Bn people locked in their homes for 40 days owing to cult wielding Prime Minister. However millions have plummeted to poverty, walking hundreds of miles on foot and solely depending on the government and NGOs to feed them daily…
And finally, Scientific society is collaborating at the global level to come up with a vaccine, which industry experts say might take another 12–18 months…
This is how the greatest inventions of the last millennium, Capitalism, Democracy and Science are helping us fight with the pandemic. Millions will lose their loved ones, billions will lose jobs as a result of this crisis, and yet we have hope and belief in these three pillars of our society to sail us to the other side.
But is that enough? Are we missing something here?
“I think therefore I am” (“Cogito, ergo sum”) — René Descartes
Bloomberg in January forecasted that the total global debt is going to exceed $257 trillion in the first quarter of 2020, and this estimate is surely going to inflate further now. With a debt-to-GDP ratio upwards of 350% and the ever-increasing gap between rich and poor across nations, capitalism feels far less ideal now. Days are not too far when the government’s only role will be to tax the FAANGs (if they are willing to pay) and redistribute it to the irrelevant poor in the form of UBI, which these people will, in turn, utilize to buy products, services, and stocks from FAANGs and, if anything left, to fulfill their basic needs.
“We are too weak to discover the truth by reason alone” — St. Augustine
A major part of the stimulus is siphoned into cashing on arbitrage across the financial markets, which produces minimal net new jobs. The startups with their maniacal focus on automation and optimization burn billions of dollars daily on customer acquisitions and digital marketing. Only a few of them survive beyond the cutting of their umbilical cord. But secular trends suggest that not all of us will find a place in the new world’s Noah’s Ark. Profit maximization cannot be the only dependent variable, not anymore.
“Man is born free, but is everywhere in chains” — Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Democracy has remained synonymous with freedom. It looks spotless and beautiful as the distant moon but only when we zoom do we say craters similarly, democracy has with its limitations.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”
Like profit maximization, winning an election can create havoc. What a war used to do to the society, the election now does that in many countries. Civil wars, religious riots, lynching, use of all forms of media to corrupt human minds are only a few ill-effects of an election. Fascism, Racism, Communalism is on the rise while the media is filled with more anchors and fewer journalists. We grown too complacent too check the evils of modern society.
“Science is what you know. Philosophy is what you don’t know” — Bertrand Russell
Science has replaced religion no doubt, but has it behaved like one? It has answered most of our questions, increased life expectancy manifolds, and made our lives so much more comfortable and fulfilling. However, a black swan event like the current COVID-19 pandemic has shown Science and the community that we are far from the achievement of perfection in society. And while hearing about crossing the scientific chasm with the advent of AI-ML, quantum computing, bio-engineering, and whatnot, the new Gods cannot be tamed easily. No one has any answers to what, how, and when things will proceed and whether we as a species we will evolve or perish with it.
Now that we have discussed the 3 important aspects of modern civilization that have shaped our lives for centuries, the fourth pillar should be unearthed.
“Philosophy is at once the most sublime and the most trivial of human pursuits” — William James
We are tired of having to choose between the liberal left and conservative right, between market-driven capitalism and welfare-state socialism, between our words against theirs. Why can’t we have a third alternative? Why are minds so polarised, thinking so judgmental and options so limited. How do we answer these questions?
“We cannot solve a problem by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them” — Albert Einstein
What we need is nothing less than a renaissance. For over a century now, we as a society have ensured that the original thinking and critical reasoning will die with our propagandist education and media. We have written their eulogy in golden words and ensured that the species of philosophers go extinct. Amongst all the chaos and confusion, we need our heroes to show us the way forward. And I am not talking about any management consultants, politicians, religious or motivational guru, this job is beyond them.
We need future Aristotle, Karl Marx, and Swami Vivekananda to come with the new Magna Carta. We need them and we need them now. But sadly so Philosophy is not a data science source you can teach yourself by watching a youtube video. It requires a depth of understanding, incomprehensible thought experiments, and lifelong patience. And for starters, it certainly needs broadening our mind and lowering our ego.
“The only thing I know is that I know nothing” — Socrates
Once we understand and acknowledge this need, we may try to come out of AI induced social media hypnotism we are in. We will start to have real debates on real issues. We will start to ask the right questions? And that is breeding ground for philosophy.
The new philosophy should explain the past, present, and future without getting involved in it. It will act as a compass and a mirror. Showing us the true north and not the one which we follow or like and at the same time, it helps us to look at ourselves and reflect. It will answer our questions and yet it's up to us whether we follow it or not.
COVID-19 is a black swan event together with the combined might of Capitalism, democracy, and science we are still struggling to hold our posts. Many philosophers have maneuvered us out of the crisis in the past and each time we became a better version of us. It is time we unleash the power of new philosophy, the free-thinking.
Let there be light.