This health crisis operates a geopolitical handover in favor of China
What is the relationship between the pandemic and terrorism? This question, among others, underlies the new work by political scientist Sébastien Boussois, The New Global Threats. This researcher associated with ULB and Uqam (Canada), a specialist in terrorism and de-radicalization issues, describes the mechanisms of the construction of a global denial which has led the West – in particular – to disaster. in its management of the Covid-19 pandemic. An event that our societies do not have “wanted to see it coming”, he believes, blinded by their libertarian individualism and their feeling of invulnerability.
How has this pandemic aroused your interest as a researcher on terrorism? What link have you established between these two threats?
I was very focused on the issue of denial of the terrorist threat, which has lasted for years. No one expected Mohammed Mehra, no one expected the attacks in Paris, Brussels, Barcelona or London. It is not just a drop in unconscious guard, it is a construction of a global denial of the threats to our societies. Before these events, the terrorist threat was perceived in a distant way, it affected people far away on distant lands: the Sahel, Afghanistan, Iraq … Now it is a global threat, what do weighing Islamist internationals. So that means that it can get closer to us. For the pandemic, the thinking is the same. It has long been known that epidemics can occur, and that they will not be confined to Asia, where they all originate. This threat is the result of a lack of interest in the ecological question, the destruction of natural habitats and therefore the rapprochement between wild animal species and humans, in short, a shortening of the transmission chain. As with terrorism, we can imagine that this threat will reach us. The director of the WHO had also alerted on this point two years before, Bill Gates too.
The threats are known, there are whistleblowers. Why then this denial?
Given the little feedback from China, it was initially believed that it was a small pulmonary flu. And despite our globalized, ultra-concentrated way of life in our cities, we were told for over two months that this would not spread. We built a denial around it. This is based on three elements. One: the assertion that we, western and rich countries, are removed from any threat that, in general, affects poor countries. Two: the certainty that this threat cannot cross borders and reach us. Three: the choice of our societies to no longer face death. The evolution of medicine and science, the obsession with transhumanism make us believe ourselves globally invincible and immortal.
Therefore, the link between terrorism and the pandemic is the return to consciousness of the image of death. We do not want to see that we are mortal and that we live on this mirage of an efficient science, capable of curbing diseases and increasing life expectancy.
Did this feeling of invincibility prevent the activation of the principle of doubt in the face of a potential threat?
I think for a few months there was a kind of blindness, forgetting that we are mortal. There has also been an inability to prevent and protect on the part of the state. And that, for me, is extremely serious because the two primary missions of public authorities are to have the capacity to anticipate and protect their own population. They must have the tools to do this, for example by relying on international institutions like the WHO, but this organization has been rolled in flour by the Chinese lie. However, the counterpart of the tax levy is the monopoly of legitimate violence intended for the protection of the population.
This protection is often perceived with regard to physical threats, less invisible threats …
It is very fair. Until now, a state protected us against conventional wars. Today, the difficulty for the State is to protect us in the face of a multitude of invisible threats or that we do not want to see: cybercrime, terrorism, viruses and chemical and bacteriological weapons. The sarin gas attack perpetrated by a sect on the Tokyo subway in 1995 demonstrated that a state as structured and organized as Japan, with people as disciplined as the Japanese, was impossible at that time. to anticipate and prevent such an attack. The state certainly cannot do everything, but today it seems overwhelmed and powerless in the face of these threats. And the large organizations to which it delegates part of its sovereignty are unable to protect us quickly and effectively.
Are totalitarian regimes better able to do this than democracies?
An authoritarian regime like China performs well. But also Japan, which is a democracy. Today, the number of cases has exploded in Japan and it is not really known what is going on in China. The fact remains that in China there was this reflex to confine everything, which cannot be perceived as freedom-killing there while here it is immediately perceived as an attack on individual freedoms. . And even in Asian democratic regimes, in South Korea and Japan, people are used to wearing masks, and having some kind of discipline. In an authoritarian regime, the discipline imposed works in the general interest. I don’t believe that individuals, even in a democracy, are capable of self-discipline. Yet in emergency situations there should be an immediate reflex of discipline, which we do not have in a democracy. The alternative is simple: either we forbid everyone to go out for three months, but our states are afraid to impose this, or we vegetate with delusional semi-democratic rules as has been the case for a year. On this aspect, I think that our democracies are not ready to face the new threats. In the name of the freedoms that we must preserve, we are losing a form of discipline which should take precedence in the general interest. The person who says that he does not want to wear a mask and who does not realize that he is a danger to others is a reflection of an abusive individualization of society. Having said that, I am not sure that any authoritarian regime is capable of overcoming this type of threat through discipline.
This unprecedented experience seems to encourage companies to put certain values back to the fore …
I believe that this pandemic is an opportunity to rethink the principles of what our democracies should be, that is to say to raise the question of the responsibility of each, the responsibility of the collective, the responsibility of the ‘State. Until now, pandemics and terrorism were considered to be random, one-off factors, which means that we have not invested in them. Today, we realize that this is no longer the case. It is therefore important to invest in the sectors that will be able to pay off. This should call into question people’s lifestyles, what they eat, to avoid co-morbidities, to have better medical monitoring, to make care more accessible and more preventive. It is a crisis of civilization. The pandemic is a mirror effect of forty years of weakening the welfare state. It has caused polarization at all levels of society: the young against the old, the sick against the non-sick, the self-employed against the employees, the essential activities against the non-essential… This total collapse of our societies is increasing . And again, the Covid pandemic is nothing compared to the economic and social crisis that is coming. The pandemic will also permanently shatter living together, affect our physical, bodily and psychological relationships. A feeling of distrust of the other has taken root.
When we consider vaccines and their distribution according to clientele in producing countries, can we say that the pandemic accentuates existing geopolitical divisions?
Expensive vaccines are for rich countries, cheap vaccines, Russian and Chinese, are for three quarters of the world. It is a vaccine geopolitics, a division of the world that is not new. I also think it will help accelerate America’s decline, and not just as the world’s leading economic power. China becomes the world’s leading geopolitical power. It is enough to see what nuisance and what disorder China has caused but also its capacity for resilience. This crisis operates a handover on the geopolitical level.
“The New Global Threats. The great pandemic of denial”, Sébastien Boussois, Mardaga, 175 pages, € 20.