THIS year is historic for us not just because of the unprecedented devastation to the world economy and humankind brought about by the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic. This year is historic to us in a more specific, or unique, way: Since our liberation in 1946, the United States of America — big brother to our elites — has become irrelevant to us.
This year is the start of our total liberation from the American eagle. This is partly due to President Rodrigo Duterte’s audacious pivot towards an independent foreign policy that drew us closer to America’s rivals, China and Russia.
This is also partly due to the demise of the Yellow Cult, whose founders Benigno Aquino Jr. and his late widow Corazon Aquino after all owed much to US sponsorship, providing the former with his Harvard refuge and the latter with the might of US diplomacy and propaganda apparatus to grab power in 1986.
But it is also partly due to the fact that the US has unraveled, nearly imploding this year, with its institutions which our intellectuals and politicians had looked up to for decades proving to be so flawed.
Whether the pandemic overwhelms the US and triggers its fragmentation, whether Donald Trump or Joe Biden wins, and even, I dare say, its economy collapses or not, would not be as relevant now as it was just 10 years ago. Japan, China, Asean, the Middle East and now even Russia will fill the vacuum and become our main economic partners. Only forever-US-fans like Albert del Rosario and Antonio Carpio insist that we need the US Navy to prevent the Chinese from invading us.
US intellectuals are fond of pointing to many developed countries as “failed states,” or those that cannot perform their responsibilities, the most important of which is the welfare of their citizens.
The Washington-based Fund for Peace even annually issues a list of failed states in the world, with its 2020 index putting us in the 54th slot (in a list of 178, with 1 being the “most failed state”), ranking us nearly a hundred notches worse than US which is in the 149th rank. That US propaganda outfit lists such countries as Thailand, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan as many slots worse off as failed states than the US.
Guess what, the US is the nation worst hit by Covid-19, by any measure: 8 million cases, 3 million active cases and 220,000 deaths. We have just 343,000 cases, 43,0000 active cases and 6.000 deaths. Thailand, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and many other countries that are listed as states worse off than the US in the failed-state department are all doing much, much better than the US.
The proof of the pudding is certainly in the eating. What better measure of a failed state than its performance in addressing the pandemic?
The US has become a failed state. With all the institutions it has been boasting about, it has failed its citizens big-time.
I am not the first to claim this. The respected online magazine Salon.com in August published an article, “Is the U.S. a failed state in 2020? Experts’ answers range from ‘maybe’ to ‘hell, yes.’” The Nation — the oldest continuously published weekly magazine in the US — last month had an opinion piece, “The US is a failed state: In less than four years, Donald Trump has exacerbated nearly every issue plaguing this country, from income inequality to global warming.”
It has failed to confront the pandemic not because of any inherent natural weaknesses of its people nor its environment but because of institutions which it had been claiming since World War 2 as its strength that other countries should follow.
Foremost of these is its set of institutions called “democracy.” Democracy was invented largely for small communities, most of whose members could inter-react among themselves, and in which there was no “mediator,” no interpreter for their views. But there is now that powerful prism for people’s views — media.
Democratic theory that people have the right and wisdom to choose their leaders cannot take into account the power of media to mold how people see things, and how the owners of that media can choose what kind of views the masses would hold.
Donald Trump became, to use that phrase Americans are fond of saying, the “leader of the free world” because of his hugely successful reality TV show “The Apprentice.” Americans were fooled into thinking that the tough, all-knowing chief executive officer that was Trump’s role in the show could become the tough, all-knowing CEO of the US of A. Exactly in the same way Filipinos voted for Fernando Poe Jr. thinking he was the movie hero “Panday.”
Other facets of US “democracy“ proved to be obstacles to that country’s response to the pandemic. States asserted their independence from the central government and from each other — resulting in a chaotic response to the pandemic. States at the start of the pandemic even tried to outbid each other and the federal government itself to secure masks and other medical equipment needed for the pandemic.
One state would enforce lockdown restrictions. But residents could move from one state to another freely — resulting in such a super-spreader event as a motorcyclists’ festival in South Dakota.
And of course, the democracy dogma was so ingrained among Americans that they claimed it was their right to wear or not wear a mask, the scientifically proven first and necessary step in containing the virus.
That American democracy is such a huge obstacle to securing the welfare of its people was demonstrated recently by the fact that the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives cannot agree with the Republican-controlled Senate to enact a law to address the pandemic. The term for it — stimulus bill — hides the sad fact that without it, at least a million Americans thrown out of jobs by the pandemic (or the lockdowns) won’t have food on their table.
China’s authoritarian system has certainly exacted a huge cost in lives. Its Great Leap Forward from 1958 to 1962, Mao Zedong’s ill-conceived program for his country to rapidly industrialize is estimated to have resulted in 30 million to 55 million Chinese deaths from the resulting famine. That kind of disastrous policy would never have been maintained in a democratic system.
But the question is valid: Would China’s success in lifting out of poverty 850 million Chinese between 1981 to 2015 (going by the World Bank’s studies) make up for its past mistakes, even if horrific, that it is a better system of government?
Using the pandemic as the litmus test, the answer to that is certainly yes. It is unquestionably spectacular that from 85,600 cases in February, China has now just 228 cases; deaths peaked at 4,600 in April, and none since then.
Now be honest: If no vaccine after all is invented and the pandemic becomes worse than the Spanish flu pandemic that killed more than 100 million, which country would you prefer to live in – the US or China?