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On the Casual Crisis of Liberalism

The trauma that the first surge of the pandemic left in its wake died down in the U.S. for many once they got vaccinated. The threat for most of the Global South looms larger than ever as the virus mutates, while the barriers to vaccination increase for the average person in the global south as many face starvation and unemployment—a striking example of the casual crisis humans have to be complacent to every day. And yet, most news media covering the crisis blames the government of the Global North like that of the U.S. Humanitarian aid mixes with philanthropy and all of it turns into one giant event of global solidarity towards a virus that has taken the lives of too many to count.

Back in India, my homeland, just like the U.S. until a few months ago, the government is blamed for mishandling the crisis with all the evidence in the world working against them. Words like “accountability” take up more space in the online discourse but just for a bit and just for a few. 

A few online leftists and activists mobilize to call out the crisis at the heart of the system that the world ignores and COVID amplifies, but since pain isn’t new to the world, centrists and liberals brush it off as “too radical” and dismiss it as a “policy paralysis.” I have been there, and though I can’t disagree that inaction and “policy paralysis” or the ineffectiveness of the existing policies can be blamed to a certain extent, obviously including the governments that failed their people, I find it incredibly infuriating that people also assume that what was before this was ideal. 

Liberals have often claimed that “the normal wasn’t working” and that post-pandemic life “shouldn’t mean that we go back to the old normal.” And yet, they fail to understand the nuances of it and how it relates to the system at large. Capitalism is a system that thrives on short-term memory and if your outrage is only against individuals and not against the system, you’re missing the point. I can see an increasing trend unfolding around me of people who feel the need to have an opinion and base their opinion on the media articles and videos they consume and their personal moral compass. And yet, that’s unfortunately not how you combat or even identify a system. 

Liberal media functions as a gatekeeper of knowledge by offering you bite-sized information so you know the facts, and since so much of what you do is on the market, including your labor, you don’t have time to read a book or a text that offers the treasure that is nuance and the skill that is critical thinking. Media also further confuses the public by making you feel like your moment in history is unique and original in every way and what is happening right now has never happened before; you fall into the trap because you have no context and limited access to history through the education you might have had and the books you often read. 

My friends, as well as many people I see online, keep falling into this trap and so do I since that is how the cookie crumbles under these systems. But over the course of the pandemic, we finally found a sense of solidarity, as for the first time we knew that we were heading in the right direction. So many people who brushed off the burden others had to carry because of our privilege had to finally face it. Many in my circle of the privileged had time to radicalize themselves and understand the importance of history. 

After more than a few years of engaging with this knowledge but only recently embracing it, I have found my niche. Reading makes me feel like my feelings of helplessness have been felt by those who wanted and, in some cases, successfully managed to change things around them, yet the battle is less than won till I try and make this knowledge accessible. 

This casual crisis now means despair for my homeland. Even now, many liberals and neoliberals online keep asking the Indian government for accountability just like Americans were when Trump was president. And yet, Narendra Modi, the Prime Minister of India, is not an exception. He is as much a part of the system as any other Indian or even American politician. They’re all part of the global capitalist order, and at the end of the day, what keeps them ahead of you and me is just how easily they ignore the devastation they create by making it seem like “they didn’t have any other options.” When I’m in New York City, I see so many around me assume that one Bernie Sanders or AOC will solve the issues of the system or make things better for all. That breaks my heart. The same people also want Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s ex-CEO, “to give up all his wealth” as though that would solve anything. 

The deep, dark truth that we have to accept in order to change is that unfortunately for all of us, this system will create another Bezos, another Modi, another Trump. And the liberal alternatives to them will not be any better, simply because the actual change would require dismantling systems that keep all of them in power. They are all the same.

Ananya is a student at Eugene Lang College at The New School. She spends her time recounting the horrors of that one time she spilled bubble tea on the subway, observing the duality of Gordon Ramsay's nature with kids and adults, as well as inhaling halal food like it's the end of the world. She criticizes Capitalism in her free time and truly believes in the #NewSchoolSpirit.
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