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A Giant with Clay Feet

Already in pre-landing maneuvers at Orlando International, the plane flew over Disney World for a few moments. Even from the air, its six parks are dazzling. A kind of multicolored oasis surrounded by the intense green of 380 thousand acres of swamp, mangrove swamp and tropical forest.


Inevitable for who, as an adult, was visiting for the first time the great referent of childish fun of the American Dream, the apocalyptic premonition about what would happen if for some reason, then unthinkable, that formidable entertainment machinery had to close.


“Surely in a few months the great green wave would end up devouring it all.” The feat of lifting that small 30,000-acre amusement town into the middle of nowhere (North Florida) and making it America’s premier convention and tourism destination, paled before the supreme force of nature.


For most of us who were born in the second half of the 20th century, the status of this country as the first global power was more or less unquestionable. It was they who won the two great wars, their economic model was the most successful in the world, their propaganda machine the most powerful; Neil Armstrong, was the first man to set foot on the lunar soil.


But everything changes. Today, in a few weeks, 30 million Americans have lost their jobs and more than 1 million people have been infected by a new virus against which no cure has been discovered. 60,000 Americans have died from the new disease, almost a quarter of the total worldwide. America first, for sure.


“The superior race”


As a result of the SAR-Covid-2 crisis and according to official figures, in the United States in the first four months of 2020, 1 in 300 people has been infected. In contrast, in the neighboring country to the south, according to government data, 1 case has been registered for every 8,000 people.


Of course, the figure seems misleading. And it is. While the United States has performed millions of diagnostic tests, Mexico records, almost only, serious cases that reach the hospital. Not coincidentally, between 60 and 80 percent of those who gain access to an artificial respirator, in any case, lose their lives.


In any case, the contrast between the Trump Administration’s anti-Mexican rhetoric and its ultra-nationalist and supposedly white supremacist base, and the evidence of reality, are clear and forceful. In fact, the United States has been the country that has paid the highest price in the face of the pandemic caused by a new mutation of a coronavirus, presumably originating in the pangolin, a strange animal similar to the armadillo, which feeds on ants and is highly prized as an exotic dish in South Asia.


And although the romantic rhetoric about how in these times of crisis all countries, all societies, we should unite –in a healthy distance–, in order to fight together “the invisible enemy”, it is enough to breathe a few seconds with a certain calm to recognize that the fight for power and global leadership is, if anything, more bitter than ever.


The old game of plots


First it was Trump himself, denying the risks of the “Chinese virus” and his black propaganda machinery that sowed the “theory” that the virus was manufactured in a laboratory in Wuhan City. This was immediately refuted by statements by a senior Chinese Communist Party official – also in the field of speculation without evidence – who attributed the origin of the deadly virus to “United States military forces.”


In fact, the forcefulness of the numbers – China has stopped generating new cases and stabilized its ratio of sick and dead to 85,000 and 4,500, respectively – and an intense public relations campaign in which the Asian power is in charge of sending “Aid” to many other countries has ended up displacing the supposed international leadership of the United States.


Nor Italy, Spain, France, Germany – some of the countries most affected in the first wave of infections – have echoed the call of the President of the U.S. to combat the disease with the intake of cleaning products made from the use of chlorine.


It is true that shortly after the shock of the attacks by Osama Bin Laden – who with a group of fanatics armed with rudimentary razors was able to collapse the twin towers of New York and crash another passenger plane against the Pentagon – the voices that alerted the sunset of “Yankee imperialism” began to get more public attention.


Although the phrase is of Biblical origin – “an idol with feet of clay” -, the modern version so used by radical left-wing activism, “a giant with feet of clay”, seems to be more current every day.


The decline of the American empire it was most evident with the arrival of Donald Trump at the White House. In a context in which the Gross Domestic Product (POIB) of the United States economy takes second place in the face of the dizzying expansion of China – historically the main power in innovation and technology of humanity – it makes quite clear the smell of defeat, behind Mr. Trump’s favorite proclamation, “Make America Great, again”.


The resounding collapse of the financial bubble of the first three years of his administration has accelerated the resignation, from the outset, of the United States government to occupy the world leadership that it maintained for most of the last century. Xenophobia, isolationism and its fixation on the construction of walls, have generated perhaps as much damage as COVID-19 itself.


The vaccine will not come soon; at least not this year, not massively enough. Experts insist that around 70 percent of humanity will end up getting infected, which is why the key to the different official strategies is to try to save time. In order to somehow program the flow of patients within the different public health systems, until now almost all of them insufficient to meet the demand for health care.


The first four months of global crisis have revolved around two basic approaches, (1) social isolation as the best available resource to try to try to avoid infections and (2) the more or less desperate search for artificial respiration equipment to help who are literally gasping for oxygen to breath.


Of course, the first consequence of point 1 has been economic collapse. Therefore, the more or less desperate efforts of various governments to “return to normal.”


In the American case, the bet to lift the quarantine seems to have a clear political intention. In the sparsely populated states – which tend to vote Republican – they would seek to provoke a dizzying recovery in the economy, six months after the presidential election. On both coasts – where money and people are concentrated and traditionally a Democrat vote – which is where COVID-19 hit first and with the strongest force, the situation seems more complicated.


And although the spirit of the confinement has favored the spread of a good number of good wishes over the need to “not return to the previous order”, but to take advantage of this crisis to build normality without environmental depredation and savage capitalism, these types of approaches do not seem have too much viability, at least from realpolik.


Perhaps one of the most attractive possibilities that the new normality may be better than the previous one, can be found in the current acceleration of revolution in the communications and information industry, which during this period of confinement has allowed us to better understand some of the advantages of  living in a digital reality. At least there viruses can be cure with a simple reformat command.

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