As part of the normality that, like a promised land, they have repeatedly offered during the pandemic, some governments of the Global North have created mechanisms to control mobility based on the inoculation of vaccines against covid-19.
The so-called vaccine passport has raised a debate that goes beyond vaccines and calls into question both the postulates of Western democracies and the notions of the future that these democracies propose to the world.
TALKING ABOUT VACCINES BEYOND VACCINES
On the subject of vaccines, the media have reported how several governments have forced vaccination of health care workers, employees and security officials. There are increasing complaints from unvaccinated people who feel restricted or excluded not only from work, but also from social life.
In Italy, as of October 15, workers must show their employer proof of vaccination, a negative covid test or recovery from a recent infection. Anyone who cannot do this risks being suspended from work without pay.
France, Greece and Portugal require certificates attesting to vaccination or negative results to enter restaurants and other enclosed spaces. The British government advises the measure for nightclubs and theaters while in Denmark it works for all kinds of daily activities.
Other countries such as Canada are adopting similar measures: as of October 30 only those vaccinated can travel by plane or train, although a large number of Canadians have been vaccinated and many others have concerns about the safety of vaccines, there are practical aspects where the scientific and the mythological are confused.
The point of contention is that only the vaccine (in particular, some made up by the corporate medicine industry or Big Pharma) is assumed to guarantee immunity to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Moreover, it is still debated whether these drugs really reduce the probability of contagion since their efficacy is mainly measured on the basis of the risk of contracting severe covid-19.
As published in The Lancet, those who test positive after being vaccinated with the two doses (post-vaccination infection) are almost twice as likely to be completely asymptomatic; the study indicated that the risk of contracting long-lasting disease (when symptoms persist 28 days after infection) is reduced by half among those vaccinated with the full regimen.
What all the actors who fill the social networks with the words “vaccine” and “covid-19” agree on is that they are not optimal, due to the fact that, of the two types of immunity expected from a vaccine, the existing ones almost always achieve one. Namely, there are two main types of immunity that can be achieved with vaccines:
- Effective immunity with which a pathogen can be prevented from causing serious disease, but from entering the body or making more copies of itself.
- Sterilizing immunity which can prevent infection and even prevent asymptomatic cases.
Generally the vaccines that are in mass use achieve the former, although many media appeal to a study, not yet peer-reviewed and led by a team from Oxford University (co-manufacturer of the Vaxzevria vaccine, commonly called AstraZeneca), which specifically analyzes the Delta variant and claim to show that both Comirnaty (or Pfizer) and Vaxzevria vaccines reduce transmission of the disease.
They analyzed almost 150,000 contacts that were traced from almost 100,000 initial cases of the disease, the initial positive cases contained a combination of vaccinated and unvaccinated people and the objective was not only to see which groups were more likely to transmit the virus, but also which of the two vaccines was more effective in reducing transmission.
The published result is that both vaccines reduced transmission, but Comirnaty was the most effective in doing so. Contacts of those who were fully vaccinated with it were 65% less likely to test positive for covid-19 compared to contacts of those who were not vaccinated. Meanwhile, contacts of those who were fully vaccinated with Vaxzevria were 36% less likely to test positive compared with contacts of those who were not vaccinated. However, in the absence of peer review and further progress, the findings still require further analysis.”
Another ongoing discussion revolves around the duration of vaccine efficacy, the protection of either of the two most widely used anticovid vaccines against the Delta variant of the coronavirus weakens within three months, as revealed by another British public health study which, interestingly, reports that those who become infected after receiving two injections of the Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca vaccine may pose a greater risk to others than with the earlier variants of the coronavirus.
The evidence from this study is the reason that supports the thesis that a booster, or third dose, is needed to increase efficacy. This means much more sales and profits for Big Pharma in charge of vaccine distribution in Europe and North America, mainly.
The decline in efficacy was more pronounced among those over 35 years of age than those under that age, and the study also showed that those who become infected, despite being fully vaccinated, tend to have a similar viral load to those unvaccinated with an infection. So the risk of contagion remains; so does the debate.
SUSPICIONS OF FURTHER MARGINALIZATION RATHER THAN FREEDOM
If the fight against the virus has had advances through the vaccine, it has also evidenced, as has been said, the tragedies caused by an unjust and hegemonic system such as capitalism, based on a notion of superiority and messianism cultivated by Western modernity.
The West is the world of technological solutions and the idea of vaccine passports is evidence of this magical thinking in which everything can be achieved with mechanicism and instrumental rationality.
Susan Michie, professor of health psychology at University College London, and a member of the Independent Scientific Panel on Behavioral Insights (SPI-B), comments that “the idea of vaccine passports, when not everyone has been offered vaccination and when there are disparities that have not been adequately addressed, is very problematic.”
He adds that there is bound to be an increase in “social divisions between different sectors of society,” there is a risk that those not vaccinated (for whatever reasons) will be subject to marginalization.
If the noise of conspiracy theories disturbs the debate, so does the suspicion generated by actors such as Tony Blair, complicit in the invasion of Iraq. His Tony Blair Institute for Global Change published a report entitled “Less Risk, More Freedom” in which the authors note that “vaccine status matters.” They write of a “robust Covid pass” that could be used to facilitate virtually unimpeded mobility.
In terms of international movement, “we propose that anyone who is fully vaccinated would be free to travel to and from any currently designated green country without requiring any quarantine or testing.” In terms of domestic settings, the authors proposed “that any place or setting that wants to admit only the vaccinated could do so.”
It is very worrying that a war-maker should advocate this type of decision which, by the way, does not stem from popular demands but from controversies in which pharmaceutical companies, the scientific sector and health authorities establish revolving doors.
Some of the British government’s advisors are also skeptical. Another professor of social psychology, John Drury, also a member of SPI-B, opposes “creating a divide between those who have the passport and those who don’t,” a situation that was bound to “reinforce and reproduce existing group inequalities.” Drury also pointed to other factors that would oppose the use of such a pass: the large number of people who have not yet been vaccinated, including “those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons, those who are not on the priority list, those who have not found the opportunity, those who are hesitant and those who are anti-vaxx.”
The European Commission (EC) has decided to create a Digital Green Certificate to “facilitate free and safe movement within the EU during the covid-19 pandemic”, the regulation governing the decision is a law by decree that all EU member states must implement in their own jurisdictions as state law. Typically, member states go through up to two years of parliamentary debate and ratification of EC regulations, which automatically becomes law two years after publication by the Commission or sooner.
The European Union (EU) wide decree for a vaccine / Covid passport that is actually a digital ID card that tracks the bearer, will apply to all 27 member states and 447 million inhabitants, none of whom had a say in its drafting, although some negotiation is allowed for member states.
POSTCARDS OF A POSSIBLE APARTHEID
Like all known categories of invisible because they are poor or undocumented, vaccination passports loom as rigid hierarchies of compliance, surveillance and division in societies where power, opinion, imaginaries and labor have been concentrated for the last 40 years in the interests of a small corporate elite.
Opinion makers and behavior shapers such as politicians and the media are under the command and influence of business enterprises obsessed to the point of psychopathy with maximizing profits and externalizing costs, i.e., passing on the toxic legacy of their business models to the poor (within and beyond those borders) and to future generations.
They have accumulated great wealth because their narcissism, greed and sectarianism led them to capture the top of social hierarchies, not because they are extraordinary business visionaries. From there they shape the social values by which the rest of the people must live, in other words, the role model of many clueless people is the businessman with money and power who claims to have reached that status through work. No one believes him, no one has proof, but few doubt it.
Those same people who atomize the sense of community, who created a predatory-prey economic model, who destroyed the planet with their greed, who became megamillionaires during the pandemic, who made a religion of neoliberal orthodoxy, tell the mega-indebted and precarized working classes that they must trust that collective interests lie in their hearts.
Suddenly, after many months of economic contraction, when Big Pharma is still making big and fast money, producing and selling vaccines to desperate governments and their populations. When other corporations demand a hasty return to normalcy through improvised vaccination programs, their obedient media and political class are surprised because the working class expresses distrust and protests.
This is how the emerging protests in various parts of Europe against vaccination passports have been demonized. Rather than remaining in the simplification of defending or attacking anti-vaccine people, there is the question that a society based on rationality should ask itself: What is to be debated when people must be intimidated to protect themselves from a disease produced, disseminated and spread by the entire agro-urban-industrial network in the hands of a few?
In fact, the same accumulative logic with which these societies concentrated millions of doses of vaccines in their territories and refused to share patents so that other countries could produce them is the one that underlies a possible vaccine apartheid that would be nothing but the continuity of the neoliberal course imposed on millions of people in the world.
More and more aspects of everyday life depend on digital technologies, which bring many benefits and, at the same time, reduce the diversity of cultural forms of knowledge and increasingly subordinate human thinking and behaviors to algorithms and calculations while series and movies tell us that it could be worse but it is not.
Western culture has migrated to an efficient techno-fascist discourse with a totalitarian potential that sustains a system that, even before digitalization, did not tolerate dissent. On the modern myth of progress, based on an infinite availability of matter and energy, are the conceptual and moral foundations of a narrative in which humans control nature because it is mechanical, predictable and, in turn, strictly governed through natural selection.
The moral foundations of technofascism are aligned with the values of market capitalism and the progress-oriented ideology of science that borders on scientism, disqualifying anything that criticizes its close collaboration with consumerist, colonialist, plundering and consumerist voracity. It is aligned with predatory logics that are deconfiguring ecosystems and alternative lifestyles such as the cultural commons.
It is a contradiction to its own mechanistic and liberal postulates to impose control mechanisms based on imposed biomedical technologies and in the process of development. This becomes clear when few efforts are made to implement measures such as the Venezuelan 7+7, in which the march of the “economy” is sacrificed a little in favor of reducing the probabilities of massive contagions.
It is curious that antibody tests are not massively used so that citizens can demonstrate whether or not they have immunity against the effects of SARS-CoV-2, but it is clear that they have modeled and calculated everything in terms of accumulation.
The technofascist states need technocrats who are increasingly dependent on the processor and an educational system that contributes to a conformity of thinking that serves the interests of the controlling elites of scientists, doctors, computer scientists and engineers, corporate bosses and the military-industrial complex. In this way they will be able to erode nations and, with them, the socio-cultural diversity of peoples, vital for sovereignties.
Digital technologies are known to have indispensable uses in medicine, scientific research, monitoring and maintenance of the technological and economic infrastructure of society, education and almost all facets of industrial and consumer-dependent culture. However, they have also introduced irreversible cultural changes, such as the loss of motivation for political participation.
People do not participate because social networks make them believe that they already participate in something. Hence the “denunciations” in networks (or “tuitazos”) give the impression of struggle and militancy when the systematic construction of popular power and real social mobilization are timidly left aside.
The Global North induces and exports the erosion of patterns of mutual solidarity, fundamental to reduce dependence on elites and consumerism, while the very Western ways of thinking that sacralize the living and strengthen socio-ecological links disappear into exoticism.
Today the focus is on knowledge and information pre-massaged in memes, slogans and catch phrases that serve as the basis for political decision-making. Disinformation is disguised as instantaneousness, factual accuracy and objective information because, via the Internet, we can have eyes everywhere. Digital hyperconnection accompanies social disconnection and this has influenced the development of populations during the pandemic.
SOCIAL DARWINISM PUT TO THE TEST
While several Asian and a few Western countries were able to successfully overcome the confinement, others, where neoliberal austerity deteriorated both health systems and labor rights, collapsed in cases and economic losses. It is not just a matter of contrasts between turbo-capitalist and other collectivist societies; there is the case of South Korea, where a rapid mobilization of scientific knowledge, immediate mass testing, exhaustive contact tracing and social distancing were the order of the day.
Almost everything was voluntarily complied with by the citizenry, not imposed by the central power, which made it unnecessary to drastically restrict movements or close airports. According to journalist and geopolitical analyst Pepe Escobar, the success in Hong Kong and Taiwan lay in the innumerable professional links between their healthcare and public health systems.
In Wuhan (China) Big Data was deployed through thousands of investigation teams, searching for possibly infected individuals, choosing who should be under observation and who should be quarantined, while the EU, especially the EC, reacted a few weeks later with signs of impotence and lack of serious preparations, closed the borders, hoarded the scarce equipment available and each nation on its own left Italy totally alone.
It is not the same thing, no matter the technologies, when a State or community of countries assumes responsibility for the whole collective as when that State or community functions on the basis of leaving people behind because it is the basis of its social doctrine.
These are socio-historical contracts based on naked and acosmic individualities, without the slightest link to local knowledge, nature or the Earth, which totally ignore and silence the natural contract and the dialogic nature of our species. Just as corporatocratic power is exercised, disregarding the people, people are modeled with the illusion implanted that the human being is above and outside of nature and that the purpose is to dominate and possess it. In line with the legacy of the founding fathers of modernity, Descartes and Bacon.
SURVEILLANCE CAPITALISM, HEALTH EDITION
Not only the discrimination revolves around vaccinated or unvaccinated, the health authorities of the Global North have established a kind of discrimination to vaccine brands, for which they have limited the access of the population to drugs of the same purpose elaborated outside the Otanist area of influence.
The essential requirement to obtain such a passport is to prove that the citizen has been inoculated with a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Although Member States could decide whether to accept vaccines that the EMA has not yet approved, this is not reassuring because of the varied approaches that these states have adopted in the international vaccine market. Let alone what happens if one wishes to enter the United States having been inoculated with a Cuban or Russian vaccine.
Last February, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that “there are still critical unknowns about the efficacy of vaccination,” such as combating SARS-CoV-2 variants, the duration of protection after vaccination, the timing of booster doses and whether vaccination offers protection against asymptomatic infection.
Epidemiologist Christopher Dye and sociologist Melinda C. Mill noted in the prestigious journal Science that “the greatest risk is that people for whom vaccination is unacceptable, unproven, inaccessible, or impossible will be denied access to goods and services.”
They consider the various instances in which inequality can manifest itself: ethnic minorities reluctant to be vaccinated; lack of data on vaccine efficacy for at-risk individuals (pregnant women, for example); unreachable undocumented immigrants; the digital technology gap; and eligibility requirements.
Surveillance systems, increasingly used to anticipate acts of terrorism, have become intertwined with digital platforms and are now part of a police meta-state that efficiently detects potential sources of dissent, but also encompasses technologies that violate privacy and shape opinions.
Environmental activist and writer Chet Bowers claimed that their social agenda includes the imposition of barriers to people’s ability to vote; the use of the prison system to control a large segment of the poor and non-white population; the intertwining of fundamentalist religions and segments of government focused on national security; and the use of the military to globalize the American way of life; the suppression of basic human rights, especially for women; the undermining of the rights of workers to organize in order to oppose being exploited; and the authorization of fraudulent elections in which the superrich can control the outcome of state and federal elections.
On a planet facing limitations on its protein sources due to warming and ocean acidification, among other scenarios of collapsing ecological systems, there will be increased social unrest in response to a variety of problems that plutocracy-controlled governments have failed to address.
The ecological crisis that seems to be deepening will become the new normal and techno-fascism warns on the horizon will be containment. In his book Techno-Feudalism, Sorbonne economist Cedric Durand places the Digital Age in the broader context of the historical evolution of capitalism to show how the Washington consensus eventually metastasized into the Silicon Valley consensus that he describes as the “Californian ideology.” Innovations are a fait accompli and unconsulted, driven more by mercantile than human needs.
It was not the Market God who anointed Big Tech with the social hierarchy of leading societies, but the juicy contracts coming from the industrial-military complex and the aerospace complex, that is to say from war and the conquest of space. This chair has already explained how data become profit for these companies whose digital platforms become “fiefdoms”: they live off their vast “digital territory” populated by data and profit from it, while at the same time clinging to power over their services, which are considered indispensable.
They dominate the territory by binding serfs. Lords make a living from the social power derived from the exploitation of their domains, and that implies unlimited power over serfs, always concentrated.
Questions remain in the air:
- According to the same epidemiologists and pharmaceutical companies, anti-virus vaccines are still in the process of research and development and have not reached the optimum of their scaling up. How can they prevail over the right to mobility?
- How do they end up defining which side of society certain citizens are on?
- Can the pandemic be an opportunity to remake societies, to value the collective, the common, the public good, and to not worship at the altar of profit and greed?
To answer “yes” or “no” would be insufficient.
Translation by Internationalist 360°