Israel Shamir

The Fighting Optimist

The Coronavirus, Fear, and Poverty

In these Corona times, I often listen to Monty Python’s Always Look on the Bright Side of Life. This black cloud has a silver lining. With the virus roaming outside, teenagers deign to spend more time with their parents; wives are at home cooking dinners instead of hanging out with gorgeous strangers in posh cafés; we do not have to plan expensive holidays on far-away islands; there is more time for reading books or playing checkers with the kids. The enforced modest lifestyle (no restaurants, no parties) is suitable for Lent, this sombre period of time before Easter. We can live for a while with this calm domestic Lent, 1956- style.

Despite my age, the disease does not worry me at all. One dies only once, and it is unavoidable. It’s the heavy-handed government interference that is a real pain in the neck. It is lockdown I fear, not the disease. Consider the example of Israel, this pilot project of the Masters of Discourse.

In Israel, as in a few other countries, they ordered the most severe lockdown: people aren’t allowed to leave their apartments unless to shop for food. Even a lonely walk along the seashore or in the park is forbidden, and there is the police and the army to enforce the ban. Balmy weather, blue Med, green hills, but you have to stay indoors. A recommendation to stay home and take it easy can be taken into account; this total imprisonment of citizens is a step no tyrant had tried.

The authorities have us where they always wanted: in the grip of fear, shopping for bread as the only permitted activity, no protests, no demonstrations, social distancing instead of solidarity. The first victim of coronavirus in Israel is a chronically ill 88-year old Holocaust survivor. (But for the virus, he would live forever.) The second is an old lady with the whole spectrum of diseases crowned with the corona. The third and the last one is a nonagenarian. The malady is not too bad, but the remedy is much worse. After the lockdown was announced, six hundred thousand Israelis applied for unemployment benefit, as small and medium businesses sent their workers home without pay. The laid-off workers would be able to take out loans, to be repaid with interest after the emergency is over; nobody says where they will get money to repay.

The internal security (Shabak), the external security (Mossad), and the police force have united to create and activate a futuristic system of total surveillance. Now they know and follow all Israeli residents all the time. If a person has fever and is considered a potential virus carrier, the surveillance system traces everybody he had been recently in touch with, or just passed by, and texts them that they must go into seclusion for a fortnight. Now they track all movements and all meetings of all Israeli residents at all times. Secret police forces of the world never had such magical abilities; now they do. The Jewish state is the testing ground for the total surveillance world project. The corona will pass, but total surveillance is here to stay forever, predicted Yuval Noah Harari. Only fear of the pandemic could make people accept it, and the corona panic did it.

The virus worries are peanuts in comparison with the terrible consequences of the massive shutdown. The real economy will disintegrate, and the workers and the precariat will be ruined and impoverished. They will work for their daily bread or die. Only financiers will survive and prosper – financiers and their liberal troops. That is what they hope for. Fear and Poverty is our future if they have their way.

The world is divided between those wishing to submit to the lockdown and those who preserve some sanity. The Masters of Discourse, the liberal media and its adepts are all for lockdown. The Guardian and the New York Times preach the mortal danger of the virus. TV networks are spreading panic. I have tried to watch Israeli TV News; there was no news, just hysteria online.

President Trump had made a valiant attempt to keep America functioning; but being accused by the New York Times of complicity in the mass murder of America’s senior citizens he acquiesced and allowed them to lock some states down. He still mulls over some way to save America, but will he dare? His British counterpart Boris Johnson has already surrendered after some initial resistance.

There are islands of sanity. Sweden is standing firm as a great positive example. Though people have been warned to cool it and minimise their outings, industry works, schools and kindergartens are open; cafés and restaurants function; trains are running and no army has been brought into Swedish towns. The Swedish liberal media owned by Bonnier tried to spread panic but it was quickly brought to heel by the threat of a hostile takeover of the newspapers. Swedish elites understand that if they allow the country’s industries to collapse in the lockdown, Sweden would be thrown back into its 19th century poverty. This is too steep a price for sticking to the party line. Sweden has its own independent mind and a strong self-preservation instinct that allowed her to refuse the Euro and to navigate between the 20th century warring camps.

Russia is still free and open, more or less. The Russian president sticks to the middle way. He went to visit Corona-stricken patients in a hospital near Moscow, like Napoleon in Jaffa. In a speech to the nation, he granted everybody a fully paid holiday week beginning this weekend. No lockdown for Mr Putin and his subjects, so the Russians can spend this extra holiday the way they like. He also declared tax and mortgage holidays, and to offset the expense he slapped the rich Russians with a tax on offshore transfers and on interest on bank deposits, signalling that the Corona crisis won’t be used to rob the workers for the benefit of the bankers. Previously he approved of some protective measures, closed the borders, but still Russia is free. Very low numbers of infected Russians make Putin’s strategy appear to be justified.

A tug-of-war is going on between the Russian adepts of the Masters and the Putin supporters. Putin’s enemies, the Moscow liberals, called for Israel’s example to be followed, terminating the country’s production. Meanwhile they shot themselves in the foot by closing down the museums and theatres leaving them without income. Putin added much to his popularity in the country by refusing to lock down, while Moscow mayor Sergey Sobyanin is free to introduce more local restrictions to be cheered by the liberals.

Tiny Belarus is the last bulwark of freedom – they do not give a damn about the virus, though they closed the borders. I always admired their President Lukashenko, whom the Western media called The Last Dictator of Europe. He said that physical work in the fresh air and a shot of vodka for lunch will keep you safe, and he is probably right.

After viewing these differing modes of response, we conclude: the liberals, the shock troops of the Masters of Discourse, want a state of siege and lockdown enforced by the army and police. They want our society to commit economic hara-kiri and to doom our children to the poverty our parents escaped. Fear, poverty and surveillance is their suggestion for us.

As always, they try to claim the high moral ground saying they do it for the sake of the old vulnerable people. As always, they lie. It is not moral to prolong the life of old and sick people at the expense of our children’s future, at the price of economic devastation. And the old aren’t powerless. The EU and the US are being led by old people, for these are safe and stable countries with social elevators being out-of-function for many years. Trump is 73, Biden is 77; Soros and Pelosi are even older. They are scared by the Corona.

The financiers behind them see in the Corona crisis a great opportunity to scare mankind and to buy their assets for a small price with the money they will get now from the Federal Reserve System (FRS). The trillions of dollars released by the FRS will be handed to the big financiers and they will buy the world. They will enslave mankind, establish total surveillance and end the pathetic era of individual freedoms and liberties. If they can punish you for going out for a walk, they can do anything.

Who created COVID-19? It is an interesting but less important question now. Who created the panic and who is using the panic to reach their goals, this is important. I call this obscure entity ‘the Masters of Discourse’. They have the media; they have talking heads and experts. Corona panic is not a natural phenomenon; the virus is not particularly deadly; very old and sick people may be speeded away, but it is not a bad thing, for the present attempt to keep everybody alive forever can’t survive even such a weak epidemic as Corona.

The Russian writer, Count Alexei Tolstoy (a distant, younger relative of Leon) charted an imaginary attempt of bad guys to take over the world. Five American tycoons spread the panic that the Moon is about to fall on earth and kill everybody. Unbeknownst to all, they shell the Moon with their powerful missiles, and shatter it to pieces. As people panic and the stock market drops, the Five Tycoons buy all and become the masters of the world. But the fear that was supposed to entrap citizens sets them free. They disregard the stock market and dismiss the whole private ownership system as irrelevant. At the end of the short story, a young man enters the inner sanctum of the Five Tycoons and asks them to get out for the place is needed for the youth club.

In real life, the scheme is equally neat. Mankind is being scared into panic by the disease. The panic stops the production; shares fall down; the bad guys get trillions from the FRS and use this money to buy the assets of the world. The world will be devastated by lockdowns; people will lose their means of earning their bread. The established system of total surveillance won’t allow them to rebel. In the end, the obedient and useful ones will be fed by the generous Masters, while the disobedient will die out.

In a way, it is a replay of Joseph in Egypt plot of the Bible. In the Biblical story, Joseph hoards the grain while the harvests are good, and sells food with handsome profit when harvests are lean. In the process he enslaves the Egyptians. Our Masters do not wait for years; they create hardship by forcing people to stay away from their work, and then they buy all there is to be bought.

It is a hare-brained scheme, actually. Its success depends on our passivity, but we do not have to be passive. We can refuse panic, deny lockdowns, forbid bailout of the bankers and the tycoons. Instead of the socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor we have now, we can make the rich to pay for the rest by making the biggest capital transfer since Reagan and Thatcher, in the opposite direction. Let the whole expense of the Corona crisis be carried by Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and other beneficiaries of the recent bountiful years. At the very least, the Europeans and the Americans can take a leaf from Putin’s book and provide full salary to their laid-off citizens. I think these measures will end the Masters desire to induce panic.

And then we shall see the Corona crisis as a nice opportunity to spend more time with our dear ones, and perhaps incidentally relieving the old and sick of the tiring burden of a fruitless life.

Israel Shamir can be reached at

This article was first published at The Unz Review.

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