Ebol-A-pocalypse?

I’ve been a bit pre-occupied for the last couple of weeks, so apologies for the lack of posting.

It’s always hard to get back to posting after a little hiatus, expected or not.

I’ve got some drafts going on the Public Sector Reform Act and a few other things, but I thought I’d just post a quick little something to try and kick-start writing properly again…

And so, Ebola.

In our modern world with its various apocalyptic films and TV series dominating popular culture, and with globalisation shrinking our world, increasing connections between populations while also accelerating socio-economic collapse in the imperial periphery to the benefit of the imperial metropoles, the fear of a global epidemic has to rank right up there with the worst of nightmares of humanity in the early 21st Century. Biohazard

For my own generation, who came of age in the shadow of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, exchanging the fear of a nuclear apocalypse with a disease-based apocalypse, this is perhaps not surprising.

And with the recent concerns over Avian Flu, Swine Flu and MERS virus, with all the apocalyptic panic that accompanied these (along with various outbreaks of xenophobia), the latest scare of Ebola is just the latest scare of this nature.

Western Ebola?

While I have very little fear of Ebola heralding a global apocalypse, or even being a problem in Bermuda, I don’t think anyone can deny it is a serious problem.  And it is a massive regional crisis in West Africa, with the scope of expanding throughout the African continent and South-East Asia.

The ‘West’, the imperial metropoles of the world, a continuing legacy of first formal imperialism and, second, the unequal relations between nominally ‘free’ former colonial peripheries that maintain and reinforce dependency and exploitation, is not, in my opinion, at risk of being directly affected by Ebola.

At best I can see a few minor cases like we’ve already seen in Spain and Texas.  I have no doubt that in the coming weeks we’ll see additional, similar, cases, but I don’t see it becoming a problem outside of medical facilities – in the West Ebola will be contained.

Quite frankly, the West has a robust medical infrastructure which, despite its obvious failures (especially in the USA’s hyper-privatisation system), is more than sufficient to contain Ebola.

Epidemic Ebola

Where Ebola is a threat, and I mean a real crisis and likely to reach epidemic level, is in those areas of the world without a robust social infrastructure, particularly medical.

In practical terms, for various reasons, those are areas of historical underdevelopment and those areas which are effectively ‘failed states’ at the moment.

In other words:

  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • South-East Asia (Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines – to various degrees)
  • Parts of Latin America
  • Libya, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Afghanistan

In these areas, already underdeveloped by imperialism, historical and current, where the social/medical infrastructure has been under-developed through unequal and exploitative relations with the West, or where war has led to a collapse of previously robust (relatively) infrastructures, it will be hard to contain Ebola, and there it may become epidemic, with long-lasting consequences for their societies and economies.

These already under-developed areas will become even more under-developed accordingly.  And it’s no coincidence that Ebola has broken out in the still recovering war-torn Sierra Leone and Liberia (with Guinea being affected by their conflicts too) after all.

Ebola will, however, indirectly affect the West, primarily in terms of increased desperate immigration (further destablising intermediary countries – North Africa and the Levant in particular), as well as becoming potential incubators for terrorist organisations, likely leading to a greater and greater ‘Fortress West’ and the occassional military interventions as an expanded ‘War on Terror’.  It’s hard not to imagine groups like Boko Haram or AQIM taking advantage of the Ebola-destabilised regions.

There’s a few other notes that I’ll only touch on a little here:

  • Ebola has evolved into a more perfect killer.  In the past it killed far too rapidly (within 48 hours) – as a result, infected persons were limited in how far they could spread the disease.  They died before spreading the infection too widely.  The current virus seems to take anywhere between five to twenty days, greatly increasing the range of contagion.
  • Globalisation has made it quicker and easier to expand the range of contagion greatly.
  • Western media coverage has betrayed its biases again – the coverage of the few infected Western citizens has received far greater coverage than the thousands infected and dead in West Africa.

Final points:

  • Western panic of an Ebola apocalypse is misplaced in my opinion – the West, including Bermuda, is not about to be brought to its knees by Ebola.
  • If we want to (and I think we have an ethical imperative to do so) stop the spread of Ebola we need provide assistance to the social and medical infrastructures in Africa and South East Asia.
  • Even more, we need to create a less exploitative relationship with these areas.  Specifically, we need to engage in fair trade relationships; we need to transfer (for free) technological know-how; write-off all debt to these regions; pay reparations for at least more recent military interventions; and stop undermining these regions through proxy wars.
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