The pandemic feels increasingly like a historic inflection point and ‘Coronation’ may, over time, come to be seen as the first film of a new era. Conveyed through the lens of a dissident, its sense of destiny about China’s rise – a common theme in state propaganda – is a vision that offers no triumphalism or comfort.
David Graeber recognised that freedom tethered to a market-based ideology is profoundly unfair and unequal and can never be universal.
What’s needed is a radical restructuring of capitalism, one that builds on the values of craftsmanship, a post-growth economy organised around human wellbeing, rather than one fuelled by the accumulation of capital.
In the eighteenth century, during the most prosperous period of the Qing dynasty’s rule, mass hysteria broke out in the empire’s commercial capital over rumours that a band of sorcerers were roaming the countryside chanting incantations and stealing their souls. There are instructive parallels between China’s sorcery crisis of 1768 and the Trump administration’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Trump’s insistence that a martial response is required reflects an inability to think about collective action outside the realm of war and the nation state.
The dead-carts have been replaced by hearses and the bodies are burnt rather than buried, but this scenes are not altogether dissimilar to those depicted by Daniel Defoe in A Journal of a Plague Year.