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Time appears sus­pend­ed when TV sta­tions broad­cast pro­grams pre­pared months in advance, some­times between two ads for trips to far-away places. This is a strange war.

Then out of nowhere, some­thing crops up about returned mer­chan­dise on online busi­ness­es. A report pur­port­ing to be about “the world as it was before” — and yet, so cur­rent.

One thing lead­ing to anoth­er, the top­ic fol­lows the mean­der­ings of web busi­ness­es’ bête noire: “returned mer­chan­dise.” Ini­tial­ly restrict­ed to defec­tive items or those that did­n’t match up with the order, “returns” have slow­ly become a con­sumer habit. Appar­ent­ly, “Try­ing it on leads to return­ing it” we are told. And when, dur­ing a pan­el about heav­i­ly con­sumed prod­ucts, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of so-called “big labels” give fig­ures on the expo­nen­tial growth of returns, one is as astound­ed as by the world fig­ures on food destroyed because unsold or because it was thrown out after pur­chase.

The pro­gram moves on to the “sec­ond mar­ket” offered by returned or unsold merchandise…I stop there.

To sum­ma­rize, from a small top­ic there appears before our eyes that of a soci­ety of con­sump­tion and waste, where each step in the process accrues some prof­it, often­times with no social ben­e­fit in the end, except to increase the fig­ures on growth. The growth of jobs and mon­ey. The pre-war world.

It’s almost enough to make you for­get about the mobi­liza­tions “for the cli­mate”, the emer­gence of a min­i­mal aware­ness of what glob­al cap­i­tal­ist real­i­ty rep­re­sents in terms of preda­to­ry prac­tices across the plan­et, lead­ing to a world from which there is “no return”.

This is the econ­o­my a virus has blocked, and where “de-con­fin­ers” are already search­ing for the lubri­cant that will get it start­ed again. Since there can be no ques­tion of redo­ing a Davos at the moment, and since these days were rather those of pan­ic for the financiers, ideas hop­prf about and ran into one anoth­er.

Between those the­o­riz­ing a ben­e­fi­cial rebound, a glo­ri­ous post-war peri­od marked by the fre­net­ic con­sump­tion of a return to life — offer­ing com­pet­i­tive oppor­tu­ni­ties to which one had to pre­pare ‑and those watch­ing their aus­ter­i­ty-based man­age­ment shat­tered to bits, every shade of neolib­er­al­ism is cur­rent­ly think­ing out loud and express­ing itself. All agree to the need of soft-ped­alling the rela­tion­ship between the finan­cia­riza­tion of the glob­al econ­o­my and the real mar­ket for a while.

In fact, the finan­cial sec­tors no longer see in a bad light the var­i­ous States’ mon­strous loom­ing indebt­ed­ness. This will only mean more pow­er for the financiers tomor­row. This might explain why the world mar­kets have sta­bi­lized fol­low­ing their plum­met­ing. Financiers see fine post-war days ahead for them­selves.

The mar­ket’s pain will be more in terms of the future san­i­tary con­di­tion of its labor­ers, and, no doubt their greater or less­er docil­i­ty in talk­ing up the yoke again.

It is there­fore sur­pris­ing not to hear more from those express­ing rad­i­cal crit­i­cism of the so-called old cap­i­tal­ist world, not to hear it said that the san­i­tary cri­sis is noth­ing but the hors d’œu­vre of the envi­ron­men­tal cri­sis, and that rolling up our sleeves and re-start­ing “growth” tomor­row, after a time-out on the beach, will be sui­ci­dal and oh-so ben­e­fi­cial for the sur­vival of a “no alter­na­tive” glob­al­ized sys­tem.

Politi­cians on all sides already prepar­ing their “set­tling of accounts” with their respec­tive gov­ern­ments turn into gar­den gnomes giv­en the chal­lenges of this post-war peri­od, because all of them have more or less shoved utopias into the attic, the bet­ter to play the alter­nat­ing gov­er­nance game afford­ed by the bal­lot box­es.

Ant­i­cap­i­tal­ism for the speech­es at ral­lyes, and rea­son­able repub­li­can oppo­si­tion in dai­ly prac­tice.

And yet, we saw the com­ments that erupt­ed dur­ing the moment of aston­ish­ment, when every­one real­ized that the “lit­tle flu” did not give way, whether faced by two-bit con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries, or “what me wor­ry?” brava­do. Those com­ments gave way to a quar­rel over masks, a quar­rel the “mar­ket” was quick to latch onto, by the way.

And quid of class strug­gle?

In pop­ulist mode, one can evoke it con­cern­ing con­fine­ment prac­tices that have spread world wide to break the chain of con­t­a­m­i­na­tion. This offers the oppor­tu­ni­ty of redis­cov­er­ing high­ly dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed liv­ing and shel­ter­ing con­di­tions, depend­ing on whether you are “poor or pow­er­ful”. But here again, there’s not much beyond rein­vent­ing the wheel.

And this brings me back to what big and lit­tle screens are show­ing us.

For New York, we get the top­ic “ship” and a mor­al­iz­ing les­son on the behav­ior described as “dan­ger­ous” of entire pop­u­la­tions who sun­bathed over the week­end. To sum­ma­rize, the reporter “inter­viewed” the French speak­ers who were there who described them­selves as “upset”. But the few Amer­i­can fam­i­lies he inter­viewed had a total­ly dif­fer­ent point of view: “We’ve noth­ing to wor­ry about, we’re between our­selves”… And the all-news chan­nel moves on to nth con­tro­ver­sy over the pros and cons of chloro, whether it be quine or not…

Let’s go back to the “…we’re between our­selves”, and yes, we see images of jog­gers, of fam­i­lies with match­ing fash­ion dog­gies and ban­danas. You’d almost think you were on Île de Ré.

The City of New York’s recent poli­cies involved “cleans­ing”. Briefly stat­ed, secu­ri­ty cleans­ing and social cleans­ing. Gen­tri­fi­ca­tion of neigh­bor­hoods and social dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion accord­ing to the var­i­ous zones. Mak­ing some “home­less” invis­i­ble and an every-man-for-him­self pol­i­cy for the mid­dle and upper class­es and their domes­tic or ser­vice staff. With a lit­tle help from racist polic­ing by the same token. The mod­el’s results speak loud­er than those on the French island or in its major cities, but there are sim­i­lar­i­ties. Be patient. “We are between our­selves” and could become so even more.

From social divi­sions we move on to world divi­sions exploit­ed and instru­men­tal­ized by glob­al cap­i­tal­ism. And this before/after world will still be as per­va­sive in the post-war peri­od.

Friends of mine keep telling me to turn of the TV. But I per­sist in say­ing that, as with a book, one can read it with a dif­fer­ent out­look from that of its author, as long as you don’t keep it to your­self. Dur­ing this con­fine­ment peri­od, that can take the form of a col­umn to be con­tin­ued

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges |
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Daniel Fleury
Let­tres mod­ernes à l’Université de Tours. Gros mots poli­tiques… Coups d’oeil politiques…