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Goalkeepers Reports and Billionaires under Heavy

The 2020 Goalkeepers Report is focused on the Covid-19 pandemic. The earlier Goalkeepers Reports dealt with the themes of Inequality and Youth Population Growth. These Reports, owed to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, track progress toward the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

College students must not miss out on the most recent global data that the Gates Foundation furnishes along with data sources and methodological notes, about the SDGs as follows: eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere; end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving by 2025, the internationally agreed upon targets on stunting in children under five; double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers; reduce the global maternal mortality ratio to less than 70 per 100,000 live births; end preventable deaths of newborns and children under age five, with all countries aiming to reduce under-five mortality to at least as low as 25 per 1000 live births; end preventable deaths of newborns and children under age five, with all countries aiming to reduce neonatal mortality to at least as low as 12 per 1000 live births; end the epidemics of AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and neglected tropical diseases like trachoma, schistosomiasis and visceral leishmaniasis; ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health care services, including those for family planning; achieve universal health coverage for all; strengthen the implementation of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control in all countries; support the research and development of vaccines and medicines for the communicable and noncommunicable diseases that primarily affect developing countries, and provide access to affordable essential medicines and vaccines; ensure, by 2030, that all girls and boys complete free, equitable, and quality primary and secondary education leading to relevant and effective learning outcomes; recognize and value unpaid care and domestic work; achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations; and, finally, strengthen the capacity of domestic financial institutions to encourage and expand access to banking, insurance, and financial services for all.

The 2020 Goalkeepers Report does two things. First, it discusses how the coronavirus pandemic directly and indirectly has already worsened and will worsen in due course the not so bad achievements with respect to the above SDGs that have been observed over the last 20 years. And secondly, it discusses the possibilities and limitations of global collaborative response to controlling as quickly as possible the coronavirus in terms of three tasks: (a) develop diagnostics and treatments to manage the pandemic in the short term and vaccines to end it in the medium term; (b) manufacture as many tests and doses as we can, as fast as we can; and (c) deliver these tools equitably to those who need them most, no matter where they live or how much money they have.

Be that as it may, the role of Bill and Melinda Gates and such tech barons and other billionaires belonging to the 1% in this world has been attacked by Vandana Shiva, the Indian scholar, environmental activist, food sovereignty advocate, and anti-globalisation author. The philanthropy of the 1% in relation to the SDGs that matter for the welfare of 99% is nothing but philanthrocapitalism and philanthroimperialism.

This critique, which the college students must not ignore as “rabid maniacal environmentalism”, is as follows.

First, the Gates Foundation’s portrayal of the pandemic as a world war against microbes is blatantly wrong. “In fact, the pandemic is not a war. The pandemic is a consequence of war. A war against life. The mechanical mind connected to the money machine of extraction has created the illusion of humans as separate from nature, and nature as dead, inert raw material to be exploited. But, in fact, we are part of the biome. And we are part of the virome. The biome and the virome are us. When we wage war on the biodiversity of our forests, our farms, and in our guts, we wage war on ourselves. The health emergency of the coronavirus is inseparable from the health emergency of extinction, the health emergency of biodiversity loss, and the health emergency of the climate crisis. All of these emergencies are rooted in a mechanistic, militaristic, anthropocentric worldview that considers humans separate from—and superior to—other beings. Being we can own, manipulate, and control. All of these emergencies are rooted in an economic model based on the illusion of limitless growth and limitless greed, which violate planetary boundaries, and destroy the integrity of ecosystems and individual species. New diseases arise because a globalised, industrialized, inefficient agriculture invades habitats, destroys ecosystems, and manipulates animals, plants and other organisms with no respect for their integrity or their health. We are linked worldwide through the spread of diseases like the coronavirus because we have invaded the homes of other species, manipulated plants and animals for commercial profits and greed, and cultivated monocultures. As we clear-cut forests, as we turn farms into industrial monocultures that produce toxic, nutritionally empty commodities, as our diets become degraded through industrial processing with synthetic chemicals and genetic engineering, and as we perpetuate the illusion that earth and life are raw materials to be exploited for profits, we are indeed connecting. But instead of connecting on a continuum of health by protecting biodiversity, integrity and self-organisation of all living beings, including humans, we are connected through disease.”

Secondly, the 1% does not know what is health. “Health is about life and living systems. There is no ‘life’ in the paradigm of health that Bill Gates and his ilk are promoting and imposing on the entire world. Gates has created global alliances to impose top-down analysis and prescriptions for health problems. He gives money to define the problems, and then he uses his influence and money to impose the solutions. And in the process, he gets richer.”

Thirdly, on March 26, 2020, at a peak of the coronavirus pandemic and in the midst of the lockdown, Microsoft was granted a patent by the World Intellectual Property Organisation. Patent WO 060606 declares that “Human Body Activity associated with a task provided to a user may be used in a mining process of a cryptocurrency system…”. Now, the ‘body activity’ that Microsoft wants to mine includes radiation emitted from the human body, brain activities, body fluid flow, blood flow, organ activity, body movement such as eye movement, facial movement, and muscle movement, as well as any other activities that can be sensed and represented by images, waves, signals, texts, numbers, degrees, or any other information or data. Thus, the patent is an intellectual property claim over our bodies and minds. Note that in colonialism, colonizers assign themselves the right to take the land and resources of indigenous people, extinguish their cultures and sovereignty, and in extreme cases exterminate them. Patent WO 060606 is a declaration by Microsoft that our bodies and minds are its new colonies. We are mines of ‘raw material’—the data extracted from our bodies. Rather than sovereign, spiritual, conscious, intelligent beings making decisions and choices with wisdom and ethical values about the impacts of our actions on the natural and social world of which we are a part, and to which we are inextricably related, we are ‘users’—i.e. digital slaves. A ‘user’ is a consumer without choice in the digital empire.

Finally, Gates also wants to colonise the minds, bodies and spirits of our children before they even have the opportunity to understand what freedom and sovereignty look and feel like, beginning with the most vulnerable. In May 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York announced a partnership with the Gates Foundation to “reinvent education”. Cuomo called Gates a visionary and argued that the pandemic has created “a moment in history when we can actually incorporate and advance (Gates’) ideas…all these buildings, all these physical classrooms—why with all the technology you have?” What does this mean? It means, in fact, that Gates has been trying to dismantle the public education system since long. For him, students are mines for data. That is why the indicators he promotes are attendance, college enrolment, and scores on a math and reading test, because these can be easily quantified and mined. In Gates’ reimagining education, children will be monitored through surveillance systems to check if they are attentive while they are forced to take classes remotely, alone at home. The dystopia, thus, is one where children never return to schools, do not have a chance to play, and do not have friends. It is a world without society, without relationships, and without love and friendship.

The conclusion of Vandana Shiva is unequivocal. We thus stand at a precipice of extinction: “Will we allow our humanity as living, conscious, intelligent, autonomous beings to be extinguished by a greed machine that does not know limits and is unable to put a break on its colonization and destruction? Or will we stop the machine and defend our humanity, freedom, and autonomy to protect life on earth?” I, for one, stand with her.

By Annavajhula J.C. Bose, PhD
Department of Economics, SRCC


Vandana Shiva with Kartikey Shiva. 2020. Oneness vs the 1%: Shattering Illusions, Seeding Freedom. Chelsea Green Publishing. August.
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