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The Crumbling Global Tower

(AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

Although COVID deaths in Europe and North America are down, thanks to the availability of vaccines and growing herd immunity, the long shadow of the pandemic still hangs over the international order. The “fragile states” are reeling not only from the disease but from the lockdowns and fall in economic activity.

North Korea, the world’s only self-proclaimed coronavirus-free nation, said it was facing a “grave” viral incident and a “tense” food situation. This was seen by the BBC as an admission it is in real trouble.

Meanwhile, “Haiti, the poorest nation in the Western hemisphere, has earned another grim distinction: it’s the only one that hasn’t vaccinated a single resident against Covid-19,” writes Bloomberg. “Haiti was among the 92 poor and middle-income countries offered doses under the Covax Facility. But the government initially declined AstraZeneca PLC shots, citing side effects and widespread fears in the population.”

Already falling apart, it is now disintegrating. Haiti has no parliament, no president, a dispute over who is prime minister, a weak police force, and it’s full of looting gangs controlled by politicians. A prominent gang leader named Barbecue promises to launch a revolution to rid the island of the “stinking bourgeoisie.” But the bourgeoisie are also dying of COVID. Haiti’s chief justice recently died of it and former president  Jean-Bertrand Aristide has arrived in Cuba for medical treatment. Speaking of Cuba thousands of demonstrators took to the streets to complain about the economy, food, and the pandemic.

The protests are significant, because government critics face harsh punishments for dissent in Cuba. The island’s president called for his supporters to “fight” the protesters. Cuba is in the midst of an economic crisis and has been hit hard by US sanctions and Covid.

Cubans have been angered by the collapse of the economy, food and medicine shortages, price hikes and the government’s handling of the pandemic.

The “international community,” already hard-pressed by its own domestic concerns, is in no mood to donate more aid, send troops, or accept more refugees from the Caribbean, the Middle East, North Africa, or Afghanistan. The well is running dry. Even before the latest trouble, the left-wing Nation wrote: “Haiti Has Been Abandoned—by the Media, the US, and the World.” It underscores how deep the fatigue is: when the media gives up, who’s left?

Related: How the Global World Is Losing Control

Hanging like a cloud over the future of the “global world” is the question of the pandemic’s origin and whether — or when — a similar crisis might be due. The BBC’s preview of the intelligence community’s 90-day report to Joe Biden on the disease’s origins suggests it may be inconclusive. “There is no definitive piece of evidence – no Covid-positive bat or a confirmed first human case – to show conclusively how it started.”

In February 2020, Peter Daszak, who led the WHO investigation, was accused of silencing any debate over the possibility of a lab leak when he and 26 co-authors issued a statement in the Lancet medical journal stating: “We stand together to strongly condemn conspiracy theories suggesting that Covid-19 does not have a natural origin.” …

More than a year later, US President Joe Biden ordered his own intelligence agency to “redouble” efforts to investigate Sars-Cov-2’s origins, including the theory that it came from a laboratory. …

“We’re going to need co-operation from the Chinese authorities,” he said. “And they need to be far more forthcoming about what they know about the early epidemic in Wuhan at the tail end of 2019.

We don’t know anything definite, but Dr. Zeynep Tufekci, writing in the New York Times, noted that a Chinese lab accident started a pandemic once before—the 1977 H1N1 “Russian flu,” which, fortunately, killed only 700,000 people worldwide.

It was only in 2004 that a prominent virologist, Peter Palese, wrote that Chi-Ming Chu, a respected virologist and a former member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, told him that “the introduction of this 1977 H1N1 virus” was indeed thought to be due to vaccine trials involving “the challenge of several thousand military recruits with live H1N1 virus.”

With this question unlikely to be resolved for years if not decades, a new era of uncertainty dawns over the West. Even the Washington Post has stopped pretending we’re going back to “normal.” “The economy isn’t going back to February 2020. Fundamental shifts have occurred,” and not in a good way.

[C]onsumers struggle to adapt to a new landscape with higher prices, fewer workers, new innovations and a range of inconveniences…

The pandemic disrupted everything, damaging some parts of the economy much more than others. But a mass vaccination effort and the virus’s steady retreat this year has allowed many businesses and communities to reopen…

What Americans are encountering, though, is almost unrecognizable from just 16 months ago. Prices are up. Housing is scarce. It takes months longer than normal to get furniture, appliances and numerous parts delivered. And there is a great dislocation between millions of unemployed workers and millions of vacant jobs….

“This is an extraordinarily unusual time. And we really don’t have a template or any experience of a situation like this,” Powell said Wednesday. “We have to be humble about our ability to understand the data.”…

Then there is inflation, which hit a 13-year high in May, and is widely viewed as the biggest risk that could sink — or at least stall — the recovery’s progress….

As companies looked for ways to reduce the number of people in an office, hotel or factory, they turned to robots and telework….

There is perhaps no better illustration of the disruptive price and supply chain issues than lumber prices, which hit an eye-popping record of $1,670 per thousand board feet in May.

“This could be a real shift in the bargaining power of labor, which we really haven’t had since the demise of unions,” said Diana Farrell, the former chief executive of the JPMorgan Chase Institute and an eBay board member. It is a reply that is beyond parody.

More likely this could be the end of the old global world, the vanished landscape of old norms that Joe Biden was supposed to restore. Neither social media nor Hollywood could save it. It died under the rise of China, the corruption of Washington, the stasis of Europe, and the madness of Woke culture. COVID, when it came, was simply the coup de grace for the whole teetering edifice.

We are emerging from the pandemic, not by the door through which we entered, but into an unfamiliar landscape.

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