A sign at sunset in the Davos Congress Center ahead of the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum on January 19, 2020. Photo: AFP / Fabrice Cofferini

According to the latest International Labor Organization reports, as job losses escalate due to lockdowns aimed at slowing the spread of Covid-19, nearly half of the global workforce is at risk of losing livelihoods, access to food and the ability to survive.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) has stated, “With some 2.6 billion people around the world in some kind of lockdown, we are conducting arguably the largest psychological experiment ever.”

As governments and corporations tighten political authoritarianism and technological surveillance, curtailing privacy and democratic protest, much of humanity is succumbing to anxiety, depression and a sense of powerlessness. Countries with some of the harshest lockdowns, such as India, have seen significant increases in suicides.

Pandemic narrative and dissent

Dominant global political and economic institutions and the media present their pandemic narrative as based on scientific authority. However, there is increasing disagreement on the origin and prevention of the virus within the biomedical profession.

Many physicians and scientists are questioning whether Covid-19 is a natural occurrence or the product of a leak from a lab experimenting with coronaviruses and bioweapons. There is concern over the accuracy of PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests and false positives, as well as the classification of deaths simply as caused by Covid-19 when an overwhelming number of fatalities are related to pre-existing illnesses or co-morbidities, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Even according to statistics released last Wednesday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Covid-19 was mentioned as the sole cause of death in only 6% of the cases. The disproportionately higher rates of Covid deaths among native Americans and Alaska Inuit, for example, are due to their higher rates of obesity, diabetes, asthma, and heart disease than among more privileged US communities.

The Covid pandemic has not been the “Great Equalizer” as suggested by the likes of New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and members of the World Economic Forum. Rather, it has exacerbated existing inequalities along gender, race and economic class divides across the world.

Just as unemployed and uninsured Americans are pleading for support, the combined wealth of US billionaires “surpassed $1 trillion in gains since March 2020 and the beginning of the pandemic,” according to a study by the Institute for Policy Studies. The top five US billionaires – Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison – saw their wealth grow by a total of $101.7 billion, or 26%, during this period.

Among the pandemic profiteers are chief executives of companies like Zoom and Skype providing videoconferencing, and Amazon providing online shopping to citizens under lockdown. Yet the success of these companies has not translated into better wages and safety conditions for their employees.

However, the political and ideological power of the billionaire class and their influence over domestic and global policymaking are increasing. Relevant in this regard is billionaire Bill Gates’ central role in the development and marketing of vaccines and interest in use of vaccines as a method of population control.

The pharmaceutical industry, ie Big Pharma (including vaccine manufacturers), are known for inflating prices, avoiding taxes and manipulating the political process to maximize profit. Unfortunately, this corrupt industry is a key player in the race to end the Covid-19 pandemic.

The incoming Joe Biden administration in the US has received extensive funding from the pharmaceutical industry, yet it has not agreed to cut the cost of a possible coronavirus vaccine developed with federal research dollars. Rather, the Biden administration, also heavily funded by the big tech, finance and defense sectors, is poised to facilitate “The Great Reset,” a WEF initiative to remake the post-pandemic world order.

The ‘Great Reset’

The WEF, which identifies itself as “the international organization for public-private partnership” (that is, like the Council on Foreign Relations, a geopolitical corporate power agency), sees the social and economic devastation caused by the Covid-19 pandemic as a “unique window of opportunity to shape the recovery.”

Speaking at a conference organized by the WEF in June, former US secretary of state John Kerry expressed concern: “Forces and pressures that were pushing us into crisis over the social contract are now exacerbated.… The world is coming apart, dangerously, in terms of global institutions and leadership.”

The “Great Reset” envisaged by the WEF seeks to address these challenges through radical global restructuring. It seeks to reinvent “the priorities of societies, the nature of business models and the management of a global commons … to build a new social contract,” with sustainable development and resilience as its ultimate objectives.

At its next annual gathering of the rich and powerful in Davos, Switzerland, in January 2021, the WEF is expected to adopt the Great Reset and also incorporate youth leaders from around the world into the initiative through a virtual summit.

The stated goals of sustainability and resilience are laudable, but many are questioning the true objectives of both the WEF and the Great Reset.

A pandemic simulation called Event 201, for example, was conducted in October 2019, about three months before the Covid-19 outbreak, by the World Economic Forum in conjunction with the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The simulation predicted up to 65 million deaths due to a coronavirus.

Many are wondering why these powerful organizations, having apparently already run the exact scenario as a test, failed to prevent or at least prepare the world for the imminent viral outbreak.

The global political economy has been moving in the direction of increasing technological and market integration through social media, artificial intelligence and biotechnology. In the wake of Covid-19, the trends toward digitization and commoditization of economic and social relations have increased.

The Great Reset seeks to accelerate and solidify these trends as well as expand corporate control of natural resources and state surveillance of individuals. In the post-pandemic Great Reset, there would not be much life left outside the technological-corporate nexus dominated by monolithic agribusiness, pharmaceutical, communication, defense and other inter-connected corporations, and the governments and media serving them.

The proponents of the Great Reset envisage a Brave New World where “you will own nothing. And you will be happy. Whatever you want, you will rent, and it will be delivered by drones….” But it is more likely that this elite-led revolution will make the vast majority of humanity a powerless appendage of technology with little consciousness and meaning in their lives.


The mainstream media establishment tends to cast all critiques of the dominant Covid narrative and solutions as conspiracy theories. Yet more and more people are questioning the narrative on the origin and management of the pandemic and, instead, see the need to shift to a truly democratic, just and ecological civilization.

Many of the anti-lockdown protests around the world have had limited focus on social restrictions and personal freedom, desires usually in tune with the individualism of globalized consumer culture. While these have gained some attention in the mainstream media, the more focused and progressive demands for social and economic rights by civil-society groups have received scant attention.

These include demands by numerous groups, such as Oxfam International, to make Covid-19 medicines and vaccines free and fair for all. There is also a demand for a global public inquiry, to be led by independent scientists, to gather evidence on the origin and evolution of Covid-19. In addition, there is a call for an International Biowarfare Crimes Tribunal, to bring perpetrators of the pandemic to justice, whether they be from the US or China.

The overall objective of these demands is greater transparency, ethics and accountability in the use of technology, especially biotechnology and vaccines against Covid-19 and other viruses. The demand for enforcement of the Biological Weapons Convention calls on the “nations of the world, China, Russia, the US, to come together to enforce better verification systems for preventing the production of biological weapons in the future, before the world is put through multiple pandemics to come.”

These are concerns to be included in an alternative ethical, wise and compassionate Great Reset.

The Covid pandemic is a turning point, an opportunity to change. The reset we need now is not the creation of a “post-human, post-nature” world defined by unregulated corporate-led growth of artificial intelligence and biotechnology. We need to balance digitization and commoditization with an ecological reset, a way of living that respects the environment, promotes agro-ecology, bioregionalism and local communities.

We need to raise our consciousness and understanding of humanity as a species in nature, our connectedness to one another and the rest of planetary life.

Asoka Bandarage

Asoka Bandarage PhD has taught at Brandeis, Mount Holyoke, Georgetown and other universities. She is currently distinguished (adjunct) professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies. She is the author of Sustainability and Well-Being: The Middle Path to Environment, Society and the Economy and many other books and publications. She serves on the advisory boards of the Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, Critical Asian Studies and the International Buddhist Association of America.