THE image of the Ever Given, the giant cargo ship stuck in the Suez Canal has fueled a rash of memes and acts as a perfect symbol of a broken system; global capitalism stuck in a single point of failure.

The giant cargo ship could take weeks to remove according to salvage experts, triggering a crisis for international shipping and a potential shortage of essential goods and fuel. It is not clear what caused the grounding. Initial reports suggested that Ever Given had experienced engine trouble, but a spokesman for the vessel’s managers, confirmed that an initial investigation has ruled out any suggestion of mechanical failure. Local officials said the ship ran aground amid poor visibility and high winds from a sandstorm in Egypt.

The 220,000-tonne, 400m-long container ship got stuck last Tuesday and over-optimistic rumours that it was re-floated were quashed by Lloyd’s List who issued a statement saying: “The Suez Canal remains closed following the grounding of a fully laden Evergreen-operated 20,000teu (twenty-foot equivalent unit) containership on Tuesday, blocking traffic on one of the world’s most important waterways. Despite reports that the 2018-built, Panama-flagged Ever Given had been partially refloated, the vessel’s technical managers BSM have confirmed that the vessel remains grounded.”

Lloyd’s List Intelligence AIS tracking also confirms that Ever Given has not moved since it ran aground 151 km north in the Suez Canal last Tuesday, turning sideways and causing a backup of many hundreds of other ships.

It’s interesting that it takes a single iconic image to cut through the torrent of information, disinformation and misinformation that flashes before us every minute.

It’s one of these revelatory moments. It reveals the fragility of the systems that operate our “magical world” where goods arrive from the other side of the planet and place and season and locality are disappeared. As we struggle out of lockdown and try to “recover” (itself a problematic word to use) from the pandemic – the relation between the local and the global is exposed like never before.

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Some people are beginning to awaken to the grand-scale possibility of this moment as well as the global tragedy.

Writing for the Enough Collective’s journal, LESS, Adrián Almazán and Luis González Reyes write: “The great shock caused by the total lockdown in spring of 2020 becomes more distant with each passing day. For months now, we have been living a ‘new normal’ which is neither new, given that it continues to put capital and growth before life, nor in any way normal. Rather than grasping the opportunity presented by those months of lockdown when everything came to a standstill to undertake a radical change of direction, our societies have held on to fear and continuity, desperately struggling to ensure that everything remains the same and – as soon as possible – returns to normality, regularity and stability.

“We empathise with the suffering of many families and businesses which have found themselves obligated to confront situations of tremendous precarity due to the policies of governments ... Nothing could be further from our intention than to suggest that these should be abandoned or left unsupported. However, it would be a serious mistake were we to fail to see that if the particular ways of living, producing, consuming, transportation etc. generated by industrial capitalist societies are to continue, then suffering in the near future will be much greater and probably affect all of humanity.”

They conclude: “The great problem we face is that, at a deep level, hardly anybody has understood that the Covid-19 pandemic is not an isolated and exceptional event, but rather a single moment in a much broader process: ecosocial collapse.”

We need to avoid being complicit in this. The harshness of the experience of lockdown and the desperate need for a return to the comforts of “normality” means we are all craving travel, pubs, sociability and shopping. But late-capitalism has a way of offsetting our exploitation with the “gifts” and “promises” of booze and sun. Cheap alcohol and cheap flights act as a sedative from our ongoing exploitation.

What does it tell us about our yearning to be back in the pub? Our desperate desire to “fly away” from it all? Our over-dependence on experiences to block-out or hide us away from reality is the real revelation here.

Yet if the Ever Given has revealed the fragility of our global supply systems and our utter dependence on goods from across the globe, the lockdown experience has also exposed the fragility of our mental health and given us a massive collective wake-up call.

Instead, we are faced with a government intent on lining the pockets of their friends and networks, a state wrapping itself up in the red white and blue of a new flag-frenzy, and watching in real-time whole industries and sectors of the economy collapsing before us.

In the face of this how is it possible for people to just carry on? How is it possible to pretend that everything’s OK?

Hiding your eyes from the brightness of the light is an automatic self-defence mechanism. Denial has its purposes. It’s a well-honed technique but its one that has run its course.

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In an unguarded moment this week the Prime Minister boasted to MPs that “the reason we have the vaccine success is because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends”.

This is a moment to listen carefully and observe your exploiters and nurture our wrath.

The flag-waving craze needs to be understood not as a sign of strength but of a regime that is out of control and out of ideas. They are returning to ideas and symbols from the 19th century and mimicking the right-wing tactics of the Trump era. As we face a multitude of crisis, that is really one crisis: capital; we are governed by people who think that the answer to this swirling mass of problems is a piece of red white and blue cloth.

To understand this fervor Robert Shrimsely writes in the Financial Times: “In all this sudden zeal for performative patriotism there is an element of the fervour of a newly independent nation, which is of course what Tories think the UK is. So while the Conservative enthusiasm for the flag is sincere it is also part of a broader strategy. To understand this fully, it is necessary to grasp the shock felt by Brexiters at the backlash against their referendum victory and how it has framed their thinking since. Across the establishment, from the courts to parliament, the civil service and sections of the media, they discerned people trying to dilute or cancel their win.”

There’s a pile of dark irony in all this.

As Scotland goes to the polls to seek the steps to bid for independence, part of Greater England thinks it has just achieved its own Liberation (it doesn’t matter that the oppressor is imaginary and the grievances illusory).

It is obsessed with flags and if its naked nationalism seems objectionable we should reflect how our own flag-waving appears to some people in our society we might hope to win over. We need to avoid being not just a mirror-opposite to the thing we detest. We need to be alter not anti.

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The banality and simplism of the political project we witness, one that is wholly dependent on Flag Nationalism and the vaccine as a cure-all to all of our problems is grotesque in its inadequacy.

Yet, realising this we must strive – no we must demand – that our own resolutions and strategies are more complex and transformational, more radical and far-reaching than to wrap ourselves in our flag and head to the sun.

The pandemic offers us an opportunity to not just “build back better” but to re-imagine a completely different society and create a viable future.