A world redrawn: Syria thinker Imad Fawzi Shueibi predicts new world order

Damascus (AFP) –


The coronavirus pandemic could create a new world order in which everyone is a loser and new alliances are born to overcome disaster, Syrian thinker Imad Fawzi Shueibi said.

The Damascus University professor in epistemology, or theory of knowledge, said the deadly virus had altered human relationships, creating a new feared "other" even among those closest to us.

The 59-year-old, who has a close relationship with President Bashar al-Assad's government, is the author of several books on a variety of topics ranging from science and philosophy to international affairs.

Shueibi, considered one of the leading intellectuals in government-held Syria, spoke to AFP via video call from his home in Damascus.

How has the coronavirus affected our relationships?

All relationships have been affected by the coronavirus. The virus has altered intimate relationships between humans, and paralysed physical contact.

Imagine a world without physical love, steeped in real worry from both sides, in which the other becomes hell.

The coronavirus has given rise to a new form of "other", even among the closest to us, as everyone is afraid of everyone.

Personally, I used to love solitude to read and enjoy myself, but now suddenly I feel it's no longer solitude by choice but forced isolation.

How has the pandemic changed the world?

A while back there were many signs worldwide... pointing to a new war brewing, but I believe World War Three has actually occurred because of a tiny virus, which has brought about the expected change and disastrous consequences for all countries worldwide.

At the end of the Second World War, there were winners and losers. But today, a new world order could be established, one in which everyone is a loser. This demands a pattern of cooperation between countries completely different from that which emerged after the Second World War.

The spread of the coronavirus has set in motion fundamental change on many levels -- economical, political, intellectual and social -- and it will not stop when it ends.

An unexpected event sparked that change, like a butterfly effect, in which a simple event leads to very dramatic widespread change, just like the Austrian crown prince's assassination just before the First World War.

Economically, lockdowns have resulted in a huge downturn unseen since the Great Depression.

Politically, we are facing a stage that could lead to the crystallisation of a new global system of cooperating or competing -- but not necessarily rival -- powers. It could give birth to a new form of relations and alliances between countries.

Socially, change will be embodied in new forms of human interactions after all the isolation and social distancing.

Intellectually, change has come through the moral quandaries posed by the virus and the way to treat it.

Those older than 50 are the wisest but also the most vulnerable to death. Imagine what the world would look like filled with energy and knowledge, but without wisdom.

What will happen to Syria after the virus?

I believe the first thing violence and defeat does is pave the way to all subsequent tyranny.

The hungry do not think rationally and the bereaved become bent on revenge, and this applies to Syria and all downtrodden and poor countries in the world.

There will be disastrous consequences if more sanctions are imposed on Syria like those expected from the Caesar law (to be implemented by the United States in early June) at the same time as the coronavirus pandemic.

Everybody will emerge exhausted after the war against the coronavirus. No one in the region will be able to withstand the disastrous consequences derived from the continuation of pre-coronavirus wars in a time of pandemic.