I’VE heard it said that the world-changing superpower of the coronavirus represents the death of capitalism: that in reducing corporations and their predatory systems to rubble we have the opportunity now to construct something around community values; something kinder. If only it were true.

Certainly, there is some grim glee to be gathered in the realisation that humans aren’t the world’s apex predators after all. At any moment on nature’s whim we can be harrowed by something as natural and untamed as a pathogen that’s existed from before we first attempted to bend the elements to our will. As all its more benign siblings have been numbered and tamed it has bided it’s time for this, its most lethal metastasis.

Perhaps, too, it’s a judgment on the way lately we have been looting the planet’s resources and killing off those creatures who were created to share its bounty with us. I’m enchanted by the possibility that the humble pangolin, hunted to near-extinction in its own back garden, may have been the chosen emissary for our degradation. God does indeed have a sense of humour, and a devilish one at that.

Enchanting but illusory. For the moment we can derive some solace from those assorted social media snapshots of the Samaritan that exists within us all, reaching out to strangers and being sustained by gifts beyond the reach of money. And who knows; perhaps some of it will endure when normality and the tyranny of the free market returns.

“All is changed, changed utterly. A terrible beauty is born,” wrote WB Yeats of Ireland’s Easter Rising. His words have been modified and paraphrased to describe our current coronavirus reality, but the changes we are making – and those being made for us – are for the moment. All is indeed changed, but not utterly.

In time, the triumph of capital will re-assert itself, beginning when the Covid-19 vaccine itself is ready for distribution. There is a reason why Donald Trump reportedly sought to acquire this pearl at a great price, and it wasn’t so that he could channel his inner Mother Teresa and make it free to the world or even his own people. “Four more years, and here’s your corona jag if you agree.” Trump is not alone in casting covetous glances.

In Kirkintilloch, just north of Glasgow, where I spent some school years, there is a family-owned Italian café called Ghiloni’s which has stood for more than 100 years. In that time it has offered warmth and employment to generations of local families and is as well-known as the Roman Antonine Wall which cuts through the town. Last week, like many other small businesses across the UK, it stepped up. This message (slightly edited) appeared on its Facebook page.

“We have a lot to be grateful and thankful for the community of Kirkintilloch and the surrounding area. Without you, we would not be here. So, we want to give something back to our community. Our concern for our elderly and vulnerable residents is growing rapidly and we are here to help.

“If any of you need a hot bowl of homemade soup, tea, coffee (or a toilet roll) we will try to help you out with whatever we can, totally free of charge. If any of you know of any elderly or vulnerable people in our community who need our help, please let us know. Just call us and give your name and address and we will get it to you as soon as we can that day.”

READ MORE: Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh: The glaring holes at the heart of ‘Crisis Conservatism’

And yet, it’s too easy to disparage those who elsewhere descend like crows to scavenge at a supermarket shelf. Their government has just told them that there’s an 80% chance of them being struck down by coronavirus and they must hibernate for a lengthy period.

As we gather to reproach panic buying in the shops, we seem less exercised about the panic selling that’s brought the world’s stock markets to their knees. Earlier this week Wall Street experienced its biggest daily reversal since the 1929 Crash. This happens when very rich speculators rush to sell their stakes as a means of protecting something of their overall investment portfolios. They are impervious to the knock-on effects to economies and never spare a thought to the millions of people whose livelihoods will disappear as a result of their actions.

OTHER investors, taking a longer view, lick their lips at adverse global events. In his 2015 book Disaster Capitalism: Making A Killing Out Of Catastrophe, the author Antony Loewenstein recounts details of the aid effort after the earthquake that hit Haiti in 2010. Many of us have since become aware of this owing to the obscene behaviour of some aid workers who sexually exploited victims. But something just as insidious was occurring.

Local people had initially responded smartly to the disaster by building makeshift clinics and working through the night to clear rubble from devastated sites. Then, according to the author, the monetisation of the relief effort began as USAID-funded contractors moved in. Factories were quickly built to satiate the west’s consumer appetite and local labour exploited with wages lower than subsistence level.

Wherever there is war, famine or pestilence the Halliburtons and the Sercos gather to feed and are given licence to do so by the governments they spend fortunes lobbying.

Over the next few months, hundreds of UK small businesses will disappear because they will be deemed to be acceptable collateral by the government and a slippery insurance and banking industry.

For a few months these firms need to be told that their loan repayments are suspended and that the banks will extend their overdrafts at manageable rates to facilitate a rapid recovery.

Following the self-inflicted crash of 2008, the government produced a multi-billion pound bank bail-out with two main conditions attached: that they help small business customers and cease massive bankers’ bonuses. Within months businesses were being menaced and the bonuses returned. This time around they need to be forced to aid the recovery by reaching out to their most vulnerable customers. Some hope.

The country is led by a man who issued this response in 2013 to EU proposals to cap bankers’ bonuses. “This is possibly the most deluded measure to come from Europe since Diocletian tried to fix the price of groceries across the Roman Empire.”

I don’t think Boris Johnson and the Tories are using eugenics to cull the British population. But when your entire social philosophy is founded on the concept of survival of the fittest, the task of strengthening the weak must be a daunting one.