I wonder how long it will take us, the vast majority of real humans, to remove or recycle these useless parasites that have prevented the evolution of the species since the beginning?
“London is to billionaires what the jungles of Sumatra are to the orangutan. It is their natural habitat”—Boris Johnson, Conservative Party Mayor of London, 2014.
“I welcome the fact that we have got 140-plus billionaires in London. That’s a good thing. I welcome the fact that there are more than 400,000 millionaires. That’s a good thing”—Sadiq Khan, Labour Party Mayor of London, 2016.
London, the centre of grotesque inequality in Britain before the COVID-19 pandemic, has inevitably become an epicentre of the pandemic within the UK. The city is a concentrated example of the class divisions cleaving through the whole of British society.
On the evenings of March 26 and April 2, as millions of Londoners joined a country-wide applause for the self-sacrifice of grossly underequipped NHS staff, where were the super-rich that Johnson and Khan lauded as essential to society’s wellbeing? While the Tory government bailed out big business to the tune of £380 billion, the multi-millionaires and billionaires escaped to secluded islands and safe havens in private jets, climbed aboard luxury yachts for extended vacations, settled into their country retreats, or bunkered down in their mansions and luxury apartments.
A few weeks ago, private jet booking service PrivateFly said it saw a huge increase in bookings as clients evacuated back to the UK from disease-hit countries. Others were arranging private flights out of Britain to avoid planned lockdowns.
Those poorer multi-millionaires who could not afford private jets were using concierge company Quintessentially. The company’s spokesperson said, “Members who are travelling commercially are choosing to book elite services at airports, not your typical first-class lounge. For example, private terminals where guests are greeted and given their own suite. Check-in, customs and security are all done privately, and guests are then taken to the doors of the aircraft. Members can request for the jetty to be cleared so they minimise the interactions with other passengers on their way to their seat.”
Luxury retail agency Quintessentially Estates said that early in the crisis their phones were hot with inquiries about “Scottish castles, mansions with bunkers, Cotswolds manor houses with moats, uninhabited Caribbean islands to buy, superyachts for a long charter and private jets to get clients home from abroad without their having to go near international airports.”
The London rich who could not escape buy designer face masks and attend eye-wateringly expensive Harley Street practices for private testing and expensive intravenous vitamin infusions. Others have moved to country homes or leased them for up to ￡50,000 a month, according to the Daily Mail.
As reports began to emerge that London doctors, hospital workers, bus workers and a 13-year-old child were dying of COVID-19 across the capital in horrific circumstances, the elite had other concerns. One London financier is reported by Forbes to have complained that the lockdown was preventing her showing off her expensive jewellery: “I’m just not sure when my next ball will be.”
While the super-rich complain of being bored in their gated mansions, masses of workers in London have lost their jobs or are forced to work in unsafe conditions with next to no protection from the virus. Every journey on London Underground has turned into a nightmare. Poorly paid workers wrap scarfs and handkerchiefs around their faces and crowd into train carriages. Labour Party Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has closed 40 out of 265 tube stations due to the numbers of staff self-isolating at home with COVID-19 symptoms because no serious safety measures were put in place.
Among those travelling on packed transport systems are tens of thousands of the capital’s construction workers—many on their way to build high-value apartments and houses. Both the Tory government and Mayor Khan have made deliberately vague statements about what constitutes “essential work,” allowing construction firms to decide for themselves. Twitter has been rife with the barbed comments of construction workers questioning why the luxury flats they must build were considered “essential.”
Another thriving industry is private tutoring. Tutors International, which provides elite tutoring services, says it has seen “a massive upswing in requests” since the COVID-19 outbreak.
While the super-rich carry on with their luxurious lifestyles as normal, the situation facing the working class is indicated by the Nightingale field hospital, officially opened on Friday in east London. The effort put in by workers to construct a facility from scratch has been tremendous. But the need for a 4,000-bed facility at such short notice highlights the gutting of the National Health Service (NHS) in London—leaving the population perilously exposed to the pandemic. Two new mortuaries, one in Newham and the other in Hillingdon, are also being built.
In the words of one health chief, a “tsunami” of cases is set to overwhelm London’s hospitals. On March 19, well in advance of the expected peak of cases, Northwick Park hospital in north-west London declared a critical incident after it ran out of ventilator capacity. One senior figure told the Health Service Journal, “Given we’re in the low foothills of this virus, this is f***ing petrifying.”
On Thursday, it was reported that one London hospital had nearly run out of oxygen over the weekend. NHS trusts in England have been given an urgent warning to limit the number of people on mechanical ventilators and continuous positive airway pressure machines.
Health chiefs are warning that an already overstretched London Ambulance Service will be unable to cope with the hundreds of extra patients needing hospital admission. Vehicles used to transport patients to non-urgent visits are being commandeered, but do not have the same medical equipment as an ambulance.
These conditions are putting London’s healthcare workers in danger. The lack of personal protective equipment and testing available to medical staff has become a national scandal. On Sunday, Thomas Harvey, a healthcare assistant at Goodmayes Hospital, London, died after treating a patient with COVID-19 with only gloves for protection. Across the capital, some hospital trusts have staff self-isolation rates of between 30 and 50 percent.
This Monday, a nurse in her 20s at King’s College Hospital, where eight COVID-19 deaths have occurred, committed suicide. Although the investigation into her death has drawn no conclusions, the experience in Italy where several health workers have committed suicide during the pandemic points to a similar trend beginning in the UK. Shortages are forcing medical staff to work incredibly long, harrowing shifts and make the traumatic decision to deny treatment to the most vulnerable.
The World Socialist Web Site reported on the crisis at Kings College Hospital Trust in January this year: “King’s hospital has a vacancy rate of 19.4 percent for nursing posts in cancer care, 15.4 percent in children’s care and 12 percent in operating theatres. At the Princess Royal hospital managed by the King’s Trust, 26.3 percent of nursing posts in acute and emergency care and 12.4 percent in the children’s care unit are vacant.”
The terrible personal consequences of such sharp social inequalities were summed up last weekend by the contrasting fates of Prince Charles, tested and cared for while presenting only mild symptoms of the disease, and Kayla Williams, a 36-year-old mother of three from Peckham, south London. Williams, the wife of Fabian, a refuse worker, died in her flat of suspected COVID-19 a day after calling 999 and being told to look after herself at home.
Fabian said, “I called 999 because my wife was breathless, she was vomiting, and she had pains in her stomach. As I was talking to them, she was getting worse and they told me to put her on the floor and to make her body flat. She [the paramedic] told me the hospital won’t take her, she is not a priority.” Williams was dead the next day.
Twitter erupted as Londoners contrasted the brutal inequality in treatment between Kayla and Britain’s royalty. The lesson has been burned into popular consciousness that we are not “all in this together,” as the government claims. There is the pandemic experienced as an inconvenience by the super-rich, and the pandemic experienced as a catastrophe by the working class. Only a revolutionary overturn can protect the population from the virus and remove from society the cancerous growth of multimillion and billion-pound wealth threatening its very existence.
On this episode of Studio B: Unscripted, award-winning illustrator and writer Molly Crabapple is in conversation with best-selling author and journalist Paul Mason.
Molly Crabapple has chronicled the stories of the marginalised while also shedding light on the darker corners of the United States empire. Crabapple’s artwork was widely used during the Occupy Wall Street protests, and in 2013 she was one of the first artists to gain access to the Guantanamo Bay prison.
She has sketched and written on a range of stories from the consequences of Hurricane Maria and corruption in Puerto Rico, to the lives of refugees in Greece and throughout the Middle East. Her most recent publication in collaboration with Syrian journalist Marwan Hisham, Brothers of the Gun (2018), details Hisham’s harrowing experience living in parts of Syria under ISIL control.
Paul Mason’s career as a journalist covering the financial crisis, international protests from Turkey to Spain, the conflict in Gaza, and the Hurricane Katrina disaster in the US furnished his subsequent books and plays, including Why It’s Kicking Off Everywhere: The New Global Revolutions (2012) and Postcapitalism (2017).
In his latest book, Clear Bright Future: A Radical Defence of the Human Being (2019), Mason argues that the rise and fall of neoliberalism has galvanised the far right as well as global resistance movements. His book makes the case for ethical human control of technology to further global progress.
Mason and Crabapple explore how the events of 2011 transformed the trajectories of their lives and cemented their shared belief that carbon-based capitalism is contributing to social discord. They share the lessons they’ve learned from international movements, their perspectives on the role of art and online networks in both repression and resistance, and how to tackle fascism and prejudice, as well as the impacts of climate change.
The views expressed in this programme are the guests’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
Studio B: Unscripted is a free-flow conversation between two guests and a small audience, with no mediation, no MC, no TV presenter – focusing on what brings us all together and how we can tackle and discuss some of the big issues of our time.
Source: Al Jazeera
The pandemic begins in Asia, rips through the capital cities of Europe and wipes out at least a third of all human beings in its way. When it is all over, revolts begin, cherished institutions fall, and the entire economic system has to be reconfigured.
That is a short history of the Black Death, a bubonic plague pandemic caused by the bacterium, Yersinia pestis, which spread from Mongolia to Western Europe in the 1340s.
Because the economy then was based on local agriculture and crafts, ordinary life bounced back relatively quickly.
But, by radically reducing the number of workers, it gave the survivors increased bargaining power, which soon translated into new concepts of liberty among the population of medieval cities.
That, in turn, started a process of economic change that brought an end to the feudal system and, some argue, triggered the rise of capitalism.
Today, capitalism faces its own plague nightmare. Though the COVID-19 virus may kill between 1 percent and 4 percent of those who catch it, it is about to have an impact on a much more complex economy than the one that existed back in the 1340s – one with a much more fragile geopolitical order, and on a society already gripped with foreboding over climate change.
Let us consider the massive changes the pandemic has already forced.
First, the partial shutdown of daily life in large parts of China, India, most of Europe and numerous states in America.
Second, significant damage to the reputations of governments and political elites who either denied the seriousness of the crisis, or in the initial stages proved incapable of mobilising their healthcare systems to meet it.
Third, an immediate slump in consumer spending across all major economies which is certain to provoke the deepest recession in living memory: share prices have already collapsed and this, in turn, hurts middle-class families whose pension funds have to invest in shares. Meanwhile, the solvency of airlines, airports and hotel chains is in doubt.
In response, states have launched economic rescue packages so massive that most people have not yet got their heads around the implications. The US government will inject two trillion dollars into the economy – through a mixture of direct payments to citizens and loans to business – more than half of what it collects in taxes in a year.
Meanwhile, the central banks have switched to a new and aggressive form of quantitative easing. Just as after the last global financial crisis in 2008, they will create new money to buy up government debt – but this time, it is not going to be gradual, or focused on the safest government bonds. Introduced as a panic measure in 2008, it seems quantitative easing could be with us for decades.
Politicians are busy reassuring voters that it will be a “V-shaped recession” – a sharp slump followed by a bounce-back, because the “real economy”, they claim, is sound.
To understand why that is over-optimistic, let us use the metaphor of a building.
In the 2008 financial crisis, it looked like the “roof” – the finance system – had collapsed onto the main structure which, though it was damaged, stood firm and we eventually rebuilt the roof.
This time, by contrast, it is the foundations that are collapsing – because all economic life in a capitalist system is based on compelling people to go to work and spend their wages.
Since we now have to compel them to stay away from work, and from all the places they usually spend their hard-earned salaries, it does not matter how strong the building itself is.
In fact, the building is not that strong. Much of the growth we have experienced during the 12 years since the last financial crisis has been fuelled by central banks printing money, governments bailing out the banking system and debt.
Instead of paying down debt, we amassed an estimated $72 trillion more of it.
Unlike the time of the bubonic plague, 21st-century trade and finance systems are complex – which, as we learned in 2008, means they are fragile.
Many of the assets circulating in the finance system are – just as in the run-up to the 2008 crisis – complicated bundles of IOUs issued by banks, insurance groups and other financial companies. Their value lies in the fact that they give the holder a claim on future income.
Our gym memberships, our student loan repayments, our rents, our car repayments this year, next year and beyond are already counted as “paid”, with people in the finance system taking sophisticated bets on how much they are worth.
But what happens when we do not go to the gym, do not buy a new car? Some of those IOUs become worthless and the financial system has to be bailed out by the state.
Even though most ordinary people do not understand how dangerous this is, the people in power do. That is why they have persuaded the central banks to effectively nationalise the bond markets.
This means that states are issuing debts to bail out people and companies – as with Trump’s two-trillion-dollar deal – and those debts are being swallowed up by another part of the state itself – the central bank.
Left-wing economists, myself included, have been warning that, in the long term, stagnant growth and high debt were likely to lead to these three policies: States paying citizens a universal income as automation makes well-paid work precarious and scarce; central banks lending directly to the state to keep it afloat; and large-scale public ownership of major corporations to maintain vital services that cannot be run at a profit.
On the rare occasions that such suggestions have ever been put to investors in the past, the response was usually a polite head-shake or, among people who witnessed the collapse of Soviet communism, outrage. It would kill capitalism, they said.
But now, the unthinkable is here – all of it: Universal payments, state bailouts and the funding of state debts by central banks have all been adopted at a speed that has shocked even the usual advocates of these measures.
The question is, are we going to do this enthusiastically, and with a clear vision of the society that emerges on the other side, or reluctantly, with the intent to revive the system that has just broken down?
Let us understand why economists have been so hostile to these crisis measures up to now.
With universal income payments, British conservative politician Iain Duncan Smith pointed out, the problem is they might “discourage people from going to work“.
When it comes to state ownership and attempts to plan production (for example, the current scramble for ventilators), free-market economists believe such attempts at human control get in the way of the market, which, in their opinion, functions as an intelligent machine, bringing order to the world in a way no planning agency or government can ever do.
As for the funding of state debts by central banks, this is seen as an admission of moral defeat by capitalism: It is entrepreneurship and competition that are supposed to drive growth, not the Bank of England or the Fed printing money and lending it to their treasuries. Therefore, a capitalism permanently reliant on these mechanisms is unthinkable to most traditional economists.
For me, these emergency measures have always been thinkable. Since 2015, I have argued we will be forced to adopt a new, and very different, model of capitalism; if not by the economic costs of supporting ageing populations, then by the threat of climate chaos.
But the COVID-19 crisis brings everything into the short term.
The capitalism that emerges from this in the mid-2020s will have already paid out tens of billions of dollars in basic income payments; it will have seen airlines and hotel chains nationalised; and the government debts of the advanced economies, currently averaging 103 percent of their gross domestic product, will be way above that. We do not know how much higher, because we do not know yet how far GDP will fall.
If we are really unlucky, a series of debt defaults and the disintegration of government coherence in some fragile states could seriously damage the multilateral global order. Security planners fear that if states like Venezuela, North Korea or Ukraine were to fall into chaos, the temptation for neighbouring giants like the US, China and Russia to “rescue” them by sending in troops would be strong.
We have seen rapid deglobalisation before, in the early 1930s. It starts with a banking crisis, leads to the break-up of international currency arrangements and ends with the repudiation of treaties and forcible annexations.
Although today’s crisis starts with much stronger institutions – the International Monetary Fund, World Health Organisation, United Nations among others – we face the same basic problem as in the 1930s: the absence of a single powerful country prepared to take the lead, set standards of behaviour and act as a lender of last resort.
If we follow the orthodox economic playbook now, just as after 2008, once the crisis is over, political elites will call for more austerity – healthcare cuts, wage cuts and tax rises for ordinary people to reduce government spending and erode the debt pile.
It is the logic of the free market, but many people will see it as madness.
In the 14th century, once the mass death phase of the plague was over, that is exactly what the feudal elites tried to do: to reimpose their old privileges and traditions and economic logic – on a population that had just lived through the most traumatic event imaginable.
Back then, it led to immediate and bloody revolts – the Peasants’ Revolt in England, the so-called Jacquerie in France and the takeover of cities like Ghent, Paris and Florence by artisans – led by a very feisty group of citizens called, in French, the “bourgeois”.
Though the post-plague revolts failed, writes historian Samuel Kline Cohn in his book, Lust for Liberty, they led to a permanent change of mindset among the masses, “from utter despondency and fear to a new confidence … that they, too, could change the world, fundamentally altering the social and political conditions of their lives”. And that, in turn, paved the way for the bourgeois revolutions that unleashed capitalism.
To understand what we have to do today, we need a wider framework than exists in the minds of most politicians.
To them, both the COVID-19 and the climate crises look like asteroids hitting a planet: external shocks requiring a temporary and reversible response. In fact, they are shocks generated by “planet capitalism” itself – or at least in the form we have adopted it.
We do not know what an industrial capitalism without carbon would look like because our institutions, practices and cultures are all based around fossil fuel extraction.
Likewise, we do not know what globalisation would look like without a billion people living in slums, without deforestation, live animal markets and without widespread diseases of poverty in the developed world – again because these have become fundamental features of capitalism as it really exists.
That is why I have argued that capitalism is unlikely to survive, long term – and in the short term it can only survive by adopting features of “post-capitalism”.
Until the coronavirus hit, that seemed like a cry in the wilderness. Even the relatively mild programmes of state intervention advocated by figures like left-wing politicians such as the UK’s Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, or Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders have been rejected by voters.
So, I was stunned when I saw analysts from the Australian investment group, Macquarie Wealth, one of most capitalist companies in the world, tell investors: “Conventional capitalism is dying, or at least mutating into something closer to a version of communism.”
The Macquarie analysts understood that this is not just because we suddenly need state intervention, but also because ordinary people’s priorities have moved market choices to concepts of fairness and wellbeing.
If the great plague of the 14th century triggered a post-feudal imagination, it is possible – and desirable – that this one triggers a post-capitalist imagination. And fast.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.
Unlike in the 2008 financial crisis when a glut of subprime debt, layered with trillions in CDOs and CDO squareds, sent home prices to stratospheric levels before everything crashed scarring an entire generation of homebuyers, this time the housing sector is facing a far more conventional problem: the sudden and unpredictable inability of mortgage borrowers to make their scheduled monthly payments as the entire economy grinds to a halt due to the coronavirus pandemic.
And unfortunately this time the crisis will be far worse, because as Bloomberg reports mortgage lenders are preparing for the biggest wave of delinquencies in history. And unless the plan to buy time works – and as we reported earlier there is a distinct possibility the Treasury’s plan to provide much needed liquidity to America’s small businesses may be on the verge of collapse – an even worse crisis may be coming: mass foreclosures and mortgage market mayhem.
Borrowers who lost income from the coronavirus, which is already a skyrocketing number as the 10 million new jobless claims in the past two weeks attests, can ask to skip payments for as many as 180 days at a time on federally backed mortgages, and avoid penalties and a hit to their credit scores. But as Bloomberg notes, it’s not a payment holiday and eventually homeowners they’ll have to make it all up.
According to estimates by Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, as many as 30% of Americans with home loans – about 15 million households – could stop paying if the U.S. economy remains closed through the summer or beyond.
“This is an unprecedented event,” said Susan Wachter, professor of real estate and finance at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. She also points out another way the current crisis is different from the 2008 GFC: “The great financial crisis happened over a number of years. This is happening in a matter of months – a matter of weeks.”
Meanwhile lenders – like everyone else – are operating in the dark, with no way of predicting the scope or duration of the pandemic or the damage it will wreak on the economy. If the virus recedes soon and the economy roars back to life, then the plan will help borrowers get back on track quickly. But the greater the fallout, the harder and more expensive it will be to stave off repossessions.
“Nobody has any sense of how long this might last,” said Andrew Jakabovics, a former Department of Housing and Urban Development senior policy adviser who is now at Enterprise Community Partners, a nonprofit affordable housing group. “The forbearance program allows everybody to press pause on their current circumstances and take a deep breath. Then we can look at what the world might look like in six or 12 months from now and plan for that.”
But if the economic turmoil is long-lasting, the government will have to find a way to prevent foreclosures – which could mean forgiving some debt, said Tendayi Kapfidze, Chief Economist at LendingTree. And with the government now stuck in “bailout everyone mode”, the risk of allowing foreclosures to spiral is just too great because it would damage financial markets and that could reinfect the economy, he explained.
“I expect policy makers to do whatever they can to hold the line on a financial crisis,” Kapfidze said hinting at just a trace of a conflict of interest as his firm may well be next to fold if its borrowers declare a payment moratorium. “And that means preventing foreclosures by any means necessary.”
Take for example Laura Habberstad, a bar manager in Washington, D.C., who got a reprieve from her lender but needs time to catch up. The coronavirus snatched away her income, as it has for millions, and replaced it with uncertainty. The restaurant and beer garden where she works was forced to temporarily shut down. Laura has no idea when she’ll get her job back, nor does she have any idea how to look for a new job. After all, how do you search for another hospitality job during a global pandemic? Now she’s living in Oregon with her mother, whose travel agency was also forced to close.
“I don’t know how I’m going to pay my mortgage and my condo dues and still be able to feed myself,” Habberstad said. “I just hope that, once things open up again, we who are impacted by Covid-19 are given consideration and sufficient time to bring all payments current without penalty and in a manner that does not bring us even more financial hardship.”
Borrowers must contact their lenders to get help and avoid black marks on their credit reports, according to provisions in the stimulus package passed by Congress last week. Bank of America said it has so far allowed 50,000 mortgage customers to defer payments. That includes loans that are not federally backed, so they aren’t covered by the government’s program.
Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has convened a task force to deal with the potential liquidity shortfall faced by mortgage servicers, which collect payments and are required to compensate bondholders even if homeowners miss them. The group was supposed to make recommendations by March 30.
“If a large percentage of the servicing book – let’s say 20-30% of clients you take care of – don’t have the ability to make a payment for six months, most servicers will not have the capital needed to cover those payments,” QuickenChief Executive Officer Jay Farner said in an interview. But not Quicken, of course.
Quicken, which serves 1.8 million borrowers, and in 2018 surpassed Wells Fargo as the #1 mortgage lender in the US, has a strong enough balance sheet to serve its borrowers while paying holders of bonds backed by its mortgages, Farner said, although something tells us that in 6-8 weeks his view will change dramatically. Until then, the company plans to almost triple its call center workers by May to field the expected onslaught of borrowers seeking support, he said.
Ironically, as Bloomberg concludes, “if the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how quickly everything can change. Just weeks ago, mortgage lenders were predicting the biggest spring in years for home sales and mortgage refinances.”
Habberstad, the bar manager, was staffing up for big crowds at the beer garden, which is across from National Park, home of the World Series champions. Then came coronavirus. Now, she’s dependent on her unemployment check of $440 a week.
“Everybody wants to work but we’re being asked not to for the sake of the greater good,” she said.
Ten million Americans declare unemployment in two weeks and all your government does is give you a $1,200 “advance” on your tax return while bailing out corporations with the largest wealth transfer ever, and some of you are still shrieking about Russia and China. Pathetic fucking tools.
Your rights are evaporating, your government has failed to provide the bare minimum social safety nets during a very manageable pandemic, your nation’s billionaire class has been growing wealthier and wealthier while most of you would struggle to pay a $1000 emergency bill, but sure, China is your real enemy.
Many Americans being plunged into debt and destitution. Many young Americans about to start contemplating joining the military. Many Pentagon officials factoring this in to their future calculations. Poverty has long served as a makeshift draft in the dangerous, dying US empire.
Not that it should surprise any American that this crisis has only wound up benefiting massive corporations, debt slave owners, government agencies and the US war machine. These are the real US government, after all.
Keep in mind that virtually everything you hear from conservatives and mainstream liberals right now is basically just an irrational lashing out over their entire ideology faceplanting in front of the entire world.
Governments which prohibit people from providing for themselves without providing for those people do not deserve to exist. There is no legitimate basis for declaring a lockdown in any area without first ensuring that you can adequately provide for everyone whose financial stability is disrupted by this, and if you do it’s perfectly legitimate for the citizenry to resist your lockdown.
I could probably think of dozens of things the drivers of the US government could stand to gain by deliberately letting this pandemic get a lot worse than it needs to in America.
The entire Cuomo family is a corrupt political dynasty and the sooner America flushes them down the toilet the better.
Friendly reminder that more people would trust “authoritative” news outlets about this virus if those outlets didn’t have an extensive history of constantly lying to the public about very important matters. You can’t blame people for being distrustful when you made them that way.
I personally wouldn’t invest a lot of emotional energy in the hope that things will go back to normal. “Normal” is gone forever. Even before the virus the only consistent pattern we’ve been seeing is things getting stranger and stranger. We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.
Covid stats paint an unclear picture since governments likely distort their numbers, testing is sparse and many are asymptomatic. To get a clearer picture of our situation, listen to what medical staff are saying where it’s bad, since overwhelmed hospitals are the primary concern.
People: May we please have minimal authoritarian responses to this pandemic and adequate protection from poverty?
Governments: No but you may have the exact opposite of those things.
There isn’t actually any contradiction in the beliefs that (A) the virus is dangerous, (B) mass unemployment is dangerous, and (C) authoritarian government policies are dangerous. There needn’t be any cognitive dissonance holding all three at once; they’re not mutually exclusive.
Contrary to popular belief, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was not about an oppressive dictatorship but a society getting exactly what it asked for; people were so dumbed down by television that they voted for books to be burned because they didn’t want to be challenged or offended. Worth remembering as people are demanding more authoritarian lockdown measures and snitching on their neighbors for going on a second run.
Continuing starvation sanctions during a global pandemic is biowarfare.
I don’t remember voting for a paradigm where powerful governments pour the lion’s share of resources into sabotaging, toppling and destroying nations which don’t defer to their interests. Do you?
Start-ups and mom-and-pop shops are going bust all over the place and the US government is helping the big corporations sweep them up for peanuts. Time to stop stanning for billionaires my aspirational, entrepreneurial friends. You are mere fleas to them.
USA: We’re moving more troops to the Middle East.
Middle East: Why?
USA: To protect the troops we already have there.
Middle East: Why were those troops here?
USA: To protect the military bases we have there.
Middle East: And why were those bases here?
USA: Our troops needed somewhere to sleep.
We should be relaxing at home assured of our financial and medical stability while bankers, debt collectors and arms manufacturers stress about their future.
I hope all you couples stuck at home together are getting world-transformingly vulnerable with each other and having world-transformingly awesome sex (in that order).
The post-apocalyptic movies lied to you about human nature. People tend to be more caring and compassionate with each other in a time of great crisis, not less. Please remember this going forward.
Nobody knows what’s going to happen and anyone who says they do is bullshitting.
There’s no reason to feel confident that anything is impossible anymore, because everything’s changing so quickly and unpredictably. Orwellian dystopia? Maybe. World War 3? Maybe. Nuclear war? Maybe. Revolution? Maybe. Mass-scale awakening? Maybe. Create a new world? Maybe.
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The March 25 Times Colonist editorial on the COVID-19 pandemic states: “Worldwide, the economic impact will be devastating. We’re talking a re-run of the Dirty ’30s and damage that lasts for years.” Elsewhere, it refers to “killing the economy” and “measures that of a certainty will wreck the world economy for many years to come.”
This concern with the need to protect and restore the economy plays into a narrative about resilience, usually framed as the ability of people and communities to recover, to bounce back to where they were before the event ever happened.
But there are obvious flaws in that approach. For example, if your community is built in a flood plain and climate change results in more frequent and more severe flooding, does it really make sense to rebuild in the same place, to bounce back to the previous situation?
Much the same can be said about the current economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It is helping us see just how much harm our current economic system causes, both to the environment and to people and communities.
So if the current economic system is devastating the planet and harming health, as it is, do we really want to bounce back to the way things were before: Revving up the economy to speed up global warming, increase air pollution and the associated diseases and deaths, hasten resource depletion and species extinctions?
To rephrase the editorial: “Worldwide, the environmental and health impact will be devastating. We’re talking a re-run of the booming mid-20th and early 21st centuries and damage that lasts for years” — except that this is damage that lasts for decades, even centuries.