Saturday, March 21, 2020

After coronavirus, a new world?

In a world where the majority of human suffering and misery is perpetrated by a small minority, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic seems to have us questioning the type of society we live under. We are increasingly made aware that life under capitalism complicates and frequently thwarts the moves to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. The poorest among us can’t afford days off work. We can’t really practice “social distancing” while living in over-crowded slums and shanty-towns. With school closures working parents are frantic to find affordable day care, a shortage even in non-pandemic times. The demands upon our under-funded and under-staffed hospitals has highlighted our over-stretched health-care systems. Meanwhile we cannot let it be forgotten that this crisis will eventually be a gold-mine for the investors in the stocks of the pharmaceutical industry, benefiting in due course from sales and profits. The worse the pandemic gets, the higher their eventual return will be.

Yet working people are learning about who it is who actually makes a useful contribution to the running of our society. Who are the key workers who are being asked to remain at work? Who is still at work? Front-line workers in fast-food, retail, child-care, mail and parcel delivery, transport, agriculture and, of course, health care. 

These people are being asked to work extra hours despite higher risks and increased stress. It reflects the extent to which the economy is dependent upon the labour of those who make minimum wage, are employed precariously, who are unappreciated; those us who are disproportionately poor and disparaged. Yet now we understand why we are so necessary to the operation of society and that it is we, the workers, who are indispensable, not the bankers and financiers and industrialists. The CEOs can self isolate and the world carries on without them.

It is the creativity, willingness, resilience and mutual solidarity that we can fully value at times like these — not the politicians although there are many administrative bodies that offer us protection and assistance that in the past did not receive the priority they received when it came to austerity cuts in government spending. Instead the budgets invested not in people’s welfare and well-being but in defence contracts and wars.  

What we do when this pandemic lessens is important. Will Big Business get another of its bail-outs so it can once again engage in lucrative stock buy-backs? Is it going to be a return to business as usual? Will it be forgotten that everybody is entitled to free access to healthcare and decent life for all? Rather than release non-violent risk-free offenders from our jails, do we re-impose a  lock em’ up judiciary system? Can the industrial-military complex and armament manufacturers be re-tooled into producing ventilators and other vital medical equipment? Can the CO2 emissions and pollution drop be maintained?

Working people must find their own answer to what happens after the coronavirus crisis.

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