Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Pregnant Pause






Pregnant Pause, remarks on the Corona Crisis by Ken Knabb, can be found in full here. But we are still living in the ADG (Attention Deficient Generation) so here is an abbreviated version. By all means read the original. I guess many of you have time on your hands!


"If this Coronavirus crisis had taken place fifty years ago, we would have been reading about it in newspapers or sitting in front of the TV with scarcely any opportunity to respond.


Although the mass media remain powerful, their impact has been weakened.

 

 It’s the first time in history that such a momentous event has taken place with virtually everyone on earth aware of it at the same time. And it is playing out while much of humanity is obliged to stay at home, where they can share their reflections with others.


Since the usual “market solutions” are incapable of solving this crisis, governments are now feeling obliged to resort to implementation of solutions previously scorned as “unrealistic” or “utopian.”


Rich or poor, native or foreign, anyone can spread this disease, so anything less than free healthcare for all is idiotic.


When businesses are closed and millions of people are thrown out of work the usual unemployment benefits are inadequate and policies like universal basic income become unavoidable.


The usual suspects are still in charge, particularly in the United States, where the first to be rescued were the banks and corporations, with several trillion dollars pumped into the financial markets. 

 

The point of corporate bailouts is that certain industries are supposedly essential. But the fossil fuel industries need to be phased out as soon as possible. And there’s no reason to save the airlines. They could be restarted with the same workers, with the losses being borne by the previous owners.


The corona crisis has exposed many governments as criminally negligent, but most of them have attempted to deal with it in a serious manner once they realized the urgency of the situation.


This has unfortunately not been the case in the United States, where Trump first declared that the whole thing was just a hoax that would soon blow over and that the death count would be “close to zero,” and then, after doing virtually nothing for more than a month, he was forced to admit that it was actually a serious crisis, announced that thanks to his brilliant leadership “only” around 100,000 or 200,000 Americans would die.


But months into the pandemic there is still no national stay-at-home order, no national testing plan, no national procurement and distribution of life-saving medical supplies, and Trump continues to downplay the crisis in a frantic effort to open things up soon enough to revive his reelection chances.


Many of the most creative responses have been carried out by ordinary people on their own initiative — young people doing shopping for vulnerable neighbors, people making and donating protective masks that the governments neglected to stockpile, health professionals offering safety tips, tech-savvy people helping others to set up virtual meetings, parents sharing activities for kids, others donating to food banks, crowdfunding to support small businesses, or forming support networks for prisoners and immigrants.


The crisis has vividly demonstrated the interconnectedness of people all over the world.


As always, those at the bottom bear the brunt — people in prisons or immigrant detention centers or living in crowded slums, people who can’t practice social distancing and who may not even have facilities to effectively wash their hands. While many of us are able to stay at home with only mild inconvenience, others are unable to remain at home (if they even have a home) or to share so many things via social media (if they even have a computer or a smartphone) because they are forced to continue working at “essential jobs,” under dangerous conditions and often for minimum wage in order to provide food, utilities, deliveries, and other services for the people who are staying home.


But because essential is ‘essential’ these workers now have powerful leverage and are starting to use it. As the dangers and stresses build up, their patience has given way, beginning with wildcat strikes in Italy.

 

In the United States protests and strikes have broken out among workers at Amazon, Instacart, Walmart, McDonald’s, Uber, Fedex, grocery workers, garbage workers, auto workers, nursing home workers, agricultural workers, meat packers, bus and truck drivers.


Nurses and other healthcare workers have protested medical equipment shortages; workers at GE have demanded repurposing jet engine factories to make ventilators; homeless families have occupied vacant buildings; rent strikes have been launched in several cities; and prisoners and detained immigrants are hunger-striking to expose their particularly unsafe conditions.


People are  starting to see the economic system for what it actually is (a con game that enables a tiny number of people to control everyone else in the world through their possession of magic pieces of paper).


We have a chance to see our lives and our society in a fresh light. We come to realize how much we miss certain things, but also that there are things we don’t miss. Many people have noted it’s much quieter, the skies are clearer, there’s scarcely any traffic, fish are returning to formerly polluted waterways, in some cities wild animals are venturing into the empty streets. Those who like quiet contemplative living are hardly noticing any difference. People are getting a crash course in cloistered living, with repeated daily schedules almost like monks in a monastery.


I suspect that our political leaders sense that the longer this goes on, the more people will become detached from addictive consumer pursuits and the more they will be open to exploring new possibilities.


One of the first things that many people have noticed is that the social distancing, however frustrating it may be in some regards, is ironically bringing people closer together in spirit. As people get a new appreciation of what others mean to them, they are sharing their thoughts and feelings — personally via phone calls and emails, collectively via social media.


People are also coming up with memes, jokes, essays, poems, songs, satires, skits. It is interesting to compare these memes with the popular expressions of another crisis just over fifty years ago — the May 68 Graffiti in France - a marvelous mix of humor and insight, anger and irony, outrage and imagination.


The 1968 crisis  was a series of protests and street fights by thousands of young people in Paris and other French cities inspired by a wildcat general strike in which more than ten million workers occupied factories and workplaces, shutting down the country. When you look at the graffiti, you can sense that these people were making their own history. They were not merely protesting, they were exploring and experimenting and celebrating, and those graffiti were expressions of the joy and exuberance of their actions.


People are using this pause to investigate and critique the system’s fiascos, and they are doing this at a time when practically everyone else in the world is obsessively focused on the same issues.


Anyone can take part whenever they wish. They can post their own ideas, or if they see some other idea or article they agree with, they can email the link to their network of friends or share it on Facebook or other social media, and if other people agree that it is pertinent, they may in turn share it with their friends, and so on.


The International Labor Organization has reported that nearly half of the global workforce is now at risk of losing its livelihoods - a level of social disruption far more extreme than the Great Depression of the 1930s. I have no idea what will come of this, but something is going to give.


Organizing a different kind of society - a creative, cooperative global community based on fulfilling the needs of everyone rather than protecting the exorbitant wealth and power of a tiny minority - is now a necessity.


This is an opportunity for a new beginning. We may one day look back and see it as the wake-up call that managed to bring humanity to its senses before it was too late.

 

 




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