"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced" - James Baldwin
Tuesday 19 May 2020
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!
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.
the mass media remain powerful, their impact has been weakened.
first time in history that such a momentous event has taken place
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.
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 poor, native or foreign, anyone can spread this disease, so
anything less than free healthcare for all is idiotic.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
crisis has vividly demonstrated the interconnectedness of people all
over the world.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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
1968 crisis wasa
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.