June 27, 2020 by Cláudia
It’s been approximately six months since the covid-19 pandemic changed everything. I haven’t been able to write about these changes as much as I would like to because I am also on overload. One thing, however, is clear: this pandemic brought abrupt social, economic and political change from what we have known as business-as-usual for the past decades. And nothing will be the same.
If I had written this reflection a few months ago, as I planned, its content would have been completely different. As attention was mostly focused on the sanitary crisis, some Governments were able to slide problematic policies without much opposition. As Naomi Klein explains in her video about coronavirus capitalism (watch below), crises can be exploited as a way to push unwanted free-market policies that enhance social inequalities and weaken public services.
We can already see this happening: While unemployment is soaring, people are forced to continue to work, especially lower-income and racialized people, putting themselves and their families at risk. These are the same sections of the population who will struggle more to find adequate health care if needed.
Trump used covid-19 as an excuse to further restrictions on migrants, example that has been followed by many other governments, who have exploited a global public health crisis as a way to repress their citizens even further.
In Portugal, where I live, the Government has surreptitiously been planning massive bailouts for some of the most polluting and destructive sectors and holds strong on their position of building a new airport in a natural reserve, which will likely be underwater in the next 30 years.
At the same time, and despite naive discourses about lockdown being good for the environment, the climate crisis has not given us any truce. We keep breaking temperature records, reaching 46ºC in the artic, triggering zombie fires. The destabilisation of the Denman glacier in Antarctica could lead to a sudden rise in mean sea level by 1.5m. Hundreds of billions of locusts keep swarming through East Africa and South Asia in the worst infestation for a quarter of a century, threatening crops and livelihoods.
Everything seemed bleak. I didn’t know if we were going to move forward or face major setbacks in out fight for a more just, resiliant and humane society.
The biggest wave of protests I’ve seen in my lifetime erupted. The brutal murder of George Floyd triggered an unprecedented social response lead by the Black Lives Matter. The message was clear: enough.
Enough of institutionalized racism and police brutality. Enough of a capitalist disregard for human lives. Enough of unnecessary deaths, hateful discourse and separatism. Enough of militarization and a civic society based on violence. Enough of corporate power over people.
A lot of “enoughs” are being said, to racism, to sexism, to inequality, but this movement has done a lot more than saying no. It has been saying a lot of yeses too. Yes to more investment in community safety, namely in social work and mental health services. Yes to housing policies and actual social security nets. To the strengthening and valorization of health care. To value and dignify the work that is the cornerstone of society, namely care work (formal and informal), work on food systems and teaching.
“In times of crisis seemingly impossible ideas suddenly become possible” Naomi Klein
The initial title of this piece (written about 3 months ago) was “Coronavirus capitalism: bail out the future, not private profits”. And it still holds some relevance. But I decided to go for “A crossroads” because I want to really stress how important and fickle the moment we are living is.
We are at a crossroads. We have two main movements pulling in different directions. We have the protectors of the status quo who are looking to put in place an “economic recovery” that will be absolutely disastrous for most people, especially those who already suffer from the many breaches in a capitalist economic system. On the other hand, we have a movement fighting for human rights, for equality, for justice. For seizing this destructive crisis as an opportunity to rebuild a society that was already broken. To insure that we have a future and that no one is left behind.
These times have been extremely overwhelming and uncertain.
But one thing is for sure, people are not done demanding for the world they deserve.
- Defund the Police, Fund Communities, People’s Budget
- ‘Black Lives Matter’ is About More than the Police, Patrisse Cullors
- Do Not Resuscitate the Oil Industry, Chris Saltmarsh
- Coronavirus and climate change crises under EU law: the need for a common, coordinated and consistent risk management strategy, Alessandra Donati
Climate Jobs is an Idea whose Time has Come, Gobal Climate Jobs Campaign