After The Covid-19 Crisis... We Must Not Return To Normal

Duane Townsend

Teen Vogue - March 24, 2020

... If you lose your job and don’t come from money, there’s an instant fear of how you’ll be able to survive. It’s never really an ideal time to be out of work, but right now, with U.S. economists saying that we are officially in a recession, it’s particularly unnerving. And with a dangerous, highly contagious virus spreading throughout the country, I find myself both without a steady income and without health insurance — great!

This pandemic has brought into sharper relief what some of us have always known to be true: Capitalism, and the culture of hierarchy that props it up, is extremely screwed up. Rich celebrities like Kris Jenner are getting tested for coronavirus without having symptoms, while regular people who do show symptoms have a tough time getting tests. A journalist at a White House press briefing asked President Donald Trump, “How are non-symptomatic professional athletes getting tests while others are waiting in line and can’t get them? Do the well-connected go to the front of the line?” The president responded by saying, “No, I wouldn’t say so. But perhaps that’s been the story of life.”

Trump’s right about one thing: It is definitely the story of capitalism. And while we are still reeling from the shock to our everyday lives, we should look at some of these huge changes to our routines as a possible — even hopeful — new normal.

Selling your labor in a capitalist marketplace so you don’t end up on the street is horrible and unnatural, and we shouldn’t have to exist this way. While many of us have long questioned the idea of working our lives away to pad a company’s bottom line, the pandemic has given us a glimpse of what an anti-capitalist society could actually look like. This isn’t to romanticize what is happening — after all, people are gravely ill and dying every day. But if we are to fully examine the crisis for what it is, then we must recognize that COVID-19 is not the only virus that must be destroyed. We also have to confront capitalism and the world that sustains it.

Combating the disease has normalized working from home, instead of slogging through daily commutes, for those who have the privilege to do so. It convinced some Republicans to support some form of universal basic income, and caused some companies to temporarily bring down their paywalls. Adobe is offering free two-month subscriptions to help struggling freelancers, proving that open source of expensive software is possible. And without sounding like an eco-fascist, the environment is perhaps getting a chance to recover while humans are forced to pause our ever-growing carbon output — the starkest articulation yet of why we should never return to our “normal” pre-virus life.

Photos uploaded from people in Venice show clearer canal waters, and Stanford University researchers reported that the halt of day-to-day business in China has dramatically reduced air pollution. We know we need to reduce greenhouse emissions, but watching the climate crisis unfold slowly before us wasn’t enough to make the world pause. We now have a moment to consider what a rapid global response to the climate emergency would look like — how we could build a society that completely transforms our social order toward something that is in equilibrium with the biosphere and gives to each according to their needs. ...
Read full commentary at Teen Vogue

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