In the United States, we have seen what pandemic policies look like that emphasize competition, individualism, and the inviolability of profit. Minority and working-class communities have been devastated at an astonishingly disproportionate rate – Black and African-Americans in New York City have died at over twice the rate of white residents.
The reasons for this racial disparity are clear, with even the CDC (Center for Disease Control) pointing to: residential segregation, a lack of groceries and medical centres in poor communities, over-representation in prisons, the precarity of low-waged but “essential” workers, and lack of paid sick leave and insurance.
States have been forced to “outbid” each other for essential medical equipment, sending lifesaving supplies to the richest of states (or those most willing to drive themselves further into debt). Price gouging has been rampant, simultaneous with historically high firings and layoffs.
None of these conditions have anything to do with the pandemic – they existed long before it and are the banal, quotidian (and yet still horrific) details of life in an avowedly capitalist, “by your own bootstraps” society. The tendency is to view poverty as evidence of an individual’s personal, moral failing, allowing us to look away from or absolve ourselves of responsibility for others’ suffering. Of course, it is these same people, the poor and working class, who are on the frontlines of the pandemic – risking their lives for us all.
This is the coronavirus policy of, to put it in a single word, an antisocial system. Unfortunately, this antisocial system is not limited to one country and has become the broader geopolitical paradigm, encouraging nation-states to treat each other as rivals in the rush for medical supplies, vaccines, research, and ultimately economic advantage.
But as we’ve said this is not the only path available. Counter currents always exist and many have chosen to embrace an ethic of solidarity, cooperation, and egalitarianism in response to the pandemic.
In the AANES they have emphasized socialist (democratic, solidarity-based) policies that get down to the roots of the crisis. The administration waived sanitation, water and electricity bills across their territory for all residents for two months. Local, directly democratic councils provided resources to deliver food and fuel to their neighbours in need….
The reasons for this racial disparity are clear, with even the CDC (Center for Disease Control) pointing to: residential segregation, a lack of groceries and medical centres in poor communities, over-representation in prisons, the precarity of low-waged but “essential” workers, and lack of paid sick leave and insurance.l human beings and not just as statistics to be weighed and measured.