Another contribution on the global COVID-19 pandemic. We don’t necessarily agree with everything that has been written in this text, but publish it as part of an ongoing discussion. This text was written by Maria Galindo from Bolivia, a perspective on the pandemic from the global south.
Maria Galindo shared this text with the media collective Lavaca (13/02/2021) and the magazine MU (both attached to the Universidad de Lavaca, argentina) , a text without prophetic ambitions, but which rather tries to think about the post-pandemic from a position of uncertainty. The result is a dictionary on the lexicon with which governments of the left and right discipline societies; a reflection on how to think politically and ideologically about vaccinations around the world, the colonial-patriarchal-extractivist order that turns neoliberalism into fascism, and how to interpret the speed of changes in the light of rebellion and creativity.
I am not writing from Bolivia, but from a territory called uncertainty.
I write from the last place in line to obtain the colonial vaccination, which in many countries will be applied as a dose of government salvation and as a new sanitary-health contract granted by capitalism through States in order to survive.
I write from the conscience gained in a collective kitchen, in a small movement, in a struggle that has not ceased to sketch out maps of where we are and of where to meet, and of how to escape or exit.
I am writing from a demonstration of sex workers in a pandemic who affirm that police repression is worse than the risk of getting sick and the fear of dying.
I write while, against my will, I prepare to speak on a cold screen that I would like to heat up until it explodes.
I do not write from certainty, but from doubt, questions, intuitions and trial and error.
I have not given up on touching, feeling, this pandemic world without gloves, and although I have accepted the invitation to write, I am aware that everything I say is liable to suddenly become a ridiculous, outdated, naive statement or lose its consistency like melting ice.
At the same time, I could cling to a fatalistic prophetic tone, to a biblical prophetic or redemptive prophetic tone and await the applause of those lost souls who walk the streets like zombies in desperate search of prophetic voices.
The pandemic is a political fact not because it is invented, non-existent or has been artificially produced in a laboratory.
The pandemic is a political fact because it is transforming all social relations on a global scale and it is therefore legitimate and urgent to think about it and debate it politically.
The pandemic is a political fact because it is a consequence of a global capitalist model that moves from its ecocidal version to its suicidal version. It opens, or rather makes evident, the systemic relationship between ecocide and suicide.
The pandemic has installed a standardised lexicon at the planetary level, uniform and widespread in all countries. It serves for the redirection of social life towards a disciplinary society.
Word by word, life is squared to reduce it to fear, to the legitimate surveillance of the State over our entire life, to the dissolution of non-state forms of collaboration and organisation. The only valued collaborative forms have been reduced to a kind of paternalistic assistance without the potential to be politicised. The amputation of desire is one of its constants.
All these political operations are taking place through a pandemic language that serves as an instrument to name and give content to what is happening. We are not questioning the protective measures, the need to assume them or the incongruity of many of them, but the very way to name the entire universe of the pandemic.
I am not talking about hidden meanings: they are explicit and their destructive effect has to do with their invasive repetition, with the fact that rulers and international organisations are the indisputable spokespersons and the population, in general, functions only as an echo chamber.
It is a language that you end up using to understand yourself in a few words. With their global character without nuances and with their unreflective use without any margin to question their meaning, they work by making social relations fascist.
Once again, as so many times in history, the right to name the facts is the weapon to programme their social content.
It is in the terms with which events are being baptised that their central ideological content is to be found. It is not an ideological content that functions as a theory to be accepted, debated or rethought. It is an ideological content that functions as an irrefutably fixed meaning and as a direct reality, which has a behavioral conditioning therapy effect.
I have found about thirty terms that make up the backbone of the lexicon and its role in collective behavioral conditioning. However, I propose to review just a few, for reasons of space:
Biosecurity: A set of measures that have to do with the mortal danger of contagion. We should change the word “security” to “vulnerability”, and the suffix “bio” to “necro”. We are experiencing vulnerability before a pervasive, invisible and uncontrollable danger. If there is one thing that is not safe, it is life. We cannot speak of biosecurity when such a term, in fact, names the necro-danger or bio-vulnerability.
Social distancing and isolation: These are not the two metres that we need to avoid contagion, but rather the contents of the intensification of our own self-enclosure, of saving yourself far away from the “other”, which are what is above all dangerous. We have all become the “other” of the “other” by making the pandemic language an instrument of collective dissolution. The emphasis that has been placed on the small family group or “bubble” as your only universe of responsibility and meaning has also worked to further increasingly fascist social relations, using the harmless possessive pronoun of “yours” over and over and over again.
Quarantine: Term transported from the Black Death in the Middle Ages to the contemporary world as an indicator that in the 21st century – after several technological revolutions – social care measures are the same as several centuries ago and bear the same name. Who then does the technology serve? Why do we not have other contemporary tools other than medieval ones to deal with a pandemic?
Curfew, confinement: These are not the only terms of the pandemic lexicon that in this part of the world have served to recall and represent the military dictatorships that are in our living memory. Could we not have used other words, words not loaded with the memory of dictatorship, or was and is their dictatorial weight socially useful to reinstate the absolute power of the State over the population?
Essential activities: The reclassification of social activities with the qualification of “essential”, leaving out all those that belong to the universe of affection, desire, creativity and thereby reducing people to the world of work has, in the pandemic language, the effect of a surgical amputation. The only valid notion of life is “work.” Just changing from “essential” to “functional” would already give everyday life another meaning.
Telework: The displacement of the workplace to the home, turning work into a product that is paid for as a product and not as an activity that is measured in a specified number of hours. It is what in this part of the world – call it Honduras, Mexico or Brazil – is called “maquila” and “piecework”, where you are paid for work done and not for hours of production. The maquila – neoliberal instrument par excellence – used by large transnationals – especially in the textile industry – has been transferred to large labor fields with the pandemic and has received a softening name. Imagine the result of renaming telework a pandemic maquila or domestic exploitation!
Given that the aim of this text is to propose challenges, here is the first one: to make a complete list of the pandemic lexicon, to give each term its real meaning and to go on to rename the phenomenon that the term tries to name. This is to wake us up, to sharpen our creativity and to breathe rebellion. The sophisticated materials that are needed are a pencil and a paper and if you do it with friends, the result will be fun and explosive.
Global Health Contract
Before receiving the vaccine, it is urgent to know what we are receiving, not for the purpose of disobedience or non-vaccination, but so as not to accept vaccination passively, like cattle to be branded. We also have to ideologically debate its political meaning.
Vaccination is not a solution, no matter how much governments around the world seek to present it as such.
Vaccination is a partial solution to the transition to a new order that still has no name. It is a survival measure that leaves intact the systemic structural questioning that this pandemic must entail for the whole of Humanity.
The vaccination queue is a diagram of world hierarchies of a colonial character without metaphor, directly obvious. The order of priority is the order of the ability to pay.
In turn, in each society, the vaccination order internally represents that same diagram of social hierarchies: the more on the periphery you are, the later the vaccine will reach you, or never.
In these lands, they start with health personnel because they need them, but these are followed by the military and police, with priests and bishops, deputies or ministers, filtering through. And if they did not need health personnel, they would also be the last to receive them.
Vaccines are the materialisation of supra-state powers that rule the world.
It is not the World Health Organization that organises the equitable distribution of vaccines, but rather pharmaceutical companies that – amassing sums that are already impossible to conceive of – set the order of vaccine provision.
And do not think that because we are poor we pay less: we are paying the same or higher prices for receiving lower doses, and governments receive them on their knees as a great achievement, willing to sign whatever is necessary, irespective of what is in the fine print.
Governments, in turn, supply vaccines like a government intramuscular injection, a gesture that you should be grateful for without question.
The vaccination propaganda that is developed in national contexts by governments suggest that what they are getting to you is a government benefit.
The amounts that the purchase of vaccines suppose for many States exceed the investments in health or are comparable to these.
Vaccines eat up health budgets so that once the storm passes, hospitals and operating rooms are just as battered as they were before.
Vaccines also represent the privatisation of knowledge, since the centres that have the millions to pursue research in the field of biology or medicine are not in public universities or even in imperial capitalist societies, but are directly in companies that drain brains out of universities.
To thematise and debate these issues around global vaccination is considered suspicious because in the face of the vaccine what you have to do is passively sign a unilateral health contract like the one proposed by the banks when you get into debt or like the one that the Bolivian State requires of sex workers to give them permission to work.
It is this health contract and its clarification that can contain the struggles that in the future will make sense.
Governments benefit from State administrations, but they do not govern: they are secondary administrators of a colonial-patriarchal-extractive order. This tangible fact today radically redirects our struggles and our horizons.
The classic left-right differentiation to interpret the political field becomes obsolete: the making fascist, for example, through the lexicon has encompassed both.
We are in the transition from the neoliberal regime to the fascist neoliberal regime and the left does not even see it becaus, if the categories of analysis and social organisation that the left offered us were already out of date, today they have become obsolete.
The so-called “left” governments are also governments incapable of proposing any horizon different from that imposed by neoliberalism. This fact is by no means the end of politics, but the birth of a new politics, a new politics that has no vanguards, saviors, nor leaders and that requires a high dose of creativity.
It is not strength that we need, but awareness of our vulnerability.
Social subjects are being diluted due to fatigue, lack of ideas, mourning, inability or inability to react, while other deprived people are reconstituting themselves as social subjects with the capacity to question: those people who change their relationship to animals so as to reintegrate as animals, or those who produce health, food or justice with their communities, are those who have not been paralysed by fear.
Everything is happening at high speed although time has stopped.
The speed of change is the speed of a deep metamorphosis.
To Interpret it at the risk of being wrong is our challenge.