by Andreas Goudelis1
Here are a few thoughts as total lockdown measures are apparently being discussed in Greece (where the pandemic found me):
I don’t know how and when this situation will end, and all the estimates I’ve seen seem to imply that it’s not going to end well. I hope 99% of the models/extrapolations/projections etc that I’ve see are wrong, but Italy doesn’t leave too much hope (I don’t even dare to think what’s going to happen in the UK and, even more so, when this thing hits developing countries)… When this situation does end, though, I hope that we won’t forget what happened during this period. The list of things one could write is huge, probably worthy of many books and analyses, here are just a few:
- Most world leaders are putting two things in the balance: saving 1% of the world population vs saving a hefty percentage of the GDP (and profits). They CLEARLY tried to save the latter. Boris Johnson was probably the only one who dared to say this openly, but the delays that all countries showed in taking measures, in arming their health care systems and so on leave no doubt.
- The neoliberal mantra of a market that can ensure people’s well-being collapses in the clearest way possible. No private health-care system can deal with a serious emergency situation like the one we’re confronted with.
- What’s more, the fact that extreme measures such as total circulation bans etc have to be taken is – at least partly – due, on one hand, to the fact that governments were very slow to react (again, basically to save profits) and, on the other hand, to the systematic dismantling of the public healthcare system during decades of neoliberal rule.
- It is OK to criticize people that act irresponsibly, e.g., throwing parties in the middle of a pandemic. But hysterical reactions like «OMG here’s a guy who left his 20m2 apartment to take a short walk alone in the park» are not only pretty ridiculous, they are also systematically encouraged by the state in order to hide its own inadequacies. Just to give an example, over the past few days in Greece the media just presented extended coverage of how people are «swarming at the beaches» in Thessaloniki, with the reporter in front of an EMPTY beach. This type of public shaming is an effort to mask state responsibility and blame everything on people being «socially irresponsible». Yes, we have to stay at home, because now we don’t have much of a choice. Let’s not forget how we got to this point.
- Along the same lines, it should be noted that although initial declarations on the pandemic (when the capital was hoping to salvage as much profit as possible) were focusing on how to best prepare the health care system to deal with the situation, by announcing hirings etc (at least in Greece), the focus gradually shifted more and more towards individual responsibility and the inadequacy of the population’s response to the situation.
- But hell there are parasitic jobs in this society! Jobs that could stop completely tomorrow and nobody would miss them. And the people doing these jobs could, instead, be redirected to do much more useful things. I mean, if you are neither working or speculating in the stock market or speculating thanks to it well why the devil would you actually care about the state of the stock market right now or in the future?
- The social utility of a job appears to be almost inversely proportional to the recognition and the salary the worker receives. Medical doctors and nurses are the obvious example here, but even more extreme cases include people working in supermarkets, those ensuring that cities remain clean etc. In this whole situation, e.g. supermarket clerks have to face hundreds of people daily with completely non-existent safety measures.
- In these difficult days, medical personnel are risking their lives in order to keep people as healthy as possible. People working in transportation are risking their lives to keep some necessary transportation running. People working in the food supply chain are risking their lives so that we don’t starve etc etc. None of these people are doing so because they’re expecting some substantial increase in their living standards. A society that’s not based on profit can’t function. Oh, wait… really?
For the moment, let’s stay home as much as possible because epidemiologists are telling us to. Let’s stay as safe as possible and try to keep the people around us safe (including people in hospitals, supermarkets, collecting garbage etc). And let’s never forget that there are bastards in this world who brought us into this situation.
1Andreas Goudelis is a researcher at the french CNRS and was found in Greece in the covid-19 outbreak. Title is ours [“4” magazine].