Covid Journal, July 4, 2020
The Return of Chris Hedges
The United States celebrates another ‘birthday’ all the while the flames of dissent, collapse and tyranny burn around the populace. Nothing like fiddling while Rome burns.
Chris Hedges – writer, journalist and left-leaning Cassandra of American politics – has emerged from retirement much like the Godfather in Part III: “I keep trying to get out and they pull me back in.”
A society can change so quickly because the underlying structures are rotten. There is the patina or the veneer of a functioning system, but the foundations of it are so decayed that they can’t take the stress. That was true in the Weimar Republic in Germany, before the Nazis took full control. That was true in Yugoslavia before the civil war and ethnic violence. It is true here in the United States too. This country cannot withstand the stress of the coronavirus pandemic. Beyond the obviousness of what the Republicans are doing, the Democratic Party’s response to this crisis exemplifies the problems America is facing as a whole.
Twelve hundred dollars to individuals suffering during this crisis is not sufficient. The Democrats were only really trying to block the equivalent of a $500 billion slush fund that is going into Mnuchin’s hands, a man who acts like a criminal. That $1,200 is going to get vacuumed right up by the credit card companies and the banks who hold the mortgages.
This is like a repeat of 2008, where Congress is dumping staggering sums of money into the hands of Wall Street thieves. What happened in 2008? The plutocrats and the corporations gave themselves massive stock bonuses and other income and returns. I do not see how the United States is going to avoid another Great Depression, which in turn will lead to a further consolidation of power by an authoritarian, oligarchic elite. Those elites are not really worried about the coronavirus pandemic because they will have their own ventilators and private medical staff and all the other things that they need to survive. The average person will be left to take care of themselves.
I would also add that huge numbers of people are going to die unnecessarily. Profit is always the most important thing for the oligarchs, and because of Fox News and other right-wing outlets a significant portion of the American public will downplay the severity and dangers of the coronavirus. Quite predictably, there is an accompanying spike in racist attacks against Chinese-Americans or any people of Asian descent.
I think the pandemic and the response to it could lead us into virtually uncharted territory within the United States because as things deteriorate, the violence against nonwhites and other groups who are demonized by Trump and the right wing will increase. The desire for an authoritarian solution will grow more pronounced. I remember speaking to Fritz Stern, the great scholar of fascism, who himself fled Nazi Germany as a teenager. He said that in Germany there was a yearning for fascism before the word “fascism” was invented. We already see that yearning in America. The coronavirus crisis will make that yearning even more pronounced.
I don’t think we’re going to be able to go back to a time before the coronavirus pandemic. I believe that the coronavirus is going to trigger a decline unlike anything the country has seen since the Great Depression. That is why the business class and other ruling elites are panicking. It is why Trump, the corporate leaders, Republicans and others aligned with them are telling people to go back to work — but to wear masks — which may really not keep them 100% safe.
I am unsure if we have any mechanisms left in the United States by which we can effectively push back against the elites, the oligarchs and other anti-democratic forces. We don’t have any ability to pit power against power. We can beg Pelosi or Mitch McConnell or some other politician all we want for help. We are not going to get it.
For those Democrats and ‘left-wingers’ in the United States that are pinning their hopes on Joe Biden? Forget it. He’s just more of the same: an old, privileged white guy that has a history of neglecting truly progressive causes in the US and abroad. And who’s steeped in controversy with his own corporate dealings. Here are some thoughts from Hedges about Biden:
Let’s take Biden. What does it mean to vote for Joe Biden? He has this kind of goofy persona which some people find charming. What is Biden’s record? What is a person voting for if they back Biden on Election Day 2020?
The humiliation of courageous women like Anita Hill who confronted her abuser. You vote for the architects of endless war. You vote for the apartheid state in Israel. Biden supports those things. With Biden you are voting for wholesale surveillance by the government, including the abolition of due process and habeas corpus. You vote for austerity programs. You vote for the destruction of welfare. That was Biden. You vote for cuts to Social Security, which he has repeatedly called for cutting, along with Medicaid. You vote for NAFTA, you vote for “free trade” deals. If you vote for Biden, you are voting for a real decline in wages and the loss of hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs.
With Biden you are also voting for the assault on public education and the transfer of federal funds to Christian “charter schools.” With Biden you are voting for more than a doubling of the prison population. With Biden you are voting for the militarized police and against the Green New Deal.
You are also voting to limit a woman’s right to abortion and reproductive rights. You are voting for a segregated public school system. With Biden you are voting for punitive levels of student debt and the inability of people to free themselves of that debt through bankruptcy. A vote for Biden is a vote for deregulating banking and finance. Biden also supports for-profit insurance and pharmaceutical corporations.
A vote for Biden is also a vote against the possibility of universal health care. You vote for Biden and you are supporting huge, wasteful and bloated defense budgets. Biden also supports unlimited oligarchic and corporate money to buy the elections.
That’s what you’re voting for.
A vote for Joe Biden is a vote for more of the same. The ruling elites would prefer Joe Biden, just like they preferred Hillary Clinton. Donald Trump is vulgar and an embarrassment. But the ruling elites also made it abundantly clear about their interests: Many of these people were quoted by name saying that if Bernie Sanders was the nominee — or even Elizabeth Warren — they would vote for Donald Trump.
To be honest, I’m starting to appreciate how Covid is exposing just how fucked up our entire system and global infrastructure truly is. When we sacrifice the lives of people to the holy institution of the economy, we have failed to address even the most basic needs of society.
Life is more important than profit.
The Trainwreck of Education
As I said earlier, Covid is exposing just how pathetic our current systems really are.
We can get people back to restaurants and golf courses, but we don’t seem capable of grasping the importance of getting our kids back to school.
Covid-19 has exposed how little effort we put into education, despite the hundreds of billions poured down the drain every year.
Guardians and single parents can’t just abandon young children at home, so all the bullshit about ‘protecting essential workers’ – most of whom are in the category of adults needing other adults to supervise their children – is just bullshit.
We’re committing a level of class warfare here when we don’t find ways to help other people to take care of their children while they try to earn a living at $14 per hour (thank you Mr. Ford for cancelling a decent minimum wage).
And while companies like Empire (Sobey’s, FreshCo), Metro and Loblaws hack away at benefits and pay for these folks, poverty is the most likely next case scenario.
Where do they normally turn? Not-for-profits and charities that … unfortunately … are also struggling with an ongoing litany of absurdly impossible hard-to-follow guidelines that larger for-profit companies haven’t had to implement until recently (and even then, it’s hodgepodge).
Lack of infrastructure concerning education not only denies our children a future, it crushes the ability of parents to take care of their children.
I know it doesn’t cross the radar for folks that can just pivot to private school as an option, but that just doesn’t work for 99% of us.
Another challenge facing parents is the rumour that Stephen Lecce. Minister of Education in Ontario, is looking at pushing ALL grade 11 and 12 classes to online formats in order to make room for grade 9s and 10s.
To top it all off, the entire school infrastructure is being privatized right under our noses. Billions will be spent on the Desire2Learn (D2L) platform, something that is structured and being offered by a private company. Like Trudeau’s shameless and disgusting transfer of government priorities to a private not-for-profit charity, the McGuinty/Wynne/Ford legacy will be the complete gutting of education in this province, with only private schools and Catholic schools reaping ongoing benefits. Conflicts of interest are all over the place, inluding McGuinty’s registration as a lobbyist for Desire to Learn.
What are we supposed to? If you do that, I want a few things to happen:
- a full refund of taxes that our family has paid and will continue to be asked to pay for education over the next few years because I’m not willing to pay anything for the crap that we’ve seen so far from the government of Ontario when it comes to online resources.
- acknowledgement / recognition of alternative third-party resources for secondary education, especially cost-effective online resources like Udemy and Coursera. Or even the government’s own TVO site devoted to K-12 resources.
- every parent in Ontario to do the same and basically boycott the educational mess that we’ve neglected for too long.
- Rebates / credits for home-schooling efforts that will certainly emerge over the coming months as a viable substitute for face-to-face education by pretty much anyone under the sun.
To repeat, Covid has exposed what a joke our education system has become. Teachers with good intentions are caught between self-serving unions that don’t accept progress or change as part of their mandate and governments that pay too much attention to special interest groups to be able to deliver rational programs.