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Will this pandemic reduce inequality or exacerbate old divisions?

2020-05-22

Decebalus Rex by Erich Westendarp courtesy of pixabay.com

I was drawn to this question by the page one story in today’s Washington Post:  “‘I had to choose being a mother’: With no child care or summer camps, women are being edged out of the workforce”; this story was posted in the section “Lily Lines”, referring to stories that specifically involve women’s issues.  The problem is that parents of small children are forced to keep one parent, usually the mother, at home to raise them, as happened in the past when there was no community support for families.

Clearly, the pandemic has set us back by decades, if not a full century (I’m referring to women’s suffrage in particular, which recently celebrated its 101st anniversary here in the United States).  Historically subjugated minorities, particularly African- and Caribbean-Americans, are dying of the novel coronavirus at two or three times the rates of Caucasians (the reasons why are multifactorial, including high rates of being essential but underpaid in-person workers and high rates of co-morbid conditions).

Companies and people who were well-off are doing better than those who were struggling before, both intrinsically and in access to Congressionally-mandated financial support.  People who are technologically advanced both in their personal lives and at work are better able to ride out the lockdowns– by working from home (not possible for bus drivers and retail workers) and schooling from home, as well as accessing essential services like one’s bank account and entertaining oneself and one’s family.

All these factors are leading to greater suffering among those who had marginal lives before the pandemic struck.  This is particularly true in the US, where Depression-level unemployment has hit lower-paid, lower-technology workers disproportionately without significant relief from the federal government.  Contrast this situation with that in Denmark, where burger-flippers, who made the equivalent of $22 an hour and had sick leave plus medical insurance, have guaranteed jobs and most of their pre-pandemic pay preserved.  This is why people living there are happier than people living here.

In this country, we have a Secretary of State who sees fit to force government employees to do his dishes, pick up his dry cleaning, and walk his dog– when he could well afford to hire people to do this work, both from his government salary and his prior wealth.  These actions are clearly a violation of applicable federal laws against use of one’s government office for personal gain.  Does that have any immediate effect within this administration?  No.  Should we as a people do something about it?  Yes.  What should we do?  Vote the bums out.

To get back to where we were when we were so rudely interrupted by the knock-on effects of this virus, we will have to endure five years of concerted efforts.  That’s my opinion.  What is worse, by the time we get our heads above water, the world will have changed so that it is virtually unrecognizable to us.  China will be the world’s greatest economic power and the world’s greatest villain by virtue of its totalitarian government.  It’s not communism that is the villain; if anything, China is the victim of concerted exploitation by Western and even Japanese actors over the last two centuries– going back to the Opium Wars.  China’s government is not just communist, it is not even just authoritarian– it is totalitarian.  That is a reaction to all that has happened in the last two hundred years.

Even the pandemic virus is a result of the forces that have molded China.  There was a massive population explosion, which was partly the result of the economic misery that they endured because they were so ruthlessly exploited by other countries.  This population boom, which is only now just beginning to be controlled, has caused a scramble for calories, which has caused the human exploitation of animals for food.

The close quarters in which large numbers of food animals are kept and their proximity to humans has caused a fertile ground for micro-organisms, viruses in particular, to evolve into more dangerous human pathogens.  The novel coronavirus is just the latest evolution of viruses that exploits human overcrowding to spread.

Measures we have been forced to take, in order to slow its spread, have been essentially isolation of one human from another.  We are still waiting for more sophisticated methods of control, including vaccines, to help us get this virus under control.  That’s where we are today, and we will have to fight the same social battles all over again, especially here in the US, because retrogressive political parties run by retrogressive people are trying to prevent us from addressing this problem with the efficiency that we require.

That’s my opinion, and you’re free to disagree.  But don’t call me names or threaten me.  I’m just another human being trying to do my best to keep our species evolving together.

 

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