Instead of jumping on Twitter in the early mornings and inevitably seeing distressing reports of impunity and inequality, I’ve been reading La Voz de Galicia. It’s local news that relates more to my day-to-day, I practice reading Spanish and Galician, and there’s a plethora of human interest pieces that are pretty interesting. I pick out a few to read while I eat some breakfast to prepare for the day’s fasting. This pleasant article caught my attention today:
“Zahara de la Sierra, from medieval fortress to sanitary fortress”
The town of 1,500, a quarter of which over the age of 65, has not registered a single case of coronavirus. Considering that at the time of writing, Spain is the country with the second highest number of total cases and the fourth highest number of coronavirus-related fatalities, this is astonishing and awesome.
Zahara is a pueblo blanco, one of the whitewashed towns in the southern community of Andalusia with narrow streets and clustered houses. This one is perched on a mountain, with an old Moorish fort overlooking the town. I haven’t been there myself but I’ve been to other pueblos blancos like Grazalema and Ronda.
So how did Zahara de la Sierra manage to stay free from coronavirus, even as nearby towns and villages registered cases and fatalities?
First, they sprang into action the day after the state of alarm was announced and blocked off four of the five roads leading into the town. They sprayed every entering vehicle with water and bleach. The markets set up a delivery service. The women’s association cooked and delivered food to the footsteps of their elderly neighbors. They cleaned the streets a few times a week. They stayed in touch on Facebook. They outfitted music and lights onto cars to entertain children from the balconies. And they used the town’s contingency fund to help family-run businesses and autónomos, freelancers, stay afloat during the lockdown. They also turned away tourists, even though the pueblos blancos are very popular with international tourists and depend on the tourism sector.
This level of neighborhood support and seriousness to health should be envied everywhere.
Some good news in nature conservation. A brown bear between 3-5 years old came from A Serra do Courel in Lugo and probably spent the winter in Parque Natural do Invernadeiro, where it was caught on cameras set up for a documentary.
We moved to Galicia in September, first on the coast near O Grove. We were preoccupied with finding work and a place to live so we weren’t in the adventurous spirit, other than a small road trip to find where we live now. Now that the quarantine deescalation and true spring have begun, I’m itching to get back to camping in the van, going on hikes, and exploring some of these places so close to us, like the central Ourensan Massif and of course, back to Ribeira Sacra. Hopefully we won’t disturb this guy when we’re there.
“We need more robots, better solar panels, instant communication and sophisticated green transport networks. But equally, we need to organise politically to defend the weak, empower the many and prepare the ground for reversing the absurdities of capitalism. In practical terms, this means treating the idea that there is no alternative with the contempt it deserves while rejecting all calls for a “return” to a less modernised existence.”
“Capitalism’s reach is so pervasive it can sometimes seem impossible to imagine a world without it. It is only a small step from feelings of impotence to falling victim to the assertion there is no alternative. But, astonishingly (claims the manifesto), it is precisely when we are about to succumb to this idea that alternatives abound.“
In light of world governments pushing their citizens to “reopen economies”, the oncoming financial crisis sparked by lagging consumption and massive unemployment, and the further consolidation of capital from firms like Amazon, Yanis Varoufakis‘s Guardian article on the Communist Manifesto (adapted from his introduction of a recent edition) for the old man’s bicentennial is as relevant as ever:
If the manifesto holds the same power to excite, enthuse and shame us that it did in 1848, it is because the struggle between social classes is as old as time itself. Marx and Engels summed this up in 13 audacious words: “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.”
From feudal aristocracies to industrialised empires, the engine of history has always been the conflict between constantly revolutionising technologies and prevailing class conventions. With each disruption of society’s technology, the conflict between us changes form. Old classes die out and eventually only two remain standing: the class that owns everything and the class that owns nothing – the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.
This is the predicament in which we find ourselves today. While we owe capitalism for having reduced all class distinctions to the gulf between owners and non-owners, Marx and Engels want us to realise that capitalism is insufficiently evolved to survive the technologies it spawns. It is our duty to tear away at the old notion of privately owned means of production and force a metamorphosis, which must involve the social ownership of machinery, land and resources. Now, when new technologies are unleashed in societies bound by the primitive labour contract, wholesale misery follows. In the manifesto’s unforgettable words: “A society that has conjured up such gigantic means of production and of exchange, is like the sorcerer who is no longer able to control the powers of the nether world whom he has called up by his spells.”
Everyone reading this has lived in the capitalist realist world with no first experience of anything else. Marx was born at precisely the right time in history to see capitalism being born. As such, his analysis is relevant to us, even if he didn’t understand ecology, gender, and technology in quite the same way we do now.
It is the end of ‘the end of history’. There is an alternative to the unequal American reality, regardless of what the political and capitalist classes say. You can see it for yourself in the human-centered responses.
The blog Cosmonaut has a lengthy and important article regarding the necessary work to be done in the western imperialist core to stave off 21st-century fascism and neoliberal neglect, especially after the the failed political revolution of the the Sanders left, all in the face of ecological collapse. Read the whole thing.
Regardless of what exigencies arise in the coming years’ political landscape, most of which are entirely obscured to us now, we can be certain of the crux of every political question: ecological collapse. Beyond the most obvious horror of this central question, the high-visibility catastrophes which will increase in magnitude and frequency, the tendrils of crisis will reach outward into every level of our social systems. Drought will spark agricultural collapse, which will cause multiple deluges of human migration, often all at once. Severe storms, flooding, weather-pattern changes, and sea-level rise will render major metropolitan areas functionally uninhabitable. The desertification of regions now devoted to large-scale monoculture or husbandry will disrupt critical commodity chains. This will doubtless cause armed conflict within and between nations.
Climate change is the skeleton key that unlocks the barred gate between us and the better world we struggle for. Every demand we now pursue in the interest of social justice, proletarian self-activation, and relief of sheer human misery will become a critical factor of our social system which has to be radically transformed in order to mitigate climate collapse. This means that any progressive, affirmative program of socio-ecological collapse constitutes, by the very nature of the adaptations required, a minimum program– a suite of demands which, when implemented, create the dictatorship of the proletariat and bring into the world real democracy for the first time. All other potential courses of action responsive to the general crisis coming down the pike are not only reactive and politically reactionary but will be insufficient to the scale of the calamity they respond to. The disastrous, sublime, terrifying situation we are now faced with lays down the gauntlet: we must either overcome our inhumanity and for the first time realize our collective potential, or consign the project of humanity to ignominy and extinction.
Congress has ignored millions of people who have existed in a state of crisis for decades. The people of Flint, Michigan, (and elsewhere) still do not have safe drinking water. Millions of kids go hungry each day. Half a million people, before the pandemic, were homeless on any given night. And on it goes. There has been no multitrillion-dollar spending bill to combat these and other domestic emergencies. Instead, lawmakers have deprived communities of critical investments that could have attenuated their emergencies, often hiding behind the excuse that there isn’t enough money in the budget to deal with problems like these.
She would know. Kelton served as the chief economist for the DNC on the U.S. Senate Budget committee (2015/2016). This article elucidates the methods Congress uses to pass a budget that is ‘paid for’. But the stimulus is not paid for.
That is not what Congress is doing today. Instead of writing a bill that would send two sets of instructions to the Fed, Congress is pushing through a $2 trillion spending bill that will send just one set of instructions. No one is bothering to try to offset — i.e. “pay for” — that spending, because the goal is to get lots of money to people (and companies) without subtracting a lot away.
I keep thinking about republicans and liberals hyperventilating about the ‘cost’ of some of the progressive movement’s policies: Medicare for All, cancelling student debt, tuition-free college, etc. Many of these could be ‘paid for’ yes, by raising taxes on the wealthy. Or they could have been wiped away with a stimulus similar to this one. Arguably keeping money in everyday working people’s pockets during a crisis would have eased the trauma.