The image of foreigners spreading disease is rich terrain for the far right. It’s a version of what the American eugenicist-ecologist Garrett Hardin termed “lifeboat ethics.” An inspiration for the far right, Hardin in the 1970s imagined a zero-sum game for planetary survival, where the world’s mostly black and brown poor would compete with the wealthy for resources, threatening to pollute air, water, and bloodlines alike toward disastrous ends. Keeping people out, Hardin argued, prevents them from being a drain on nature and allows the rest of the population to stay healthier and more genetically pure. In addition to draconian immigration measures, he pushed for population control. “We never really conquer any diseases finally,” Hardin argued in an interview toward the end of his life, “and the bigger the population is, the harder it is to control.”
White supremacy and closed borders are as poor an answer to the coronavirus as they are to the climate crisis and certainly won’t solve either problem, making life far more dangerous for many as the world warms. Like it or not, we’re all in this boat together. As pointed out yesterday even by the thoroughly Republican Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, “We cannot hermetically seal off the United States to a virus.”
There are, in fact, well-known and effective steps an interested government could take to defend against the coronavirus. Yet few places seem as ill-suited for dealing with a pandemic as the U.S. under the current administration. Our patchy, expensive, and inefficient health care system is already charging people thousands of dollars to get tested for the coronavirus, discouraging the kind of early diagnosis necessary for containment. The expense could prevent millions from seeking treatment, spurring the spread and death count alike. Meanwhile, 40-plus years of right-wing attacks on the public sphere have drained capacity and talent from the government, making it harder to take on big problems at scale. And a bipartisan panic about budget deficits has made large-scale spending on anything but wars virtually unthinkable.
Bloomberg does not see anything wrong with trying to purchase the presidency for a billion dollars. When asked about whether this is fair, he has become annoyed, as if it is a stupid question.
I’ll link this exposé of Michael Bloomberg by Nathan J. Robinson of Current Affairs here, but obviously it won’t do much to the people on television or in town halls across America jumping on board the Bloomberg 2020 train.
Mask off for American democracy.
When I lived in Sierra Leone, I wanted to visualize all the footpaths spreading out from the village heading to various farms or other hamlets. Despite another volunteer showing me a no-tech solution was possible, I never got around to it. Here, developer Andrei Kashcha made a tool to show all the roads of any city. Shown above and centered is the town I live near. My road and village is in a corner, within walking distance.
Some of my favorite pieces written in English on contemporary Spanish politics come from Eoghan Gilmartin and Tommy Greene and this interview in Jacobin Magazine with Alberto Garzón is no exception. Previously unpublished as part of a broader interview for the Tribune done back in April, the general coordinator of United Left and Spain’s first communist minister (of consumer affairs) since the Second Spanish Republic shared his views on communism:
“My communism isn’t a folkloric, symbolic, or aesthetic communism that simply lives through nostalgia. It’s a way of confronting the social and environmental problems we have, in the face of an economic system which is leading us to disaster. It works off the etymology of what “radical” means — that is, to get to the roots of problems. So, my idea of communism is very open. Perhaps in other countries it is understood in another way, but in Spain the communists are those who helped bring about democracy in the 1970s and who defended the Second Republic in the 1930s. Communism doesn’t have the same connotations that it may have in Eastern Europe, or in places where anticommunist propaganda has been extremely effective. And this vision of communism needs to understand the need to reckon with the problems that face us today. Historically socialism hasn’t taken on board questions like feminism and environmentalism, but these need to be incorporated. This isn’t new — it has been the case since as far back as the 1980s. But Spain is one of the countries in the world where feminism is currently strongest, and we’re one of the European countries that is going to be most heavily impacted by climate change and ecological collapse. We need to build a space that I would call “eco-socialist” or “eco-communist” — although at the end of the day, labels don’t interest me that much. I’m a lot more concerned with people understanding what it is we want to do — to construct an alternative to a society dominated by the accumulation of private profit.”
North Americans are still getting used to the idea of democratic socialism with Bernie Sanders as an alternative vision to the inequality of New Gilded Age. There, communism still has much more baggage. But here in Spain, the communists helped bring about the transition to democracy after the death of Franco. And these communist parties in Western Europe were quite different than the Bolshevik variety, though the PCE has recently returned to its original endorsement of Marxism–Leninism. I’m interested to see how the reactionary right responds to Spain’s new coalition government in the new year.
This article from yesterday should be required reading. It begins with the latest kerfuffle about some NBA manager’s tweet in support of Hong Kong’s right to self-determination. It should be a given, right? The United States is for freedom (despite hardly living up to that ideal, ever). But capital, the incessant desire to expand into global markets, stomps all over that. We’ve seen it with Apple, the NBA, even Hollywood rewriting Bohemian Rhapsody to remove all references to homosexuality, apparently.
Late-stage capitalism has this Soviet-esque quality to it, with all its pointless bureaucracy, collectivism, propaganda, burnout, and helplessness.
If capitalism fosters human creativity, then why does our economy produce an extremely limited demand for artists, musicians, academics, researchers, or scientists, but has a seemingly insatiable appetite for corporate lawyers and rehashing the same Marvel superhero movie every six months? Well, if the 1% controls most of the wealth, what we call “the market” is merely a reflection of their desires, and it’s imposed a privatized tyranny on us all.
There’s a lot of talk in the American public sphere about socialism, communism, capitalism. But if, like many say, capitalism is the best system to organize an economy and nation, why does it feel so terrible to so many people?
I’ve heard all the talking points. I’m not convinced. And each day brings new examples of corporate greed, lack of dignity for normal people, and the suppression of freedom, even for rich basketball coaches.