Over the past six months in the United States, a staggering 200,000 lives have been cut short due to COVID-19. These were our parents, our friends, our grandparents, our community members, and our children. The loss is both heartbreaking and infuriating because it did not have to be this way. Not only are we beset by an incompetent, negligent and mendacious White House (and its enablers in the Senate), but our economic system is quite literally killing us, and what is worse, it is operating as designed. The extreme and ever-growing concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few puts the health, wellbeing, and lives of people in the United States, and around the world, at grave risk. As Executive Vice President Marjorie Kelly writes in an op-ed for The Hill, “the blunt truth is that the profit-maximizing, capital-controlled corporate model must become a thing of the past.”
Each passing day we are faced with further evidence of the scale of the crisis we are now facing. A potentially unprecedented wave of evictions as moratoriums come to an end; the threat of far-reaching utilities shutoffs as residents struggle to make ends meet; small businesses shuttering with little relief in sight. And all this on top of the heartbreaking and uneven landscape of preventable death, with Black, Indigenous and other people of color bearing the brunt of the pandemic and its fallout. The scale of the crisis necessitates immediate and decisive action. But these actions will be ineffective if we do not acknowledge a fundamental truth: we were already in crisis long before the COVID-19 pandemic. What we are observing now are the logical outcomes of a political-economic system that by design puts profit and “shareholder value” over peoples’ lives and the health of our planet.
Arundhati Roy, the Indian author and activist, has written: “Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to ‘normality,’ trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality. Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.”