Days of plague

This is written from a city under siege, in a state of war against an invisible enemy. A government lockdown is in force, people are only allowed to leave their places of residence in a limited set of circumstances, buying food or medicine. Even then, these activities are to be conducted alone, and completed in as brief a time as possible. This social isolation is mandated to stem the spread of the virus Covid-19, the only issue of relevance in 2020. Austerity, poverty, disparities of wealth, climate change, struggles for recognition of identity (personal, national, ethnic, religious), gender inequality, automation/technological change and its effect on labour, democratic deficits – all have been swept aside. And yet all of these issues and more besides are pertinent to the present crisis. The nature of present global society, built up over centuries, is called into question by this pandemic. Fundamental questions are posed: how ought we to live? how should we organise ourselves? what minimum floor must we ensure no human being falls below? All of these questions are in play in ways they have not been for a prolonged period of time, if ever. It is clear that society will never return to the exact state it was in prior to Covid-19. What follows this crisis is unwritten. Should the emancipatory impulse lose out, what follows may be even more abhorrent than what proceeded. Be under no illusions about intentions of those on top of the hierarchy. Their goal will be to increase their wealth and power. Neofeudalism is what awaits us if we do not organise collectively and find points where leverage can be applied. Only through contestation can a new society better than this one be brought about. No moment in living memory offered such opportunity to bring about radical change. It must be seized.

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