We're all struggling to take in the magnitude of coping with a global pandemic. Personally I've had to cancel a long-awaited vacation to vist family, and with libraries closed, I may soon be applying for EI. The shelves at our local supermarket are empty; we're hoping folks who did the right thing, remained calm and didn't hoard, won't be repaid with severe shortages.
And of course I'm hoping that the relatively fast and decisive actions taken by Canada and my own province of BC will protect us from the worst.
But I'm also acutely aware that my personal inconvenience is nothing compared to the misfortunes of so many others. I don't mean those who are necessarily sick with COVID-19. I'm thinking of those who simply cannot prepare, and those who are suddenly faced with a total loss of income.
All the families who live paycheque to paycheque, cobbling together an income from various part-time and casual jobs, who suddenly find themselves unemployed.
All the workers who don't qualify for assistance because they freelance, work off the books, don't work enough hours, or are otherwise under the radar.
People for whom the direction to "stay at home" is just cruel, because they live in over-crowded shelters or on the streets.
Custodial and janitorial workers who are cleaning the office buildings we've all abandoned, often with inadequate information or equipment.
People who can't afford private internet, and are now completely disconnected.
All the people in the US without proper healthcare.
All the people dealing with serious mental health and addiction issues on their own, or barely managed through the grossly under-funded system.
This public health crisis has exposed the raw edge of capitalism and unchecked greed. If corporations paid their fair share, if our taxes were used for the public good instead of corporate welfare and tax breaks for the wealthy, if in the past 40 years CEOs salaries hadn't outstripped worker gains by an order of magnitude, we'd be in a better position to weather this storm -- all of us, including our most vulnerable members.
The housing crisis is not a force of nature. Long-term care homes don't have to be understaffed. Public school classes don't have to be so large, their facilities crumbling. These conditions are a result of government priorities, and of the undue influence of industry and corporations in our public institutions.
Looking at the long-term picture, we can easily see that it doesn't matter which of the ruling class parties are in power. Tory or Liberal, Democrat or Republican, the inexorable march of unchecked capitalism continues. Until we construct a new paradigm to manage governments and resources, it will only get worse.
Coronavirus should be teaching us a lesson about socialism. But once the storm has passed, no such lesson will have been learned.