Abusing Entitlements

Yesterday, the latest Domestic Abuse Bill finally passed through the UK Parliament. We’ve campaigned for it for at least the last 5 years and should celebrate despite it having been mauled by misogynist MPs and neutered by the destruction of the Legal Aid system. Clearly Law-making is only ever incremental.

At last, the emotional coercion as well as physical and economic abuse and coercion of adults who are or recently have been living together has been addressed in Law. Children in households where there is abuse between adult family members are, for the first time, recognised as suffering from the same abuse.

The formal recognition of emotional harm caused by abusive behaviours, for example slandering the victim as “crazy” or abusive (known as “gaslighting”), is a valuable addition to the long list of how individual humans can control another and render them powerless. This comes at a time when reports of domestic abuse have more than quadrupled during the COVID-19 Lockdown.

During the same period, the Black Lives Matter protests following the murder by Police of George Floyd in the USA has raised the level of debate about Power-and-Control behaviours, both personal and institutionalised. The knee pressed on the neck until dead is a graphic symbol of illegitimate power, and allows us now to extend our exploration of the more subtle behaviours that restrict or deny our ability to breathe.

At a tangent, the debate about a “Woman’s Right to Choose” and abortion rights continues unabated, with the notion that an individual has the right to be in charge of their own body (and nobody else’s) still ludicrously contentious. Add to that the very loud arguments about whether Transgender people have the right to be recognised as women if they so choose, dividing feminists and misogynists alike, and all issues of individual liberty and human rights remain far from resolved.

We live in ideologically-febrile times, but probably always have. The divisions in the vast array of potential “ways of seeing” across all of humanity have constantly led to camps, ideological groupings, sects, parties and conflict. The human imagination that has empowered us to conceive of ideas, constructions and actions that raise us to the top of the food chain comes at a high cost.

We are able to love and hate, build and destroy, care and ignore. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, we can hear without listening, see without understanding. We are all able to abuse. We therefore have to control and manage ourselves. We simply cannot be free to do what we want, any old time.

This raises questions, not only about the limits to potential freedoms and self-determination, but of human entitlement. In the context of person-to-person abuse, domestic abusers (the vast majority being men) consider themselves entitled to control and manipulate their intimate partner, if not their entire cohort of family and friends, by virtue of their maleness.

Having spent much of my lifetime employed as a statutory social worker intervening in cases of domestic abuse, I have some understanding of the dynamics of power-and-control relationships.

I have explored, through personal experience as well as academic study, the societal mechanisms by which the behaviours of the controller and the controlled develop, accelerate, become enmeshed, maintained and amplified. Belief systems are developed and embedded in order to explain away and normalise the abuse. Crucially, the abuser learns to feel entitled to behave in that way.

I’m in no doubt that all notions of entitlement stem from societal norms and cultural requirements, not innate “human nature”. We are socialised into basic expectations of “acceptable” behaviour, and any scan of different societies can identify the rainbow coloured span of legitimate ways of living. There is no one normal.

So people appear to choose to live under threat and in fear rather than defy the prescribed social norms. At societal level, millions can live under brutal dictatorships for decades, surviving in the shadows enjoying secret symbolic acts of defiance or illegitimacy. Drinking during Prohibition, reading banned books, daring to seek prohibited sexual encounters. Small acts that assuage the death-defying demand to challenge the entire system.

Unequal personal relationships often include similar token defiance. The oppressed and abused mouth-off behind the abusers back, but know to don the false-smile when together. And the pay-offs, usually summed-up by “better the devil you know…”, keep the relationship going. Such co-dependency is a prominent form of dysfunctional relationships, a dynamic that answers the throw away question of “why does s/he stay with him?” The more thoughtful question should be, “what are the barriers that prevent the victim from leaving?

We become locked into habits, familiarities and dependencies however destructive, for fear of the unknown. In this example, in a male-dominated society, a woman leaving her abuser runs the gauntlet of economic hardship as well as isolation and social stigma. The stereotype of the passive, caring and emotional woman is proven by the converse societal damnation of her assertive and challenging alter-ego.

Humans are so fabulously expansive in our potential conceptions and behaviours that we have to learn how to behave in any given society, and adapt to do so. Racism is learnt. Sexism is learnt. Homophobia is learnt. Religiosity is learnt. Good and Bad are social constructs. A deeply unequal and stratified society has to necessarily teach inequality and the righteousness of superior over inferior human beings.

Our base drives, complex in their minute-by-minute execution, come down to the comparatively simple inter-relationship of identity and survival. What I have to do to feel valid and what I have to do to be safe enough. Perception is key. And the “pay-off” – the value of holding on to what is rather than escape into the unknown – keeps us placed in the most extreme and absurd of situations.

If society teaches me that, as a man I have rights over women, or my lighter skin offers me power over people of colour, then I can feel comparatively valued and secure. At least I’m better off than them. “Tuppence ha’penny looking down at tuppence” as my Dad used to say. By this adage we all learn our place in the scheme of things. The abused may well believe that its right that s/he’s abused, because society says so, even if it seriously limits the ability to breathe.

It is Society that invokes our preferred attributes, including any and all human rights and entitlements. There is nothing essential or inalienable about any of them. I am given the “right” to control my partner only if those around me allow it. I can get away with enslaving others for my own benefit, on whatever contrived and spurious grounds, until I’m prevented from doing so. My judgements of “others’ as better or worse than me can only be validated by a society that condones hierarchy and competition.

Which brings us to the horrid quandary of the degree of societal change essential to prevent climate-driven human extinction. It is the class-laden layers of entitlements, seemingly bestowed upon the people of those societies most hectic in promoting global heating emissions, that ensure we maintain abusive behaviours towards the Environment as well as each other.

At a societal level, the most CO2-emitting North Western countries bestow the “Right” to fresh clean drinking water, electricity, housing and health care upon its citizens in return to gross exploitation and oppression. The least polluting peoples, seemingly because they’re the least economically developed, are not entitled to these comforts, even tho’ it is the natural resources within their national boundaries that overwhelmingly provide the entitlements for the better off. Western societies abuse the Global South for our own benefit and at their victims’ abject expense.

On a personal level, the size of diamond displays the validity of his love for me, whatever shackles it also portrays or exploitation it requires before display. My car bestows my status, never mind its CO2 rating and lung-damaging pollution; my employment secures my place in the scheme of things, even if being a qualified aircraft engineer (after 5 years of hard graft for which I deserve recompense and acknowledgement) contributes massively to environmental destruction; the home temperature from my central heating system ensures my comfort, whether the use of fossil fuels is sustainable or not.

It’s difficult to argue that we benefit from carbon-based economies when they are destroying the environment upon which we depend for survival. But how do we end the current individual and collective buy-in to ecological abuse? Society says and structures life to proclaim that I need a car (despite its cost) and makes life harder without one. How can I be strong enough to walk away?

To lower emissions by the mind-boggling scale required to prevent societal breakdown and ecological Armageddon, we have to address and change all current notions of Human Entitlement. If we can challenge entitlements in relation to domestic abuse or white supremacy, why can’t we do the same to prevent environmental abuse?

We don’t need to exert power in order to feel safe and warm in an intimate relationship. Negotiation, empathy and sensitivity offer a far deeper, more enjoyable and rewarding partnership. Children who grow-up appreciating the value, including the true cost, of things tend to have a broader and more cooperative relationship towards everything and everyone around them. Perhaps we don’t need central heating after all.

Environmental destruction is the most powerful of all abuse because it impacts negatively upon all Life. Can an abuser change perception and behaviour? I can authoritatively say “yes” because I’ve seen it happen so many times. Individuals can and do learn, adapt and change. We can learn not to abuse.

By the same token, “survivors” are, by definition, the people who have stood up and walked away from the abuse. The most over-stated cry of the support worker is, “if he’s hit you, he’ll do it again and next time it’ll be worse still. You can’t change him, its time to leave.” The walk into the unknown may be frightening but generally not nearly as fearful as the day-to-day tremble of the abusive home environment.

Yet, through the past five decades the proportion of domestic abuse households hasn’t changed, no matter how many individuals have passed through therapeutic intervention to learn better behaviours. Hence yet another Law. It is clear from history that outlawing domestic abuse will not work unless male dominance as a norm is systemically challenged and unlearnt.

Whilst stemming from different root causes, the same goes for constructs of white supremacy, and indeed for acceptance of global heating emissions. Such abuse should not just be frowned upon, but decried, exposed and constantly challenged, as well as prohibited. But right now, those refusing to comply with the abuse, facing-up to the abusers, challenging and changing behaviours, are still derided and stigmatised by a society defending its’ entitlements.

Can humanity stop abusing the environment? The analogy with domestic abuse suggests not fast enough if left to the slow-burn of one-by-one learning. While one person has unlearnt the abusive behaviours another has just started to enact what society has taught. The bright red Emergency Stop button controlling the conveyor belt has to be pressed, hard.

Ending environmental abuse requires societal change. It probably does mean a period of discomfort whilst building a new normal. It will require strong laws against the abusers – in this case the Corporations who are currently protected in their psychopathy. And, as with the misogynist abusers, they’re likely to fight back against any and all personal liability or accountability.

Progress depends upon the joined-up force of all movements against abuse. At base, the societal conventions that legitimise exploitation and oppression sit alongside the tenets that allow ecological destruction. At all levels of society we must pursue demands for equality not supremacy, cooperation not competition, the prioritisation of sustenance over accumulation, sharing not owning, sufficiency over avarice. But mostly, the end of any provision of entitlement without responsibility.

Replying to Reformism

My recent discussions around Climate, through this period of mass protest that “Black Lives Matter”, have been tense. Meetings and online forums appear to be spinning in repetitive circles much like the swirling weather fronts rumbling across the Atlantic. The impasse created by, on the one side, COVID-19 Lockdown and on the other, spontaneous and death-defying outrage at State murder of people based upon their skin colour, appears to have rendered the Climate Movement almost paralysed.

As a microcosm of all that I have become abrupt and over-assertive (I hope not abusive) during online meetings where the same-old-same-old is being proposed, completely disregarding the febrile and era-announcing social upheavals taking place. The political tensions are enormous and raise the spectre that the status quo cannot hold. We have to push.

Our side must put actions before words, and yet, little is happening other than cleaning plastic from beaches and scrawling names of wild flowers on pavements, the best to save them from Roundup’s toxic glyphosphates. The analogy works out – if we don’t push forward with mass revolt to save the Planet and ourselves, we’ll succumb to being gassed, too.

So below is my response to a well-meaning and honest reformist seeking to build political alliances with local politicians in order to win change: cuts to emissions and the move away from the carbon economy. we share the sense of urgency but my impatience got the better of me and caused upset. For that, I’m sorry.

“Oh dear. I am in a state of almost constant heightened awareness/alert about “things climate”. I’ve read too much, and keep on doing so. My ancient optimism and long-lived positive outlook has been so deeply dented that I have developed an impatience not seen in earlier life. Perhaps I’m simply experiencing the inevitable “Victor Meldrew” grumpy-old-man syndrome. Every reflective experience is one of “Groundhog Day” – how many times must we go round the same discussions and arguments that have failed so dismally for decades? Rather than patiently explain myself, I’ve become snappy, and I sincerely apologise for that. My time with the local Extinction Rebellion Group allowed a completely fresh approach, consciously recognising that “the old ways hadn’t worked” and demanding direct action in order to challenge “The Power”. Along with the school student strikes enticed by Greta Thunberg, they worked. So much so that the conspiracy theorist would argue that the COVID-19 Lockdown was made-up in order to quash the revolt. I don’t think that for one moment, and in any case, as we see with Black Lives Matter worldwide, (or the Hong Kong revolts, or strikes in China) it hasn’t worked completely. Rather, there is a distinct confusion of direction. The protests had their time, so what’s next. And, as someone informed by the Climate Justice group, a radical international organisation engaging India and Africa, and the World Social Forum, an all-embracing global Movement of Movements, I see the debate as testing the most hardened campaigners worldwide. No-one has the answers. As I said at our Zoom meeting, the unquestionable science is of an acceleration of the indicators of climate collapse far beyond the computer models. 12 of the 16 measurements of environmental stability have now passed their tipping points. We’re on the brink. At the same time, there is a worldwide crisis of democracy, rendering the People’s voice and wishes redundant. It is not irrelevant to the discussions in small UK town like ours that there is a huge rise in the number of far-Right governments, oppressive in many ways but united in their Climate Denial. Local municipal political bodies, such as UK elected Councils, are also steeped in corruption and political dogma…and ours is no exception.So I’m over sensitive to reinventing the wheel, repeating the mantra, revisiting lost ground, rehearsing ancient plays (when there is contemporary art full of new forms available), or rolling that boulder back up the mountain side even one more time. The issue for me is the powerlessness of the people, and I get most cross whenever The People are blamed for not utilising the Power they don’t have. The argument of consumer power is the most pernicious. Only those with sufficient independent resources can afford to choose what and where to buy or boycott. The vast majority of us have limited means, our essential requirements owned and controlled in a wholly dictatorial mode (rented accommodation, price of foodstuffs, rate of pay for the job or level of Universal Credit, access to education, even access to healthcare despite the NHS – long ago stripped of any democratic control). The lack of resource is astounding, rendering half the population unable to live outside the very “Now” of life – looking back at our own history is too painful, and looking forward equally distressing – the poorest amongst us just have to get on with coping today, living for today in tiny bubbles of close-horizons and scrimped diet. Best not to think at all about reality, history or generations hence – best live in a dream of TV and drugs. The bottom 50% of UK society shares less than 20% of GDP, the poorest 20% have a disposable income as a household (not person) of less than £13k per year whilst the top 20% average £70k. One in three of our children live in poverty with precarious access to diet, housing, education and health. In the Western end of our poor City, the unskilled working class man has a life expectancy 15 years lower than his contemporary as a skilled male 2 miles to the East .And then there’s the media lies and propaganda concoctions that dull and divert public consciousness away from the things that matter. For example, were we to put a Press Release out today about methane release, our words would evaporate in front of the heat generated by the death of Dame Vera Lynn at 103 years old. More than 80% of all our media (on-and-offline) is owned by 5 individual billionaires who control the messages, to their own advantage, of course. The resulting broadcasts, so dull and banal that most don’t even listen, meaning the small nuggets of fact and reason that we manage to get through the censor’s net often falls on stony ground. So your proposal for mapping where the power lies is, for me, very straight forward but very little to do with seeking-out individual councillors in a rotten borough where Councillors have no freedom of thought or action from their Political Party’s contrived message for short-term electoral gain. We’ve done it to death, tested it to destruction, and by all that is sacred, its a tattered corpse. I’m personally averse to trying again, although I recognise that each generation has to test out afresh and learn the lessons for themselves. I simply wish we could better learn from history. What’ll it take? A critical mass of bodies heaped into death-defying action in the face of overwhelming odds, in a reckless and selfless bid for the survival of humanity in some form? Well, I’m not quite so pessimistic, nor a nihilist. There are uprisings, there is a developing consciousness in a proportion of the young, worldwide, that offers huge hope. And they are tearing down the statues. No more status quo. Not going through the same old rigmarole. Right now the Establishment are trying to incorporate as many of them as they can before they send in the politically-driven Police to round-up the doggedly non-compliant, but there is a huge Movement afoot. I refuse to become oppositionist against anyone trying to do anything towards human progress. But we each have only so much energy and mine is waning. Let a million flowers bloom. I simply cannot have faith in turning or replacing at least 26 local Councillors into hardened environmentalists who recognise that we must cut emissions drastically enough to ensure global cuts to production that result by 2030 in all oil being left in the ground and zero-emissions soon after. With our little town in poll position? Really? I think we need to shout the facts of science and offer symbols of the terrible impact of global heating now, in every way possible wherever we can, in public and with drama. We need to link with an international Movement of Movements to a point where workers collectively take strike action and close down the polluting and carbon-emitting workplaces and transform society root-and-branch. That’s why I like XR’s “speak Truth to Power” although my experience of that organisation (as with most) is the difficulty in determining whose “Truth” predominates. I prefer Facts. Let’s push the facts. Let’s bombard public discourse with climate facts. There’s tons. And tear down the symbols of fossil fuels. The final analysis, tho’, is that Oil and Capitalism are intrinsically linked and inseparable, just as is the System wholly reliant upon the institutional racism currently fomenting protest. I have to observe that you cannot end the one without ending the other. The challenge on all fronts is Capitalism as a System that can and must be replaced, and that means linking all the issues and movements in common cause, not deferring at all to the old structures.

Thanks for your tolerance. Lovely to talk. Love and Struggle, Tony

The Savage Normal

And in other news…the CEO of the oil company seeking to build a pipeline between Edmonton and Vancouver says COVID-19 offers the very best time to start the building work, because protests of more than 15 people are outlawed! I admit to a growing sense of pent-up anger. Must be Lockdown fatigue.

You don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to understand that profiteers and gangsters use any and every crisis in order to plunder profit out of human misery. Indeed, since the time of Kissinger and the USA’s war in Vietnam, imperialists as the most dominant Capitalists have recognised the profits that can be made from actively creating crises for which they have already manufactured the most convenient, immediate and lucrative solution.

War makes big money for big business. So can ill health. Make it so.

As an example, the entire class of owners of industries and natural resources are in a frenzy looking at how to use the global pandemic to make more money. Of course, the primary focus may be on the creation of a cure, a vaccine that can be sold to hundreds of millions at a profit. Big money returns require that the Big Pharma provider can set its own price, as opposed to State regulated health services that can set a ceiling enforced by Law.

Little wonder that Bill Gates is investing big-style to capture the private health market worldwide, or that the Chief Adviser to the UK Prime Minister, Dominic Cumming’s visit to Barnard Castle appears suspect when the site is best known as the headquarters of the Big-Fraud-Big-Pharma company, GlaxoSmithKline. The self-aggrandising Corporate State came of age some time ago.

But the crisis caused by COVID-19 is also allowing for a great deal of corruption elsewhere, as well as the obfuscation of “most other news” including wars and plane crashes, but especially in relation to global heating.

A number of records for the Earth’s climate were set in 2019: It was the warmest year without a major El Niño event ever recorded at surface temperature, and the warmest year on record for ocean heat content, which increased markedly between 2018 and 2019. Last year also saw record lows in sea ice extent and volume in the Arctic and Antarctic for much of the period between April and August, while global sea levels and atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations reached new record highs in 2019 and the world’s glaciers continued to melt at accelerating rates.

I’m writing this in a continuing heatwave across Britain, our local reservoirs extremely low although we’re not even at the end of May. Yet there have been snow storms in Eastern Turkey and record temperature rises in the Arctic. Cyclone Amphan destroyed the ecologically fragile region of the India-Bangladesh border, the record sea temperatures of the Bay of Bengal sweeping the super-typhoon inland through the mangrove forest last preserves of the Bengal tigers and destroying towns and homes, displacing at least 3 million people.

So when Alberta’s energy minister, appropriately called Sonya Savage, tells oil-drilling contractors to celebrate, I can’t help my anger. The recommencement of pipeline construction is the hallmark of Business as Usual. The Old Normal.

COVID Lockdown has not reduced C02 levels increasing in the atmosphere because there’s a significant time lag between close-downs of emissions and reduction in global warming gases. The pandemic has shown us, however, that human societies can change behaviours overnight; massively reducing oil use from Internal Combustion Engines, planes and cruise liners; finding thousands of billions of pounds to invest in infrastructure and people. That’s worth reading twice.

Here we are at the centre of the most gross contradictions. One global crisis proving we can change and adapt, the other even more perilous crisis being neglected and denied by Governments and Businesses. All the time the poorer peoples of the less developed economies and the Global South face mounting immiserisation, displacement into crowded and vast refugee camps, trapping them in discomfort and disease and a life shortened and degraded to a greater extent than any virus can do on its own.

It is the Capitalist mode of production that has caused the Pandemic, as predicted, and the Capitalist System’s deep and obsessive reliance upon fossil fuels that has caused this climate catastrophe. It is still the case that we face human extinction within two or three generations because temperatures are rising towards 6 degrees above pre-industrial norms. And it is the case that we will soon see more viruses to live and die by.

As the lockdown evaporates before its time in order for the Capitalists to resume their quest for profit growth rather than human survival, those of us who care about climate and people are re-emerging from our caves. My experience of countless Zoom meetings and web-based social messages is currently all consuming. With the manifestos for Green New Deals across the world identifying how a New Normal, a low-emission, Just and inclusive global economy is now possible, we should enjoy a surge hope and excitement.

The growing Climate Movement, briefly stalled but still with the millions who protested through 2019, is ready once more. Yet I am pessimistic. I’ve probably been indoors too long. All the discussions and debates I’m reading and engaging with state the solutions large and small, on a grand scale and in minutiae. But precious few activists are even beginning to state what needs to be done for it to be achieved, and no-one, apart from the Savages of this world, are recognising that protest is now illegal.

I find it frustrating. How do we achieve the New Normal? Governments worldwide are pushing back human protections and returning to an even deeper and more offensive exploitation of people and Planet as I write. New and draconian laws have been put in place under the excuse of Pandemic but to be maintained to prevent a return to mass mobilisation. And the buzz of oil-guzzling traffic is once again drowning out the new-found songs of wild birds.

I’m tired of talking about what could be. I’m disillusioned with the individual actions to limit plastics, recycle cardboard, collect litter and rewild the verges of paths and roadways. The destruction of life, both the day-to-day enjoyability of living and the extinction of entire species, is escalating exponentially. My conscience cannot be salved through symbolic actions.

What will it take to raise the level of political, economic and social revolution required to beat back the savages and achieve the New Normal? Nothing less than revolutionary leadership, coordinated and general strike actions against the centres of production, and a renewed mass class consciousness and realisation that we are experiencing escalating barbarity that will only consume humanity unless we achieve global system change. This is the fight for life.

Cynical S**t

The ancient Corinthian philosopher, Diogénēs, squatted and emptied his bowels in a well-timed and orchestrated act in front of an, up-to-this-point, rapturous audience. He wished to express his cynicism towards their lifestyles. His expression of contempt was to expose the hypocrisy of the informed and educated elite, happy to live with gross class inequality, slavery, opulence and corrupt personal power, but their sensibilities outraged by seeing another human being shit – a daily basic fact of life for us all.

It’s a basic rule across all classes – don’t shit on your own doorstep. Unless you don’t give a crap. And that appears to be the attitude of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his senior adviser (if not puppet-master), Dominic Cummings. The people who created the Lockdown Rules (against their own basic instincts, it has to be said, and too late to prevent thousands of unnecessary deaths), broke those laws from the very beginning and, when found out, have defended their right to break them.

The Elite are decent people, you see, as oppose to us common drunkards and n’er-do-wells. Cummings has been presented to us as simply a caring father (again, suggesting most of us Plebs aren’t), and did the “right thing” by travelling and walking publicly while infected with COVID-19, which, by contrast, most of us are not responsible enough to be trusted to do.

There is a much needed public outcry. Not just at the act itself but at the attempts by the most powerful politicians as well as friends and family to keep it all secret for months. It’s so good to see people spontaneously turning-up outside the Cummings’ London house and chanting their outrage, let alone the advertising trucks broadcasting Johnson’s original lockdown message onto his doorstep.

But this outcry may be misplaced. Are we simply smelling the Number 2 and not analysing the underlying message? This is the man who has publicly stated that: “Tory MPs largely do not care about these poorer people. They don’t care about the NHS.”

Has Big C carefully choreographed every quote and act in order to cut the crap?

The elite had managed to have The Mob lock ourselves away for the best part of two months, largely lagging behind the responses of most other governments worldwide (apart from the USA). They acted at all times reluctantly because, as ideological eugenicists, they wanted to let the virus become part of public life, the fittest able to survive and the infirm and disabled freeing-up the inadequate social infrastructure by dying.

They knew that having 2-300,000 people die, the projected scientific figure if no action was taken, might threaten their power. As it is, the 80-120,000 deaths they are projected to be liable for appears workable as a compromise. Nevertheless, it is now time to end the pretence and force us all out of Lockdown and back to work. After all, they have a 60+ working majority government and no effective opposition.

Support for Johnson’s government has weakened to that of last December’s election, not exactly a signal of mass revolt. But the carefully constructed mixed-messages from Cumming’s Number 10 haven’t confused the public enough to no longer care. And, most importantly, the campaigns putting People before Profit, developed from the bottom-up to force trade unions and working class tribunes to act, have had some effect.

By last week the Government was on the back foot, fully cognisant of the growing opposition most apparent in the refusenik teachers and parents saying no to returning to schools on 1st June. How to break this inertia in the plan for “herd immunity”?

The first tactic of any Ruling Class is to divide the mass so to rule. So they protected their supporters with tax-payers money whilst herding the slaves back-to-work, carefully protecting the message of staying safe to appease their furloughed base whilst doing nothing practical to keep the workers healthy.

Then they condemned the dissenters and doubters as “becoming addicted to staying at home”, loosening the messages to ensure their right-wing cohort (within the Mob as well as their own Upper Classes) ran to the countryside and beaches in a party frenzy. COVID-19 was back on the loose to be caught and spread for a Second Wave that would do the job that the Lockdown had impeded.

And the Cummings’ controversy? They know it’ll blow over, the small bunch of Tory dissenters exposed to be culled once “all this” is over, with deep questions of democracy and plebiscite left hanging in the air. But how do you finally break the resistance and reinstill an “everyman for himself” (they are misogynists after all) mentality after Lockdown? Best to act by example.

Let’s “leak” the facts about Cummings’ family trips and offer the “any decent father would do the same” message of patriarchy, individual reliance, family-first survivalism and personal choice over social responsibility. Yep, breaking the Lockdown rules was the right thing to do.

But perhaps I’m just being cynical.

COVID Tensions – Left-in or Right-out?

I agree generally with the Klein doctrine of Crisis Capitalism. There is no doubt that the social and economic system under which we live lurches from one crisis to the next. The crises are the direct consequences of how the system works, effectively produced by the dominant mode of production – exploitation and accumulation.

Competition creates war, accumulation produces famine, alienation creates hatred (of self as well as others). The dominant ideology of Capitalism divides in order to rule through white supremacy, male domination, physical elitism and most of all, fear of the unfamiliar “Other”.

Now, COVID-19 has been used to compound the privatisation of the individual as the unit of consumption. As a starting point, being packed together in the forced-family unit has inevitably caused a further rise in domestic abuse of children, women and older relatives. And COVID-19 has usefully created the latest “Other” to be fearful of and consumed by. We all want to be free of it.

Deeper, and more powerful still, is the powerlessness that has been instilled in us all. Whether we are feeling ineffective against the virus itself, at the whim of air-currents or touched-surfaces, or in the hands of an untrustworthy government offering contradictory advice, we have seldom felt more alone in our self-isolation.

Such “loss of Agency” – the correct political term for self-determined choice and action – creates passivity, as does lack of exercise or purposeful activity. Generally, as a sensation, the less you do the less you feel the energy for doing. Conversely, the more you do the more energy appears available. If you want something done, ask a busy person!

I have found the Lockdown to be deeply affecting. I have stopped writing whilst having all the time in the world to think. On the one hand I’ve busied myself with gardening in order to stop the fearful thoughts, and on the other scoured all media by the hour for information by which to make some sense of this crisis. The effect, the synthesis, has been to live in limbo.

I’m waiting for the crisis to be over. It will be over, won’t it? Or is, as Klein suggests, global Capitalism now based upon lurching us from one crisis to the next in order to prevent any coagulation of thought and experience by which to agree upon a better future: a real change of system?

Our powerlessness is essential to maintain the status quo: accumulation of wealth in the hands of the few; endless wars; mass poverty; mounting exploitation and climate collapse. And in such isolation we can contrive just about any set of opinions about reality and Truth. The mind in a vacuum, filled with emotion, can imagine anything it likes. Ideas overtake reality.

So it is that we have seen the attempt, worldwide, of protests against the Lockdown by people proclaiming liberty and freedom from the tyranny of the State. COVID is presented as Conspiracy. Attempts last weekend, following the UK Prime Minister telling all to go back to work, to have parties in local public parks fell flat. Clashes with police at Hyde Park’s Speakers Corner showed protesters, undeniably fascist in motive, proclaiming “freedom of speech and action” against the far-right Tory government they probably voted for just months ago.

Those who would deny human rights on the basis of their skin colour let alone ethnic background, now proclaimed freedom of assembly as a fundamental human right. By way of response, mainly virtual, anti-fascists condemned the assemblies and called-upon the working classes to “stay at home” despite the opening-up of Lockdown.

Superficially it would appear, the worm had turned. The Right were now proclaiming “Freedom,” the Left, social control. The far-Right who seek totalitarian White supremacy faked an anti-State stance, the Left apparently supported the eugenicist, racist far-right government.

Confusion, part of Klein’s “Fear Doctrine”, has been assured. But only if there is no method by which to test and understand reality. For budding Marxists, dialectical materialism offers such a method. Learn from past historical experiences, acknowledge situational facts over ideological presumptions, assess the societal conditions of the time as well as the motivations behind people’s actions.

In short, there is a Reality but only understandable in hindsight because everything is in a state of flux and therefore constantly changing. The “flux” is the point in the middle of the tension between all opposing forces. That takes a bit of working on. Over simplification ends up suggesting “thesis, antitheses, and synthesis”.

So the thesis is “self-isolate for the common good of weakening the spread of the virus until we can find a way of killing it off as a threat to human life”. The antithesis is “herd-immunity” – let the virus take its course and become part of the human experience, like the common cold (and lets not talk in detail about just how much more debilitating and deadly COVID-19 actually is), and get on with our normal lives.

This allows those anti-humans (from Malthusians to Nihilists) to demand freedom of movement when in fact they believe in State Power to prevent migration; and allows those who are pro-humanity to call for State support and restrictions in order to ensure proper protection of everyone, when in fact we believe wholeheartedly in universal liberty.

The tension at the heart of reality is between self-determination and mutual aid. Unbridled freedom is dog-eat-eat antisocial survival-of-the-fittest. Our own self-determination has to include consideration fo the impact of our behaviour upon the lives of others as well as the environment and ecology. So Freedom requires self-determined restrictions.

The synthesis is a human society based upon collective need, not individual avarice. The very antithesis of Capitalism. The fascists are seeking to impose survival-of-the fittest by demanding the right to free movement and the freedom to spread disease and death willy nilly. The socialists are respecting isolation as the temporary cost of collective safety – self-determination begins with survival.

Away from political philosophy, the day-to-day reality is that the UK’s far-Right government is seeking in all ways possible to bring about a “herd-immunity” regime. They are demanding schools to start reopening on 1st June, and as such, allow the virus to run rampant.

Thankfully, the People are not stupid. With 60,000+ premature deaths in the UK associated with COVID-19, no-one trusts the government’s call. Even those who don’t care if “the Others” die don’t want to die themselves (many of the “Freedom” fascists were wearing masks in the open-air). Right now, coughing at each other and holding hands is simply not safe.

So there’s a Movement against the schools’ opening, with much online discussion and plenty of organising that is bringing people together. The effect can be a successful boycott, not simply of the schools but also of the Government’s “Profits before People” campaign.

The right-wing’s response is to suggest we, the socialists and the trade unions, don’t care about the poor and the abused children who need schooling and release from the horrors of toxic family life. Nothing could be further from the truth. Yet the apparent contradictions, the dialectical tensions in this situation are immense.

Those who have slashed State funding of health and social welfare, those who cover-up child abuse and have done so much to increase child poverty now use the reality of inequality against those who have fought and campaigned against the causes of human suffering all our lives.

The very depth and strength of these tensions offer hope for the near future. The pressure is immense, and that suggests there will be real social upheavals – pressure cookers explode when the safety valve is shut. Indeed, the release from confinement, the end of powerlessness, however tentative and carefully organised, could produce a synthesis of human collaboration for real social change.

2020 Vision

2020 Vision

Beginning a hopeful decade

There came a brand new blight,

Whooping with indignation

And wheezing with delight.

Some eight billion people

Roused to join the fight

To not die prematurely

Or speak their last Goodnight.

The Governments were slow to act

They sought to lay the blame

Against some one-or-other

Or animals and game.

The Truth was very different

And only known too late

That plans for “herd immunity”

Advised them just to wait

And let the virus take its toll

Until a peak was reached,

When sufficient numbers were immune

And COVID-19 breached.

They meant for old and vulnerable

Alike to pay the price

To cheaply solve infection

“You can’t catch Covid twice”.

They found some selfish scientists

Who’d just speak as they’re told

That this sickness was harmless

Unless you’re very old.

“We must keep business running”

We heard our rulers shout

And newspapers blamed the poor

For having to go out.

It’ll all be over by Easter

Decreed the Emperor Trump

But the medics all decried him

Declaring him a chump.

Reality was soon to hit

As thousands swamped the wards

Of hospitals still ill equipped

To deal with coughing hoards.

The masks were not forthcoming,

The ventilators still,

Good doctors and their nursing staff

Together falling ill.

A lockdown was agreed abroad

Too late to stem the tide,

Restricting work and life and love,

Too awful to abide.

We tried to stay at home and watch

Life through a neon screen,

To understand with shock and awe

A crisis so obscene

That millions lost their incomes

Whilst taxes bailed their bosses

And police forces and soldiers

Protected them from losses

And food banks were relied upon

By the poor, the weak and ill

“Stay at home, don’t make a fuss

Lie down, lay low, be still!”

But on a Sunday evening

Each came out from their house

To applaud the brave young medics

Who risked their lives for us.

The message started to emerge

That Governments were playing

A fiendish game with all our lives –

Don’t believe what they were saying;

They’d cut our social care to shreds,

Shut our hospitals too,

Denied us beds and privatised,

Huge profits to accrue.

The warnings had come years ago

Prepare for the next pandemic

But politicians of every hue

Said it was academic

That prophesies should not impede

The quest for growth and wealth,

No need to spend or invest at all

To protect the people’s health.

The companies were bailed-out

Whilst workers incurred debt

And landlords planned evictions

If the rent arrears weren’t met.

The banking bosses washed their hands

Of lower interest rates

To charge the earth for overdrafts

For everyone but their mates.

And doctors soon were forced to choose

Who should live or die,

Some lives worth more than others?

The eugenicist’s Great Lie.

And refugees still fresh from grief

Corralled into tent cities

Were collectively quarantined,

Infected without pity.

The pious called it God’s own will,

A judgment on human conditions,

And even climate activists

Applauded low emissions.

The far-Right anti-humanists

Hoped to reap rewards

By brandishing their racism

Of “Death to Foreign Hoards”.

But as the millions became unwell

Throughout the human world

Our anger began to rise and swell

Our banners soon unfurled

“To hell with with your profit margins,

To hell with the billionaire,

The lives of ordinary people

Should be your primary care!

“We pay our taxes willingly

Whilst the super rich pay now’t

So spend our commonwealth on us”,

We heard the People shout.

Enough of all your feeble lies

Deceptions and false news

Leaving us to pay the price

We never shall excuse.

You knew the threat long months ago.

Governments were warned.

You could have stopped this massive spread,

This catastrophe you spawned.

Instead you left the poor to rot

And sought to help the greedy

Profit from our misery

And neglect the weak and needy.

But a time is fast approaching

When your lockdown will be ended

And the wrath of those bereaved and sad

Will call out unimpeded

“Social Justice Now!” And Peace

For all through mass investment

In social infrastructure

And a fair assessment

Of who works for the common good

And who gets off so light

That their greedy exploitation

Proves they’re the parasite!

Unforgiving

Today’s ratio of deaths to confirmed cases is 1 in 20. In truth there is very little knowledge of the true scale of infection. Lack of screening has been criticised by scientists to a point where the British Government is increasing tests from 2,000 to 25,000 a day.

The Government predicts around 20,000 deaths from COVID-19. If that were from any other cause there’d be outrage and public inquiry. Yet today’s report from the scientists at Imperial College, London, suggest there could be 250,000 in the UK before any vaccine is rolled-out across the population.

Whatever the morbidity rate it is shocking on any number of levels.

The Government failed to heed lessons from China or Italy and took no notice of the World Health Organisation. Prime Minister Johnson and his cronies continued with the test-tube experiment of “herd immunity” while Italy’s doctors spoke of experiencing an “unimaginable catastrophe”, unable to cope with the number of people requiring intensive care.

People are therefore dying unnecessarily, and we are all left to decide precisely how to react. Pressure from trade unions and teachers has seen the government finally close schools to all except the most vulnerable children and those whose parents are key workers. It was, at the same time, a fait á compli as more and more teachers and support staff fell ill or self-isolated because of others ill in their family.

This is an entirely new social situation without any historical reference. Society is vastly different to the post-war influenza epidemic of 1918 or the polio outbreak when I was a child. The ease of transmission and infection of CORVID-19 should create shock and due diligence on an unprecedented scale. Perhaps thats why “panic-buying” is also now at epidemic proportions. Yet social distancing and self-isolation is not.

It is probably predictable given the human condition, that there is no hegemony of accepted ideas or responses. Some billionaires want excessive tax handouts to sustain their corporate profits, some local shopkeepers have quadrupled the price of toilet rolls, whilst many locals have joined forces to offer voluntary support to the isolated and the vulnerable.

In short, the hoarding is happening at the top of society not the bottom.

The responses inside families is not uniform either, and there are already clear signs of disagreements over how to act through to arguments between polar opposites on the spectrum of what the government should do. That may sound familiar as a pattern in every intimate household, and certainly will become more intense as self-isolation becomes a requirement rather than recommendation.

But there is a difference with COVID-19. There has never before been a demand to stay indoors for 14-days or more. Alongside the ensuing claustrophobia lurks hidden tensions, the close proximity without escape being a breeding ground for an increase in domestic abuse and violence, already experienced by 1 in 4 women in the UK for an average period of 7 years at a time.

Children of all ages but particularly teenagers will soon be jigging their legs and losing their tempers, going “stir crazy” to a degree that will make the classroom appear as nirvana by comparison with their bedroom. Toddlers will be in revolt, no doubt.

Nevertheless, it is the relationships between grown-ups that I am most concerned with. Yes, the virus is unforgiving of those with pre-existing conditions. But the “stay at home for three months” government diktat, already weighing heavily upon the over ‘70’s and older people with underlying health problems, is fraught with dangers.

It only takes one householder to determine the threat level to be higher than does their partner and there will be discord. Household routines, some decades old, have to change fundamentally. And the very basic facts of life, rarely discussed until crisis comes, include arrangements for death.

And death has loomed large. Where one self-isolates and the other lives a more relaxed existence, what is to be done? Government advice includes that people should live in separated areas of their home for periods if one is mixing with others and the other not. Eat, sleep and languish separately, for 14 days at a minimum when one has come into contact with potential carriers, up to 3 months where one has to continue to risk the outside world.

Any loving relationship is going to be tested by this. The strength needed to say “I Love You” but I’m living away from you is substantial. The strength needed to accept the other’s self quarantine, equally tough. Both require the starting agreement that neither want the other to catch Coronavirus, whatever it takes.

And then there’s the dilemma of care and nursing. If one gets the dreaded cough and temperature, does the other desegregate to offer tender loving care? If both are elderly, vulnerable, and long-established as a couple, how could they not? After all, the likelihood of being hospitalised despite their health records is extremely low.

And then there’s death. Lovers tend, on their death bed, to take some solace in knowing that their partner will live on, remember them but move forward and enjoy more life. Would the dying partner want to be nursed by their partner, placing them at great risk? Or is it expected that one goes, both go in a strange incantation of “I can’t live without you”.

And what of the relatives? Children and grandchildren. Their sudden bereavement will breed potential recriminations towards one grandparent not having done enough for their partner, now deceased. Or conversely, is now at deaths door because s/he broke the quarantine out of love and compassion. There is shallow compensation in the fact there shall be no family funerals or wakes as theatres for the feuding family flack to fly.

A compassionate society based upon collective need not private profit would respond with decency to these core human dilemmas. There would be well protected and trained community nursing staff to prevent the risk to partners. There would be early and routine testing to catch the contamination quickly enough to isolate and treat before spreading.

There would be a sufficiency of beds in Intensive Care Units to relieve partners of the moral dilemma let alone the arduous and self-denying nursing care.

But there are none of these things. Not in the UK anyway. In Germany there are just over 29 ICU beds per thousand of the population and they’re under pressure. In Italy, now experiencing the horror of fragmenting infrastructure whilst not yet at the peak of contamination, there are 12.5 beds per thousand, most dying on camp beds in school gymnasiums. In the UK, just 6.6. This is what a crisis looks like.

The chances of getting specialist care as an older person with COVID-19 is minimal. The consequent upheaval for partner and family is as excruciating as the death, a pneumonia-like inflammation and painful shut down of the lungs, a sudden and premature loss of love, companionship, security. All within a couple of days. How to prepare for that.

The best preparation is to seek by all means possible not to catch the virus. Those who treat it lightly, or who scoff at the self-isolation of the worried, should reflect deeply on the consequences of their attitudes and actions. And those intimately involved will have to recognise that a period apart, quarantined and alone, is infinitely better than the much longer alternative.

And those who have created such an inhuman society should never be forgiven.

Fight for Pandemic Justice!

I can’t remember when I’ve been more angry or more scared.

I’m scared, quite honestly, not so much for myself, even tho’ I’ve self-isolated as an “older person with underlying health conditions” as the much used phrase now rolls off the tongue. As an asthmatic I don’t relish the sensation of gasping for breath, but I’m actually scared by the potential for millions more people being plunged into extremes of destitution.

With government requiring self-isolation of entire families if not neighbourhoods because of COVID-19, employers are “laying-off” or sacking people whilst enforcers are expected to criminalise people who should be in quarantine but aren’t. When it comes to it, if your family is infected and you need to feed them, you’ll either go out to work despite the risks, or go out to steal in order to survive. Who would stay at home and choose to starve or be evicted by self-protecting landlords?

Billionaires like Richard Branson are demanding billions in cash-handouts from tax-payers to keep his climate-collapsing airline and cruise ship companies afloat, whilst workers can claim a maximum of £94:50 a week in statutory sick pay. As a friend noted today, that would leave another £70 a week still to be found to simply pay the rent, leaving no cash to feed his partner and two children. Branson has told his thousands of staff they are now on at least two-months leave without pay. How are they going to survive?

I’m angry because it doesn’t have to be this way.

In France, under the neoliberal “populist” Macron, taxes, rates and utility bills are suspended and to be covered for the duration by the State, legally preventing employers from deducting wages whilst workers are in isolation. Similarly in Spain the privatised hospitals are being renationalised overnight. Denmark has finalised a tripartite agreement for permanent employees that either are subject to work reduction or possible dismissal due to the Corona Virus: for the next 3 months, companies will pay 25% of the affected workers wages, the government 75%. Workers lose 5 holiday days.

Meanwhile, the UK is, once again, being used as a test-tube for a neoliberal “protect big business and the super-Rich” test-tube to see how we fare without state intervention or guarantees: appallingly would be my guess at the cost to the millions of ordinary workers more than any business owner. It’s not that European Capitalism is any better than the UK – the European Union is actually doing nothing in response to the Coronavirus except shooting at migrants trying to escape even worse conditions in the war-torn Middle East and climate-shriven sub-Saharan geographic girdle of this crisis-riven Earth. It is the case that France and Spain have seen huge mass protests of millions in recent months and fear more if they don’t offer at least some crumbs to protect the working class.

Speaking last night with my sister who married into American citizenship decades ago, all the Trump promises are nothing more than chimera and outright lies as the billionaire dictatorship seeks to profit from the crisis just as the unscrupulous have under any wartime conditions. Google, Amazon and the pharmaceuticals are being handed all-but countless tax-dollars and producing nothing tangible in return, just as the USA’s industries did when plundering Iraq after the illegal invasion of 2003. The Pandemic is the latest opportunity to print and hoard more wealth whilst the world burns. The strongest capitalist corporations will survive, the weaker going to the wall. Let it the anarchy of the Market prevail once more.

Banks are being handed billions to sure-up their supposed liquidity, none of which will trickle down to us anymore than it did after the 2008 Crash. Meanwhile, the downtrodden US citizens are losing what little private pensions they have because of stock-market crash bigger than 1987 or anytime since, and queuing-up to buy guns in preparation for the coming social strife that is sure to ensue from mass immiserisation.

The economic threat to the majority almost eclipses the health crisis even tho’ current estimates are that COVID-19 has a 2.3% case-fatality rate and a 19% rate of severe disease. This means that achieving herd immunity to COVID-19 in the UK could result in the deaths of more a million people with a further eight million severe infections requiring critical care. The supposed pride-of-the-world National Health Service here is already short of supplies and seeing mass infection of its’ staff, cleaners, nurses and doctors alike. Xenophobic government propaganda repeats the lie of us having the best services in the world whilst our doctors anonymously post the truth of condition in hospitals that no newspaper will carry, for fear of punishment. And fear is a common expression, everywhere.

Some in the Environment Movement are welcoming the Pandemic as having a very immediate impact on pollution and emission levels as flights and travel stop, and are even suggesting that the “Boomers”, i.e. the Elderly born after the Second World War, are getting our comeuppance for having destroyed the Planet. Of course this precursor to full-on societal collapse is an sobering example of things to come, but nothing to be appreciated or relished if you care at all for other people.

Theirs is, ultimately, an extreme right-wing view from a very privileged position, not only fallacious in its total lack of historical or scientific accuracy but also feeding the anti-human, Malthusian and class-privileged propaganda of Johnson’s far-right government. The Environment Movement is not the domain of only left wing views or people. Their idea of “no more business as usual” concludes with “let them die for their sins” as a solution to the climate crisis. Apparently, the Planet is reaping it’s revenge on us and should be supported to do its worst. Such reactionary twaddle.

But the crisis could offer opportunities never to return to the status quo of Capitalist exploitation and competition. The question is how to revolt in the time of societal shut-down. If the Climate Movement is split between Left and Right whilst the working class is struggling for individual survival, isolated from each other and victim to online scare-stories and Establishment media lies, what chance have we to build effective opposition?

Firstly, Mutual Aid groups are springing-up everywhere, spontaneously enough, offering a chance for reasoned and factual online discourse whilst ensuring the safety and care of the most vulnerable in society. These groups can develop a critical analysis and focussed challenge to the government’s intransigence.

Secondly, some groups of health, care and emergency services in Italy have taken strike action to force, in the most powerful way possible, government to expand resources and deliver more help. It should be added that, because Italy’s national economy was already a basket case, it has sent out pleas for international aid currently heeded and responded to by no less than China and Cuba – no doubt propaganda exercises but certainly exposing the intransigence of the Western neoliberal Capitalist nation states.

Undoubtedly, strike action in the form of a General Strike has its own difficulties and consequences. But put the two together, mutual aid and collective defiance of employers’ self-protection and continued class warfare, and we have a recipe for real and lasting social change. I remember being active through the Great Miners Strike in the UK, 1984-5, when huge donations from the majority of the working class kept the strikers powerful and defiant for the best part of a year. Support groups and communal kitchens exemplified the power of the Collective.

Taking strike action rather than accepting “unpaid leave” has the advantage of completely closing down the bosses’ business, and given the inadequacy of welfare payments the establishment of neighbourhood support networks could easily outweigh the paltry £94:50 a week sick payment, especially if we enact a universal rent and mortgage strike as well. We could make the wealthy howl with pain, just for a change.

Does this all sound unnecessarily vicious and destructive? What? Unlike the vicious and, by its numbers, genocidal current policies of the Capitalist class-based governments so protective of the rich? What the crisis is exposing, possibly to a greater extent than any other time in recent history, is the total impossibility of Capitalism as a system to meet the needs of the majority let alone us all. It is, above all, this stratified class system of haves and have-nots that has created not only the Pandemic but the threat of global climate catastrophe. It’s time, not to lie-down (if it can be avoided) but to rise-up!

We shall be Heard!

Whilst the British Government has made a single concession to the global advice by banning mass events, the political response of Johnson & Co to the Covid-19 pandemic stands isolated and singular amongst all nations. Yes, even Trump’s USA is doing more to combat mass infection than Britain, with universal access to screening being just one of a package of safeguards for the population.

Trump has declared a national emergency and identified £50 million in aid. Johnson, a eugenicist, is the mouthpiece for a completely unscientific and ideologically toxic axiom. His advisers, including Dominic Cummings, a eugenicist, are spouting “behavioural psychology” to portray a strategy for “herd immunity”. They are letting us continue with “business as usual” from the prediction that once most of us have contracted Covid-19 we will, as a nation, develop resistance and immunity to the virus.

This has no scientific basis. “Herd Immunity” in science is a process where, once at least half the population are vaccinated against a virus there are no longer enough people carrying it to spread it far and wide. Crucially, we have to have a vaccine and at least 50% of the population need to have been vaccinated before “herd immunity” begins to work. Point One: there is no vaccine.

The UK, with no news pictures of public streets and areas being sprayed with anti-viral cleansers or deep-clean teams in protective suits cleaning public transport and handrails, is letting the virus run rampant. Film from around the world, including the USA, shows huge effort to cleanse public places. But not in the UK. Even Trump is considering banning all travel form the UK to America. Point Two: Allowing the virus to spread will ensure half-a-million or more deaths.

And then, in defence of “Keep Calm and Carry On”, the BBC finds a psychiatrist whose wife is currently suffering, at home, from testing positive to Covid-19, who complains on prime-time morning Radio that he was asked to phone-in from home rather than come in to the studio for interview. He said his wife is staying 4-metres away from him in their house and therefore he’s perfectly safe from infection! Point Three: just because you’re a qualified professional doesn’t mean you know what you’re talking about.

And then we’re back to the start. The eugenicists who dream of a super-race and find the elderly, infirm and disabled a brake on human progress, are in charge of our health and safety. This, combined with a Malthusian starting point of belief that there are just too many damned people in the world, is producing an extreme and unique social policy of leaving the virus to ravage the country.

The fact they promote the concept of “the herd” to refer to human society when it is primarily used in relation to animal husbandry displays their inner contempt for and perception of we, the common people. This false science of “behaviouralism” offers succour to the elitist supremacists that there is herd-mentality in general society that can be manipulated and controlled.

Add to this their deep commitment to the neoliberal free market, wholly disproven as an economic policy that serves or protects the majority of society, and they conclude that every catastrophe offers an opportunity for someone – there’s money to be made out of death and societal discord. Let some business go to the wall, let the fittest survive, the pharmaceutical companies and producers of hand-gel can make a killing…

Johnson is being challenged. The World Health Organisation has challenged the “herd immunity” policy. Dr Margaret Harris from WHO has publicly pronounced that it is based on absolutely no evidence. In fact, the so-called behavioural science from which the theory is derived only offers observations of human behaviours and is completely divorced from the real sciences of biology and medicine. It is pseudo, spurious, a sham.

Isn’t it beyond fearful that a government has the power to create policy that will produce catastrophe? Shouldn’t we be seriously challenging such corrupt duping of an entire population, not least when it will result in many lives being prematurely and needlessly ended? Here’s the rub. There is a sizeable proportion of the population who want to believe this nonsense because they have already swallowed the anti-vaccine zeitgeist.

Recent decades have displayed a growing and very obvious distrust of government and corporations leading to a flat-earth world-view incorporation of all manner of conspiracy theories, not least that vaccinations are used by the hidden and deep State to enforce social control. In an astounding convergence of double-think, these same right-wing, ultra-individualist survivalists are consuming Johnson’s pseudo-science and praising his anti-authoritarian approach to the world pandemic.

The Coronavirus has infected the ideological body politic with a new disease. The “fuck-it”, “I’m Alright Jack” mentality is spreading like wildfire across Britain as exquisitely distinct from possibly every other country in the world. It is down to us, the people who care for each other, who value scientific fact as opposed to ideologically concocted falsehoods, who see through the self-interest of political careerists, to challenge the lies. We must be heard.

Italy has suspended mortgage repayments and utility bills. Trump has suspended loan repayments by students for the foreseeable future, and introduced federal sick-pay from day-one in a country where there is no sick-pay whatsoever in 37 of the 50 states. There are lockdowns, deep-cleans and social distancing requirements across every continent and in every country – except the UK! The lives of millions are at risk.

Our response to the pandemic has to be neighbourhood and workplace mutual support. Ensuring workplaces are clean and safe and when we are infected we remain cared for and financially solvent. Checking on our neighbours, offering additional support and concern for the elderly and disabled, and changing our own behaviours to avoid spreading the germs.

Such human empathy and shared support will have to be matched by political organisation to voice outrage against this vicious, lying, far-right and inhuman UK government. With mass protest banned in amongst all mass gatherings, the potential for a silencing of all reason and fact is very possible. We have to use new methods of social networking and distance communication to beat the virus, and as importantly beat this far-right ideological assault, both aimed at liquidating our freedom and prosperity.

Speak out against the culling of the herd.

Thanks to Steve Bell and The Guardian for the cartoon.

Gone Viral

Yes, I’m panicking. Late sixties, heart and lung disease, a health service that is rationing admissions of the over ‘60’s and a Government that doesn’t care. Prime Minister Johnson appeared with groomed lackeys last night to tell us to stay at home and self-isolate. In reality, the infrastructure of our health and social care will not cope with the demand.

The Coronavirus epidemic is not a fake-news scare story. The current global death rates are some thirty-times higher than for influenza, and that’s scary. Panic buying is already intense, alongside vicious attacks on Black people across Britain perpetrated by racists using the risk of contamination as an excuse to blame and persecute non-Whites. The attacks on Chinese people wearing masks in public in the UK are as alarming as they are absurd.

Doctors in the thick of it declare this to be “the most frightening virus ever” – more contagious than Ebola or SARS and a higher death rate than flu. From Italy we hear that the marching orders are: “Save scarce resources for those patients who have the greatest chance of survival.”That means prioritizing younger, otherwise healthy patients over older patients or those with pre-existing conditions.”

As someone ticking most boxes of pre-existing conditions this raises existential issues. Are some people’s lives worth saving more than others? It’s a political as well as moral issue. As socialist author, Michael Rosen debated on BBC Radio 4, if we take a position other than “every life is equally precious”, where does society end up? I could say I’d rather a older left-wing socialist climate activist with heart trouble was saved than a macho-racist fascist, but what if the governors of the medical services felt the opposite?

Hmmm…Right to Life, and all that.

The right-wing responses to predictions that 80% of us will eventually catch Covid-19 include, as examples: people dismissing life as a lottery, championing the false “scientific Darwinism” of survival of the fittest; proselytising about the fake science of “behaviouralism” (that is, observe what you want and write it up as scientific fact); disregarding the threat as a Liberal conspiracy; organising outright eugenics by leaving the disabled to die or actively welcoming the Malthusian “clear-out” of the old and vulnerable clogging up our health and social care system.

The range and depth of emotions stimulated by the epidemic could easily outstrip the distress experienced by the illness itself.

For activists there are many factors to be considered. Not least, the incredible vulnerability of human society, the social fabric easily fragmented, the scale of production dramatically reduced by supply-side disruptions. The threat of social collapse caused by combined and extreme weather events, not to mention actual climate shift, is visibly exemplified by this current health crisis.

A second focus for us is industrial farming and specifically animal management. Intensive animal farming, the horror of their treatment a subject for a separate blog of outrage and pain, and the growth of exotic wildlife meat markets are the sources of continuous spread of life-threatening disease.

For the humanist, the way humans treat animals reflects upon the concurrent inhuman behaviours of humans one to another. For the scientist, the poor management of animal life is the root cause of much of societies ills. For the climate activist, the industrialised production of meat produces, proportionally, the highest levels of global heating gases of any industry other than the military.

Together this appears to amount to a searing indictment of humanity. Of course, its not quite as simple as that. When living above subsistence (and often even when on the verge of starvation), humans love and care for the animals around them. More than any other human condition, hunger and the need to survive tends to erode compassion. Any decent human society would place human need above all else.

A compassionate society would end industrial animal farming I’m sure. More vitally, for society to survive at all it is fairly universally accepted that consumption of meat has to fall markedly, not least of cows and bulls (the term “Beef” redacts all reference to the living being) to reduce global heating gases. Animal husbandry is certainly a core part of the transition required to prevent runaway climate change.

And the pandemic threat raises a third discussion for the environmentalist -the core debate about what we mean by “A Just Transition”. This is a lively and earnest set of current arguments about the transformation of society to Carbon-Zero. Whilst open political preference is apparently frowned upon, the demand for protection of democracy through the transition is shared by the majority.

We want everyone to be engaged with and participative in decisions to decry the internal combustion engine and carbon fuels. We certainly don’t want a totalitarian dictatorship to decree carbon-zero whatever the pain and injustice incurred. Do we? In the same way we want our old and vulnerable protected as much as anyone else from disease and premature death, not sacrificed by a Government keen to protect business profits above comfort in our old age.

Current images from China, South Korea and Italy raise important questions. The appearance of quarantine as a form of social control is inescapable. I have repeatedly imagined what would happen if people in Plymouth were threatened with imprisonment if we appeared on the streets. How well would a curfew be accepted? I’d like to predict an uprising, but today’s global school strikes were cancelled by Greta Thunberg herself!

Locally there appears to be a tacit acceptance of “staying in your home” – a self-imposed curfew, for a period of 14 days should you begin a fever. Even football fans will accept a close-down of the games on the basis of stopping the spread. Quite fundamental changes to human interactions and behaviours are being readily discussed and accepted in the cause of preventing a pandemic.

So why not the the same level of acquiescence to social change in the existential face of human extinction? Most importantly it is governments, informed by scientists, who are demanding collective engagement with the viral threat. Yet the same governments, informed by a far wider and diverse set of scientific analysis, refuse to act with anywhere near the same level of determination towards the existent global heating.

Or is this a false observation from the very beginning? Is it, in fact, the case that most governments are doing as little as possible to protect the people whilst offering every support to ensure production and profits are maintained – “business as usual”? It is reported that ten times as many people click to watch the virus-deniers and paranoid conspiracy online posts as click the government advice adverts. Is this proof of virus-denial being as widespread as climate-denial?

One conclusion has to be this. To win hearts and minds to the level of change needed to keep global heating to below two-degrees centigrade (let alone 1.5), we have to prove the reality of the threat at a very personal and material level. Not by waiting until people “catch-it” – fires, floods, food shortages – but by speaking the science clearly, repeatedly and with a passion.

And that translates into how environmentalists and socialists should be relating to Covid-19. We have to learn about the science of the virus, read the conclusions of reports on effective approaches in other countries, and find ways “speak the truth to power” to challenge popular mythology, complacency and most of all Government lies and spin. The Coronavirus requires a system change away from profit and towards human need just as much as does any solution to global heating.