Categories
anti-fascism capitalism coronavirus lockdown neo-liberalism poetry Social Justice social theory U.S. Elections

The Parable of the Axe: Reflections From a Small Sliver

So, I was recently challenged to rethink the ideas I put forward in my blog about the 2020 U.S. elections. In fact, the very idea that “the battle is over, but the war goes on”,  is rooted in the validity of the present capitalist  system, a system that has proven time and time again to be morally and materially bankrupt when it comes to the common people—i.e., you and I. 

Dylan Miner, Harm Reduction

Under the circumstances of bourgeois democracy, it seems to me , a good moment to remember the adage ascribed to Malcom X, that our liberation, comes about “by any means necessary”. That is why my discomfort with the reigning social system and my belief in a better, more just and equitable future— is both a contradiction, and— a strategy, that doesn’t simply see the debate as being between reform and revolution. 

May Day, Historical Demands

Under this lens, I feel we should work on numerous fronts and through numerous ways to change society to be more inclusive, just and equitable. As we know, institutions will not accomodate progressive demands (the unsurvivable minimum wage is maintained, costs are going up, hydro has raised its rates in this winter country, evictions have resumed, tiny pandemic wage increases are long gone, public sanitation and hygiene appear haphazard and determined by market force)s.  The poor and working sectors are crammed onto unaffordable petrie dishes with haphazard service, ie, public transportation. Where is the pressure on municipal, provincial and federal governments? Why were we locked down in March for 2 months, with 1/3rd of the current covid19 cases, but now are laissez-faire, willing to make Darwin’s theory a eugenicist accelerationist’s wet dream?

Sudarshan Reuben Durayappiah, Facebook

This is the state of affairs to which we will return under the business as usual model touted by Wall street and Biden/ Harris. How ironic that Trump’s initial run was characterized by a wall, but it is the wall of money that was behind Obama and is now deployed by his Democratic successor Biden, that may be the end of Trump. 

Of course, fascism is another thing altogether. The freeing of socially temporarily unacceptable ideas regarding race, gender, sexuality, eugenics, and social engineering– guns, pandemics, starvation, trigger happy racist policing, the expansion of self-defence laws in states such as Florida, the immense wealth of private prisons and the exponential growth of Amazon, Walmart,  Facebook, What’sApp, Instagram, etc. is a cash and data grab of immense proportions. The looters of this virus are not the poor, nor the small business sector, but the mega-rich. These ultra-affluent bastards have set the tone and the stage for the rest of us. 

Bloor Street Hoarding (Pun Intended), Kaushalya Bannerji, Summer 2020

The amount of sheer misery that haunts and weighs down our planet these days  is a collective mourning for our little daily freedoms, and our big ones, like international travel. A grief for our departed too. Of course, lockdowns and restrictions unaccompanied with food and shelter support, are fundamentally class genocide, and exercises in social obedience. That’s because while things are being strangely locked down, dedicated COVID 19  facilities have not been made, shelter has not been put in place for the homeless during the winter season, affordable housing remains as elusive as ever for  those struggling with poverty and food banks are begging those a little better off to help those less fortunate with cheap processed food—often laden with chemicals and toxins that we already know so much about. 

Meme, Pinterest

During a winter where people are being forbidden to socialize indoors, municipalities are stopping snow removal services, leaving hundreds of thousands of “inner city” dwellers with minimal ways to get around during this upcoming pandemic winter. We can point our self-righteous fingers south of the border, or also , take a moment to look down the street and see our own worlds floundering. 

https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/canada-s-rate-of-homelessness-may-be-higher-than-reported-nanos-survey-1.5060801

It’s hard for me to end this piece on a positive note. I hope, in my lifetime we will see the world played, not as an endgame, but as the beginning of a glorious festival of labour, shared humanity, a culture of non-violence and social support and a celebration of spirit. “From each according to [their] abilities, to each according to [their] needs”. May we, trees, and slivers alike, see ourselves rooted in this grieving and resilient earth, and not wielded, by sinisterly banal elites.

Remedios Varo, Banqueros en Action/Bankers in Action, 1962
Kae Tempest, 2020

For an excellent follow-up piece with lots of information:

Naomi Klein, November 2020
Categories
capitalism coronavirus COVID19 intersectionality lockdown poverty

Death on the Tracks

This week the world saw a phenomenal rise in COVID19 infections and many countries are debating whether to end the lockdown or endure mass starvation/homeslessness. Couched within this dilemma, is really a variant of the age old question beloved by teachers of political science, “Reform or Revolution?”

We already have calls to sacrifice “the weak” and the elderly for the “sake of the economy” coming from the United States. In India, the lockdown policy has already starved hundreds of thousands, if not millions, with no plans, food, shelter, testing or treatment in place for millions of Indians who travel from one province to another, searching for work and food. This phenomena is witnessed in many large third world countries, and highlights regional disparities in capital investment, agriculture, employment, and centralization of state and government services, a management tactic inherited from previous colonial administrations.

Anti-Lockdown Protesters, Tennessee, April 2020

Regardless, the seven weeks of lockdown in India and in the U.S. has engendered a schism in capitialist society’s stories about itself. It is impossible to look at COVID19 statistics and not see how racialization and caste-ization of poverty throughout the world accounts for communities who are suffering disproportionately under the brunt of this virus, though it was supposedly the rich, whose travels in the age of global neo-feudalism, that are responsible for outbreaks outside of China. In India, such politics are complicated by the rise of an Islamophobic government on the best of servile terms with the ruler of the United States.

Around the world, the cry of “Will we die by hunger or by COVID?” is matched by dairy farmers and egg famers throwing away production in an age of unaffordability, Nestle giant Coca Cola sucking water dry from the earth and poisoning the earth in other places.

https://www.ctvnews.ca/health/coronavirus/nowhere-for-it-to-go-dairy-farmers-dump-their-milk-down-the-drain-1.4884951

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/coca-cola-mexico-wells-dry-bottled-water-sucking-san-felipe-ecatepec-chiapas-a7953026.htmlhttps://www.thoughtco.com/coca-cola-groundwater-depletion-in-india-1204204

And we all saw earlier this week how in India sixteen workers, travelling with no support, by foot back to their village walked dozens of miles to Aurangabad, Maharashtra station, where they hoped the Central Government would allow trains to run to transport people back to their villages. Assuming that the lockdown meant that no trains were running at the time, the men fell asleep at the tracks and were killed by a train.

Rotis on a Railway track where 16 workers were killed, The Wire, May 18, 2020

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-52586898

https://www.livemint.com

I am ending this piece with a triptych called COVID19: Sacrificial Journey, drawn in response to current events.

Sacrificial Journey 1/The Long March, Kaushalya Bannerji, May 2020
Sacrificial Journey 2/The Long March, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Sacrificial Journey 3/ The Tracks, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020
Categories
Art capitalism coronavirus COVID19 Disability human rights intersectionality

Patiently Brown 2: A Journal of the Plague Year

Covid Cat Meme, March 2020

For those of us with disabilities and compromised immunity, the coronavirus contagion is loaded with particular fear. Like the elderly, our bodies are already dealing with underlying issues, some of which are already being treated for, and some for which there is no reliable big pharma treatment but sometimes symptomatic help. Over the last six weeks, being a news junkie, I have read both fact and fiction, been inundated with both hope and fear. 

But today, I realized again my place in the world. As the prime minister of the country I live in, pleaded for social distancing and self-isolation, he never mentioned people like us, with disabilities that already make accessing healthcare a massive issue. He spoke of grandparents and health care workers, but those of us who were not wanted before this pandemic must be careful, because we are not even on the social radar. 

This is why so many people are blithely going about their day as usual, not realizing that being possibly asymptomatic, can affect those next to you, whose health histories and disabilities you know nothing about. Clearly the problems we face in places like Canada are quite different than in the former “3rd world”. 

But not really. Consider that more than eighty First Nations Reservations are without running water and potable water, at a time when all public health experts agree we cannot wash our hands and bodies too much. Consider the price of fresh food— greens and fruits, eggs, meat, milk and water in our Northern Communities. Communities where money can always be found to exploit, but never to help.

Consider that in a country with land and wealth and climate extremes, we have thousands of homeless people. Just two blocks from where I am isolated, hundreds of women have come to use social services for poor and homeless women and trans-women. These women are already suffering poverty, inadequate housing, and nutrition, and are absolutely on their own when in comes to mental health, as poor people seem to be these days.

Consider that for 2 weeks I went to 14 inner city big box and other stores and was able to come home with a carton of eggs, 1 litre of milk and a box of tea. Friends have had to help me gather supplies for the lockdown, as the combination of illnesses i suffer from made it impossble for me to continue going on my Sisyphean quest for food and hygiene products for more than two weeks. Now more than ever we must echo Marx’s observation that “Man (sic) is a social animal”. Without the solidarity and kindness of other humans, I would not have coped alone.

Capitalism is coming apart at the seams. Rent, taxes, consumption, travel, transportation, medical systems, everything is in flux. We are held hostage by a few billionaires that would rather see us die, than provide basic medical equipment and supplies without profit. The buying and selling of stocks and commodities is still continuing apace, bailed out by those governments with the most to lose when it all comes crashing down. 

Anxiety is a factor in this pandemic, precisely because everything is so nebulous and uncertain. Mental health workers who actually care for their patients are arranging for phone and Skype check-ins. This too is so important for many of us. I was advised to order some medications in a bigger supply, but already hypertension medications are experiencing supply chain issues as those with insurance have been able to get 6 month supplies. 

The Social Distance, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2020

Finally, friends have come through with phone calls, and FB chats, singalongs and virtual socializing. Love is also in the air. 

But let us not lose sight of those of us, who have added susceptibility and dismiss them/ourselves as paranoics or hypochondriacs. The very absence of statements about our value to our country— to all countries , shows me that people should take this seriously, because we persons with disabilities too,  would love to live and thrive in a post- COVID 19 world, rather than be victims of social ethos in which eugenicist culls by virus are going to be “the final solution”.

Smogfie! Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Categories
apocalyptic Art capitalism environment memory neo-liberalism Social Justice

Return to My Native Land (with apologies to Aime Cesaire)

Picnic Garden, 2019, Kaushalya Bannerji

I have been travelling and experiencing the world through the eyes of my childhood and the “now”. The city I return to is not the city of my childhood and teens, nor the city of my twenties and thirties, where the excitement of women’s liberation, the furious exchange of ideas, politics, and philosophies at the Universities, and the lack of consumer culture and indeed, “things” to buy were notable for their presence. Books, not bottles of cheap perfume from Forever 21, were our currency.

Perhaps that is why I feel at home in places where people still get excited by the art of the narrative, the meaning of the narrative and want to know more about the narrators. That is why, in a world which reveres the emoji, we need to encourage words and art to flourish. But equally, it is why half of what passes for “new” ideas in art and literature, is actually regurgitated without acknowledgement by contemporary figures, because they have already forgotten yesterday.

How many ways can we describe our worlds? I would say, nearly 8 billion. Because we all see the world from our vantage points, our standpoints, and each one is slightly different. How many ways are there of being a human? 8 billion.

How many ways are there to dehumanize others? Not that many.

Maa, 1 Paisa, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

Political neglect and oppression, unchecked male entitlement and patriarchy, and the disparagement of formerly colonized people– especially black, indigenous and brown, always looks more or less the same, and sounds it too. Whether insulting African men by calling them “Boy! as I witnessed regularly in Amsterdam, or throwing acid on women, as is the practice with women who are seen as transgressors in South Asia, or blinding protestors in a visceral fascist response to those who have witnessed neoliberal glory at the barrel of a gun in Chile, or those simple citizens of Mexico who co-exist with fear and deprivation in the same house, all over the world the possibility of the human story is being destroyed by human cruelty to those considered less than human. And this human cruelty is rooted in two things,  profit— which needs deprivation and fear, to be in the red– and domination to make that profit. 

Hung Out to Dry, Kaushalya Bannerji, 2019

I think the time is coming when we will realize that there are other ways to “succeed”. Breathing oxygen is already reserved for those who can afford it, in the hellish world of the Third World bourgeoisie with their Honeywell air purifiers, oxygen bars, and N99 masks (which, by the way, make a great profit for those same corporations that spew genocidal chemicals into the air). 

I  recently heard a story about a man who polished marble floors for a living in high-rises that are being built at a flying pace. He worked, as do millions of others, without a “health and safety” committee, in bare feet, with no mask, and for a pittance. When he dropped dead, they took him to the crematorium and his entire body burnt except his lungs. Why? They had hardened into cement and marble from all the dust the poor man had inhaled. What horror indeed. 

If there’s no bread for the poor, there’ll be no peace for the rich

What is going to happen to all those who buy and sell the bodies and labour power of the poor, when the poor are unable to breathe, to see, to move their mosquito and tick infested joints, to respond to commands as they lose their neurological faculties to insect-borne illness and chemical genocide? 

As the old song says, “we are born on the same earth, we have the same blood in our veins and the same sky is above us”.  And they have not yet built that surveillance camera or satellite that can see our souls, though they may demonize our very bodies.