A Faultline of History

The new issue of Logic magazine appeared on our doorstep like a message in a bottle from a very different near-past. As the editors decried, “It is taking too long to write this. We can hardly keep up with our push notifications.” And, indeed, it took too long to print and ship it as well, as this opening paragraph makes clear:

As we close this issue, COVID-19 case numbers are surging across the European Union, and if they are not yet as high in North America, it seems to be mostly for a lack of tests. Oil prices are plunging, the Dow Jones is plunging, and Ted Cruz is in voluntary self-quarantine. New York State prisoners are making hand sanitizer for $0.65 per hour. Passengers are disembarking from the Diamond Princess into the Port of Oakland.

How the world has changed in the last three months. It’s another beautiful, sunny late spring day in NYC, and so I’m going to lean heavily, again, on the words and ideas of others in looking to how the world might change in the coming three, and the months and years beyond.

First, some housekeeping though: FAIR continues to do great work holding the corporate media to account for its failure to hold governments and politicians to account; I recommend having a look at both “US Media Failed to Factcheck Sweden’s Herd Immunity Hoax” and “Newsweek Fails to Note That White House Reopening Guidelines Make Absolutely No Sense.” To quote briefly from the latter:

That’s because containing the virus is not the [White House’s] plan, and seems to have never been the plan. Instead, the strategy is to allow the virus to spread throughout the population, hopefully at a rate that will keep the healthcare system from completely collapsing [… because] the prime objective is to force workers back into the workforce as quickly as possible, regardless of the toll in lives […]”

Lots of great resources in yesterday’s Unsanitized newsletter including “Bad state data hides coronavirus threat as Trump pushes reopening” from Politico (which was mentioned on yesterday’s Democracy Now!); “Daily Deaths During Coronavirus Pandemic by State” from the Health Care Cost Institute, which looks at obituaries nationwide to estimate the actual excess mortality in the US due to COVID-19 (but – like this CDC page, which shows excess mortality estimates based on death certificates filed around the country – seems to have been designed for maximum inscrutability, perhaps out of fear of upsetting certain politicians by making clear that the actual national toll is likely tens of thousands of deaths higher than the official figure); from ProPublica, “A Closer Look at Federal COVID Contractors Reveals Inexperience, Fraud Accusations and a Weapons Dealer Operating Out of Someone’s House,” the title of which speaks for itself; and, on an issue close to my heart, by David Sirota, “INVESTIGATION: Cuomo Gave Immunity to Nursing Home Execs After Big Donations — Now People Are Dying.”

Back to the future though (that was intentional), I’ve been enjoying listening to Nouriel Roubini – famed for his 2006 prediction of the Global Financial Crisis – in his paywalled online lectures. He recently wrote a piece for the Guardian entitled, “Ten reasons why a ‘Greater Depression’ for the 2020s is inevitable,” which got my attention. Not sure I agree with him on everything, but he’s certainly deeply knowledge and offers unusually synoptic takes on the current global state of affairs. This video – entitled, “Medium and Long term consequences of the Coronavirus crisis” – cost $5 for unlimited views for a week. I only watched it once, but it still felt worth it. Long-short, Roubini foresees strong economies getting stronger; large firms getting larger (with the caveat that some industries – like the airline, hotel, and cruise industries – may collapse altogether); growing dominance of large tech firms as they further converge with national security states; perhaps the end of privacy; and the possibility that near-term victories for capital will force medium-term concessions to labor/social welfare. Let’s see. None of that’s earth-shattering, but he does a good job bringing things together in an empirical and dispassionate fashion, even if, ideologically, his assertions of what “will” happen must be taken with a grain of salt (and he, of course, points out himself that his predictions are all “speculative”).

Closer at hand, the latest webinar from the American Public Health Association and the National Academy of Medicine – “Mitigating Direct and Indirect Impacts in the Coming Months” – offers lots of great insights about challenges ahead for the summer, while on the issue of the US-China relationship, I found Alex Tom’s contributions to this episode of The Red Nation Podcast especially insightful for his engagement with the tension between righteous opposition to US imperialism and valid concerns about Chinese authoritarianism, and for his insistence on centering the people of both countries in looking for a path towards the creation of a international progressive movement. (He’s preceded by Amanda Yee, who had powerful things to say about the long history of US Sinophobia, and Tom’s comments start at the 46-minute mark, while Yee’s start at the 26-minute.)

Finally, in solidarity with MTA bus drivers and the union that represents them, here’s a VICE article – “NYC Bus Drivers Union Refuses to Transport Protesters for the NYPD” – on their solidarity with the protests against the police murder, in Minneapolis, of George Floyd.

Yesterday, I wrote: “Across the country and around the world, we’re witnessing (and participating in) the explosive convergence of pandemic, climate crisis, and the inequality and social fissures characteristic of the ~500-year-long history of capitalism, and exacerbated by the ~50-year’s of neoliberalism to which, I believe, we are witnessing the end.”

The title of today’s piece is drawn from Roubini’s lecture. As has been widely foretold, including by myself, there will be a pre-COVID-19, and a post-COVID-19 – a before, and an after. Be that as it may, right now we’re in the midst of it, and, against the backdrop of nationwide outrage and uprising, I feel the eerie calm that marks the eye of the storm.

Postscript: I wrote early today and without looking at social media. Videos coming out of Brooklyn from last night and this afternoon are fucking horrifying. The utterly excessive and unaccountable violence of the police, the gutlessness of our Mayor, and the viciousness of our President are colliding with the courage of demonstrators in frightening form and with alarming timing. I’ll try to address all this tomorrow, but will caution that viruses don’t make political exceptions, and, as I wrote yesterday, “It’s hard to socially distance in an uprising.”

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