The Great Divide
In 2007 I went to an exhibition which represented the lack of equality and justice which seems to permeate societies.
“Doris Salcedo’s work Shibboleth 2007 was a long snaking fissure that ran the vast length of the large Turbine Hall, as if striking to the very foundations of the museum … For Salcedo, the crack represents a history of racism, running parallel to the history of modernity; a stand-off between rich and poor, northern and southern hemispheres. She invites us to look down into it, and to confront discomforting truths about our world.”
There are many discomforting truths that I have been looking down upon: the inequitable impact of the Coronavirus/Covid 19, the case of the UK government’s advisor who has remained in his job despite flouting government rules and the latest “death of an unarmed African-American man in the hands of police officers” in the US.
It is hard to imagine life after the stress of Covid 19 and as Arundhati Roy puts it:
“Who can use the term “gone viral” now without shuddering a little? Who can look at anything anymore — a door handle, a cardboard carton, a bag of vegetables — without imagining it swarming with those unseeable, undead, unliving blobs dotted with suction pads waiting to fasten themselves on to our lungs?”
It is the first time in history most of us are facing the possibility of our death through Covid 19 and a virus we cannot see. It has happened before as the story of Mary Malone illustrates: she as a healthy carrier of Salmonella typhoid was quarantined, in 1907. The key difference between 1907 and 2020 is that most of us are connected to some kind of media and every news outlet is focused on the Pandemic. It is hard to imagine what life will it look like after the Pandemic: huge changes and cost implications making it difficult to plan anything. This too, however will pass and some people have started wondering what life will be like after the anxiety over Covid 19 starts to decrease.
We are not all equal in ability, experience, belief and certainty about our present or future. There is deep inequality. The Pandemic has shown us how interconnected we are but If the world best healthcare systems are struggling how much so a country with only 3 ventilators for its population. How does one wash hands or self-isolate if displaced? The virus is just illustrating what we knew already but on a far bigger scale. Climate change has been happening in some communities whilst others have been concerned mainly about the future. This is a devastating blow for developing countries — humanitarian disaster — and anger because there is no global leadership.
My wish and hope is that we have a just recovery where people are adequately supported: both mentally and physically. The 2008 economic crisis showed that Banks cannot run without a margin of safety and this is showing that health care systems also need capacity to deal with a crisis. That is Globalisation and just in time delivery is not compatible with robustness, resilience and much better contingency plans.
I like the Open letter that calls for a united global response to this COVID-19 pandemic, that ensures a just recovery and transition to a better future. It asks us all to uphold five principles:
1. Put people’s health first, no exceptions.
2. Provide economic relief directly to the people.
3. Help our workers and communities, not corporate executives.
4. Create resilience for future crises.
5. Build solidarity and community across borders — do not empower authoritarians.
Racism costs lives.
An article on Wikipedia states “Racism in the United States has existed since the colonial era, when white Americans were given legally or socially sanctioned privileges and rights while these same rights were denied to other races and minorities. European Americans — particularly affluent white Anglo-Saxon Protestants — enjoyed exclusive privileges in matters of education, immigration, voting rights, citizenship, land acquisition, and criminal procedure throughout American history.” Having watched Roots and studied history I recognise that this created a lot of suffering and death. I had hoped, however, that we would have learnt from our mistakes but, unfortunately our history and how we choose to view it can become embedded throughout our societies. In 1965 James Baldwin said “It comes as a great shock around the age of five or six or seven to discover the flag to which you have pledged allegiance along with everybody else has not pledged allegiance to you.” “It comes as a great shock to discover that Gary Cooper killing off the Indians, when you were rooting for Gary Cooper, that the Indians were you.”
Some more recent quotes include
“The US has “opposite” systems of justice — one for white people and another for racial minorities, especially African Americans, Latinx and Native American people.”
“I’m really angry about George Floyd because we went through all of this with Michael Brown [who was killed by police in Ferguson, Missouri, in 2014] and it seems nothing changes,” …
“In Louisville, protesters demanded justice for Breonna Taylor, a black woman fatally shot by police in her home in March.”
The families of Taylor, Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery, a black jogger who was recently killed by two white male vigilantes — including a retired police officer — in Georgia, released a statement late on Thursday calling their killings part of “a national crisis”.
“Our government needs to take immediate and widespread action to protect our black and brown communities,”
In the words of Martin Luther King in 1963 “Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity. But … One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. …America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”
… This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality.” Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.”
The Coronavirus/Covid 19 and some us are eager to go back to “normal” but I hope we first reflect and do something about the inequality and injustice around us.
For all those who have fallen victim to hatred and inhumanity, for those loved ones who are left behind to mourn, for the souls of those whose hearts are cold, Lord, hear our prayer.
For the children who are being born into this world of conflict and violence, for those who suffer needlessly, Lord, hear our prayer.
For all those who have been forced into unemployment, who long to return to work, for all those who struggle to support their families, Lord, hear our prayer.
For the soldiers who are misguided in thinking that their bullets will bring about peace, for those who feel called to conscientiously object to military orders, Lord, hear our prayer.
For the children who cry in their beds at night and wonder “what have I done?”
For the mothers and fathers who must try to explain the unexplainable, Lord, hear our prayer.
For all those who are abused and suffer injustice may we show compassion and Love
For all the children who have died before their time, for the healers who are denied the opportunity to use their gifts, Lord, hear our prayer.
for those who commit themselves to forgiveness, compassion and love. Lord, hear our prayer.
May we all be well, healthy and strong:
May we all be happy.
May we all abide in peace
May we all be forgiven and forgiving
May we all feel safe and secure
May we all feel loved and cared for.
More or Less BBC Radio 4: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000h7st
Inside Health Radio 4: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000h0gw
Arundhati Roy: ‘The pandemic is a portal’ https://www.ft.com/content/10d8f5e8-74eb-11ea-95fe-fcd274e920ca
Principles for a just recovery: https://350.org/just-recovery/
Fireside Chat With Danny Sriskandarajah, The Conduit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7uKWqsH0eo
Published on 31 Mar 2020 Fireside Chat With Oxfam GB CEO, Danny Sriskandarajah.
Oxfam’s emergency appeal to help protect the poorest communities against COVID-19: https://donate.oxfam.org.uk/appeal/co...
The Briefing Room: The psychological impact of the coronavirus pandemic and The Inequalities of Lockdown https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000h7sp
From Our Own Correspondent: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000hdbm
Thousands of Americans backed by rightwing donors gear up for protests: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/apr/18/coronavirus-americans-protest-stay-at-home?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other&fbclid=IwAR1YXjX0aiejhTLsAk96wwh2DI3jrqJVaoScggV0TDPWqC9kilmF8SCDX3o
Staying Angry, Steven Methven: https://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2020/april/staying-angry