One thing this pandemic has demonstrated in stark terms is class struggle. Those people deemed essential, though often applauded in public, have been treated as expendable. In truth, they were...
One thing this pandemic has demonstrated in stark terms is class struggle. Those people deemed essential, though often applauded in public, have been treated as expendable. In truth, they were always treated this way. But this last year has made this struggle visible for anyone paying attention.
The medical staff, grocery clerks, janitors, sanitation workers, transportation services, delivery people, all of them have been the ones on the front lines, not only of potential exposure to a lethal pathogen, but to abuse from privileged customers, clients or patients who feel their rights have somehow been violated for being asked to simply wear a mask. There are countless videos of people (mostly white and middle to upper middle class) berating workers. And this often takes on a racist tone.
Over the past year we have witnessed people throwing groceries at workers, spitting at them, calling them names. In various states, from California to Texas to Florida, there have been mobs that invaded stores like Target or Home Depot without masks and carrying anti-masker and ‘Covid is Hoax’ signs, even physically attacking other customers and workers. And in one recent instance in British Columbia an older white male customer was asked to wear a mask in a pizza restaurant. He answered angrily: “are you f**king Middle Easter or where are you from?” Concluding with “I’m worth $50 million, you’re worth zero.” He and his companion then went on to assault a teenage customer outside tearing his mask from his face.
How disconnected from reality could one be to think that being asked to wear a mask in a store is a violation of ones’ rights? And how privileged does one have to be to think dressing down a worker is somehow a noble expression of those supposed rights? And this gets to the crux of the problem: capitalism.
Capitalism is about class and status. The man who said he was worth $50 million and clerk worth $0 really believes it. And it is a system that posits the supposed ‘rights’ of the individual over the well being of the community. But many of these rights are merely privilege and have little to nothing to do with liberating oppressed or marginalized members of society or protecting the most vulnerable or persecuted. It is the very opposite of cooperation and mutual respect. And it is an arrangement which always favors the wealthy and upper classes disproportionately over the poor and working class. This is because the list of ‘rights’ seldom, if ever, include basics like housing, food, healthcare, education or meaningful work.
This is playing out most obviously in the ongoing strikes against corporations like Amazon and the fast food industry.
Excerpted: ‘How the Pandemic Laid Bare the Cruelties of Capitalism’