Capitalism is Also the Pandemic

Capitalism is Also the Pandemic
By Irene Sanchez
Xicana Ph.D.

If you are like me before this era of Coronavirus, quarantines, self-isolation, you may have not heard of a pandemic, but you have heard of Capitalism and its’ ideas.

According to the CDC, a pandemic is “an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, usually affecting a large number of people”.

Capitalism is defined as “: an economic system characterized by private or corporate ownership of capital goods, by investments that are determined by private decision, and by prices, production, and the distribution of goods that are determined mainly by competition in a free market”

Capitalism is successful according to how much profit can be made. Capitalism thrives off of obtaining a profit at the cost of the environment, and especially off the exploitation of workers. The ideas of how it is beneficial to those with the least, has spread across numerous societies throughout history. When people buy into the fact it exists and it is good for our society, they buy into the fact it is good for themselves, and they buy into the idea it is supposedly good for our health/well being.

Cartoon by Michael Leunig

In many ways I see how it could be hard to get away from the idea of how capitalism is for the greater good, when many of us have been raised to sing its’ values of individualism and work ethic-both consciously and unconsciously. Even those critical of this system often fail to see how it has infected every aspect of our lives and how those ideas we have learned alter our vision of social justice-who is it really for? Who deserves it? Those who work for it?

For Farmworkers and many other workers, there have always been occupational hazards, but now we see in a time of crisis, those in agricultural work are now labeled as essential workers-people whose labor is needed in these times. The labor of farm workers is seen as essential while they deal with increased hazards along with continuing to deal with working conditions that threaten their health including lack of access to soap/water, adequate restroom facilities, gloves, and masks according to this article. Farmworkers are also concerned because of the increased risk to their health given these conditions, but also that some of their co-workers may be coming to work sick due to threat of losing their employment.

Capitalism doesn’t allow complaints. We must ask why we have begun to believe having basic safety equipment to protect the most vulnerable and essential workers among us is optional or could ever be seen as optional. The idea that any of us should be thankful to have a job that exploits us or other people and exposes us/them to hazardous conditions is wrong. The idea that some of us are labeled as skilled workers, while others who are labeled as “unskilled” are the ones who are being forced to work as “essential” workers in a capitalist economy tells us all we need to know about whose work is really essential.

Just last night, portions of a bill were revealed as it moves through our government, if approved not only will individuals be getting a small check based on income, but also big corporations will have funding dedicated to them at the amount of 500 billion dollars. This is all occurring at a time when U.S. states are competing for essential medical supplies even though the government has the power to ensure that everyone gets what they need. Instead there is likely some back room somewhere where before that happens, someone will figure out how to profit off these essential medical supplies that are needed to save our lives will come first.

The idea that any of us can make it or really survive in this society is if we only work hard and pull ourselves up by the bootstraps is false. Many of us have seen the ways in which meritocracy is a myth. Now it can be seen that even under a global health emergency, the only way that leaders in a capitalist society will take a pandemic seriously is if they find a way to profit off it it. While the rest of us have been sitting glued to our TV’s and social media streams than ever before, they were dumping stocks while still encouraging people to keep shopping, and going out. Even now, the administration has said they would open America by Easter, going against all health authorities and scientific guidance that says otherwise.

Now is the time to rid ourselves of ideas that when enacted are life threatening. Capitalism will not save us. It’s time we stop putting people’s lives behind the 1 percent’s profit.

Xicana Ph.D. Irene Sanchez

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