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Covid-19: capitalism has a (final) solution–drop dead

Left JAB by John Bell

March 28, 2020

Let me introduce you to Scott McMillan, an attorney from Southern California. Maybe not a famous person, but Scott gets it.

He tweeted to his few hundred followers: “The fundamental problem is whether we are going to tank the entire economy to save 2.5% of the population which is 1) generally expensive to maintain and 2) not productive.”

And that comrades and friends is how you become a twitter superstar. You get retweeted by IMPOTUS Trump and even big Hollywood stars like James Woods.

Scott just said out loud what a significant portion of the world ruling class is thinking and – worse – doing.

The stock market – a shorthand symbol for profitability – is more important than people’s lives.

As Joseph Choonara writes in his excellent essay “Socialism in a time of pandemics”: “Above all, a pandemic on this scale intensifies the pre-existing fault lines of capitalism. At the most basic level it poses a choice: defend profits or save lives. The indications, thus far, are that the former has been the overriding priority for those presiding over the system.” 

Profit over people

Trump tweets: “Our people want to return to work. They will practice Social Distancing and all else and Seniors will be watched over protectively & lovingly. We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM! Congress MUST ACT NOW. We will come back strong.”

In Trump’s world it is possible to get a square peg into a round hole. As nonsensical as his statement was, it had the desired effect. The Dow Jones stock market rose immediately.

TV pundit Glenn Beck said “Even if we all get sick, I’d rather die than kill the country.” He proposes young people stay home and people over 50 go out and work. “It’s not the economy that’s dying, it’s the country.”

On the Tucker Carlson show on Fox News, the Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick had this to say in defence of Trump’s actions/inaction in the face of the coronavirus contagion (forgive me if I quote him at length): “No one reached out to me as a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren. And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in. And that doesn’t make me noble or brave or anything like that, I just think there are lots of grandparents out there like me – I have 6 grandchildren – what we all love more than anything and what we all care about is those children…

“We can’t lose our whole country. We’re having an economic collapse. I’m also a small businessman so I understand it… So, my heart is lifted tonight by what I heard the President say: we can do more than one thing at a time. 

“My message is, let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living, let’s be smart about it and those of us who are 70 plus, we’ll take care of ourselves.”

Whether they set the bar at 50 or 70, at least they don’t mince words. They are talking about mass murder–allowing preventable death seems like murder to me. Human sacrifice. A geriatric genocide. Made somehow less heinous by the fact (or, given how pandemics actually work, the fantasy) that only useless old bed-blockers will be culled.

Quite a message, but nothing new. Back in the day (1729 to be precise) an Irish writer named Jonathan Swift satirized people like Patrick and McMillan in a pamphlet called “A Modest Proposal: for preventing the children of the poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick”. Spoiler alert: the proposal was to eat babies. Not raw! Not raw! We’ll cook them first.

Swift’s attack was only a slight exaggeration of the opinions of a section of the emerging Irish and English ruling class–the capitalists–regarding famine, dispossession of peasantry from the land and general social crisis: let the excess population die.

A generation later Charles Dickens personified these opinions in the character of Ebenezer Scrooge: "If they would rather die," said Scrooge, "they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population."

I suspect and hope that somewhere, in our quarantined existence, our Swift, our Dickens is hard at work. I don’t envy them – with living examples like Trump satire becomes more and more impossible. 

So, when you see blood-suckers like Conrad Black huffing and puffing about how Canada should follow Trump’s lead, forget the pandemic “hysteria” and get back to work, remember: this is a man who made a career out of downsizing and destroying working people’s lives. He likes to call human sacrifice “drowning the kittens.”

HillTV’s Krystal Ball recently tweeted: “Which stage of capitalism is it where we sacrifice our grandparents for the good of the stock market?”

It is a trick question because the correct answer is “Every stage of capitalism”.


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