This Issue: Thinking Clearly in a Time of Crisis
COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our world. Many of us feel some degree
of disorientation and uncertainty about when and how we will return to
some kind of ‘normal’ and what that new normal will look like. Important
choices lie ahead, so it is vital that we think clearly, ask questions,
discuss with others, and make our voices heard.
One question is the future course of this pandemic, and how we as a
society will live with it. There is little chance that the COVID-19
virus will disappear in the near future. It is highly contagious, and it
exists in many different countries around the world, meaning that it
almost certainly will continue to spread from one place to another.
There are no islands of refuge in a globalized world. So one way or
another we have to live with it – and with other pandemics that almost
certainly lie in our future.
Other questions concern what we can do to lessen to reduce the
circumstances which breed these novel viruses. Industrial agriculture,
and livestock operations in particular, are driving the emergence of new
and extremely dangerous diseases. The global supply chain spreads them
very effectively. The need to change the fundamentals of our economic
system is urgent.
Meanwhile our ability to handle outbreaks has been significantly eroded
by austerity and cutbacks to health care systems and public health
preparedness. This cannot be allowed to continue.
As an article in this issue of Other Voices
points out, sanctions imposed by the United States and its obedient
allies, indefensible and vicious to begin with, are now tantamount to
genocide, as the U.S. blocks imports of vital medical supplies to
countries like Iran and Venezuela.
One lesson of this pandemic is that governments, when they decide the
need is urgent, can find vast sums of money to spend on critical
priorities. The opportunity, and the resources, exist to bring about
fundamental change. We need to find the will to do it, and the political
power to make it happen.
The articles in this issue of Other Voices probe beneath the surface of the pandemic to look at underlying causes and possible directions for the future. Read on....
– Ulli Diemer
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are put to the test whenever we confront a situation which we have not
previously encountered. How do we act when we are faced with problems
for which there are no ready-made answers, or for which ready-made
answers are promoted by those with interests and power to defend and
power? At those times, the ability to think critically is crucial. The
Connexions Subject index has a wide selection of materials on critical thinking.
Amid Plague, Sanctions are Genocide
Sanctions have long been indefensible; now in the time of Covid-19,
more so than ever. Nor are they some minor phenomena. Over a quarter of
humanity lives under U.S. economic sanctions. That means millions of
people lack untroubled access to food and medicines during a lethal
pestilence. Under ordinary circumstances, these embargoes are economic
warfare. By putting Iran and Venezuela under economic siege even before
the pandemic, the U.S. had murdered tens of thousands of those
countries’ citizens. Such collective punishment is a war crime under the
1949 Geneva conventions. Read more
Keywords: Collective Punishment – Economic Warfare
Thinking Clearly in a Time of Crisis
A crisis like this pandemic is not a time to stop thinking. "It is a
time," says Ulli Diemer, "when critical thinking and public discussion
are more important than ever. A small number of officials and
politicians are taking decisions with enormous and far-reaching
implications for the lives of many people, not just for the duration of
this pandemic, but far into the future. The time to have serious
discussions about what they are doing, and the direction we are heading
in, is now, not some day in the future when it will be difficult, or too
late, to change course." Read more
Keywords: Critical Thinking – Evidence
Pandemic Insolvency: Why This Economic Crisis Will Be Different
Covid-19 has put economic rationality in second place, as countries
shut down economies in the name of public health. But just as
importantly, it is reshaping our ideas of what economics is. The sight
of governments bailing out not only banks but also consumers and
mortgage holders isn’t a sign they have grown soft, but rather a sign of
the kind of crisis we are entering. This crisis is very different from
the last, and it’s likely to reshape politics and economics across the
Global North for years to come. Read more
Keywords: Economic Alternatives – Economic Crises
How "Just-in-Time" Capitalism Spread COVID-19
The globalized supply chain, with its reliance on “just-in-time”
movement of goods and materials back and forth across the globe, is a
major contributor to global climate change, pollution, and degradation
of ocean ecosystems. It turns out that it is also deeply implicated in
the spread of contagions like the COVID-19 virus. Mapping of the spread
of COVID-19 has shown that it has closely followed supply chain
networks. The emphasis for the last two or three decades on lean
production, just-in-time delivery, and, more recently, “time-based
competition,” along with updated transportation and distribution
infrastructure, has accelerated the speed of transmission. Read more
Keywords: Globalization of Economy – Just-in-time Scheduling
Why Measles Deaths Are Surging – And Coronavirus Could Make It Worse
A viral outbreak has killed more than 6,500 children in the Democratic
Republic of the Congo (DRC) and is still spreading through the country.
The foe isn’t the feared coronavirus, which has only just reached the
DRC. It’s an old, familiar and underestimated adversary: measles. The
situation has mushroomed into what WHO experts say might be the largest
documented measles outbreak in one country since the world gained a
measles vaccine in 1963.
The highly contagious measles virus continues to spread around the
globe. In 2018, cases surged to an estimated 10 million worldwide, with
140,000 deaths, a 58% increase since 2016. In rich countries, scattered
measles outbreaks are fuelled by people refusing to vaccinate their
children. But in poor countries, the problems are health systems so
broken and underfunded that it is nigh-on impossible to deliver the
vaccine to people who need it. And now, 23 countries have suspended
measles vaccination campaigns as they try to cope with COVID-19. Read more
Keywords: Measles – Vaccines
Coronavirus: Global academia gets a taste of the Palestinian lockdown
For decades, no Palestinian university or school has escaped lockdowns
and interruptions. As a result, the right of successive Palestinian
generations to an education, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights, has been regularly violated and compromised under
Israeli policies systematically obstruct Palestinian access to
education daily, through the notorious restrictions on movement at
military checkpoints, the apartheid wall and settlements, along with
arbitrary arrests of students and faculty, school closures, campus
raids, demolitions of classrooms, barring of international academics,
and the siege on Gaza. The Palestinian educational sector, especially
students, have been the foremost victims of closures and lockdowns. Read more
Keywords: Palestine/Occupation – Israeli Occupation Forces
Canadian Civil Liberties Association
The CCLA is monitoring the response to COVID-19 to ensure that it is
based on science and is not unnecessarily intrusive to our liberties.
The CCLA describes what is being witnessed in many parts of the country
as a “policing pandemic.”
According to their website, there are “Too many COVID charges, too many
tickets, too many fines. It’s a public health crisis, not a public
order crisis. Too many Canadians doing their best have been charged
under new COVID laws – laws which change rapidly, differing from city to
city, province to province. It’s confusing. One day it’s okay to go
here, but not there, and the next day it changes. Instead of relying on
police and bylaw enforcers to educate and warn the public about these
new changes, arbitrary enforcement blitzes have launched in too many
regions of Canada.
Dog walkers, families getting fresh air, and honest mistakes have been
met with charges that some simply cannot fight or cannot pay. The
homeless face impossible choices: stay inside an overcrowded shelter or
risk a charge outdoors. Racial profiling also becomes a reality for too
many minorities outside, during COVID. And the financial penalties being
levied are wildly disproportionate to the alleged offence –
particularly against the backdrop of massive unemployment and financial
Keywords: Abuse of Power – Elite Panic
By John Sayles
In Yellow Earth, John Sayles introduces an epic cast of characters,
weaving together narratives of competing agendas and worldviews with
lyrical dexterity, insight, and wit. When rich layers of shale oil are
discovered beneath the town of Yellow Earth, all hell breaks loose.
Locals, oil workers, service workers, politicians, law enforcement, and
get-rich-quick opportunists -- along with an earnest wildlife biologist
-- commingle and collide as the population of the town triples
overnight. From casino dealers to activists and high school kids,
everyone in the region is swept up in the unsparing wave of an oil boom.
Sayles’s storytelling draws an arc from the earliest exploitation of
this land and its people all the way to twenty-first-century
privatization schemes. Through the intertwining lives of its characters,
Yellow Earth lays bare how the profit motive erodes human
relationships, as well as our living planet. The fate of Yellow Earth
serves as a parable for our times. Find out more
Keywords: Oil Industry – Indigenous Communities/Environmental Issues
Films of the Week
Planet of the Humans
This environmental documentary, directed by Jeff Gibbs and backed by
Michael Moore, is highly critical of the ‘green energy’ movement. Its
main target is biomass energy, which largely means burning trees instead
of fossil fuels. The film shows this is neither carbon neutral,
renewable, nor sustainable. It also critiques wind and solar power, and
this aspect of the film has made it very controversial. It has been
widely criticized by some environmentalists, and praised by others.
Judge for yourself: watch it here
Keywords: Renewable Energy – Biofuels
Solidarity: Five Largely Unknown Truths about Israel, Palestine and the Occupied Territories
Texas-based filmmaker Bob Peck has just released a free documentary
coalescing 72 years of struggle against displacement, apartheid and
racism into an accessible 110-minute film. Drawing on both historical
and current struggles for Palestinians under siege, occupation and
forced displacement, including the Great March of Return in Gaza, the
film provides a stirring indictment of Israel’s settler project as well
as that of the media’s deliberate spin to shield Israel from
accountability. Watch it here
Keywords: Palestine/Occupation – Solidarity
Strike for Your Life!
Jeremy Brecher writes: “While the coronavirus spreads, another
contagion is brewing - a contagion of strikes for protection against the
coronavirus.” He says that cascading strikes and other direct actions
could have a real impact today, creating irresistible pressure for
public policy to conform with public health needs. This is not just a
matter for the workers directly affected. Keeping front line workers
safe is essential for the safety of all of us. Read more
Keywords: Direct Action – Workers' Health & Safety
Keeping East Timor's Songs of Resistance Alive
Domingos Pinto Gabrial, also known as Berliku, was 19 years old when
Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975. He became part of the resistance
to Indonesia’s genocidal occupation, and, up in the mountains, composed
songs to lift the spirits of independence fighters. Captured in 1990 and
jailed on a remote island, Berliku was presumed dead for many years.
Eventually freed, he is now lead singer of Maubere Timor, a band of
veterans who sing patriotic songs composed in the mountains during the
dark days of the occupation. Maubere Timor seeks to use music to link
the present to the struggles of the past. Read more
Keywords: East Timor – Musicians
From the Archives
Workers Have a Birthright to Tell Our Own Stories
A conversation with activist and oral historian Candace Wolf about her
self-published book of interviews with workers all over the world,
Shifting the Universe, and about working people's birthright to tell
their stories. Listen to it here
Keywords: Oral History – Workers’ History
May 15, 1919
The Winnipeg General Strike
Virtually all workers in Winnipeg go out on strike seeking wage
increases and recognition for their unions. A Strike Committee
co-ordinates the strike and arranges for essential services to continue.
The ruling elite mobilizes to defeat the strike. A “Citizens’ Committee
of One Thousand” organizes anti-strike propaganda and calls for federal
government and military intervention to crush the strike. The
capitalist newspapers scream that Bolsheviks have taken control, and run
cartoons showing hooked-nosed Jewish radicals throwing bombs. The
government dismisses virtually the entire Winnipeg Police Force because
police have voted to support the strike. In their place, they bring in
federal troops, militia, Royal Northwest Mounted Police, and “special
constables” (hired thugs who are paid significantly more than the police
were paid). Strike leaders, including J.S. Woodsworth, the future
leader of the CCF) are arrested and sent to prison.
On June 26, the Strike Committee calls off the strike.
May 16, 1934
Minneapolis Teamsters Strike
Teamsters (truck drivers) in Minneapolis go on strike and shut down
nearly all commercial transport. The only exception are farmers, who are
permitted to come in on their own trucks and deliver directly to
grocers, but not to the warehouse district. Violence breaks out on May
19 when police and so-called ‘deputies’ (thugs hired by the companies)
attack strikers. On May 22, an all-out battle starts when police and
private deputies try to break the picket lines. Police and deputies are
forced to retreat; two deputies are killed.
On May 25, employers and the union reach an agreement that provides for
union recognition, reinstatement for all strikers, seniority and a
no-discrimination clause. The agreement lasts less than two months: On
July 17, employers announce that they going to renege on the agreement.
The strike resumes.
On July 20, police open fire on strikers with shotguns, killing two and
injuring sixty-seven. A public commission, set up later by the
governor, finds that “Police took direct aim at the pickets and fired to
kill. Physical safety of the police was at no time endangered. No
weapons were in possession of the pickets.”
In August, a federal mediator brings about a new agreement, which
includes union recognition and acceptance of the union’s major demands.
In the aftermath, thousands of workers in other industries in
May 24, 1798
Beginning of the Irish Rebellion of 1798, an organized Irish attempt to
drive out the British. The rebellion is planned and organized by the
United Irishmen, a secular republican revolutionary group influenced by
the ideas of the American and French revolutions. It has widespread
support, but is opposed by the Roman Catholic Church, which actively
sides with the British, who it regards as a lesser evil than secular
republicanism. Local uprisings occur in a number of counties. The rebels
win some victories, but gradually the British gain the upper hand.
Wherever the British win, they engage in systematic atrocities,
including torture of prisoners, burning prisoners alive, massacres and
widespread incidents of rape.
On August 22, after the main uprisings have already been defeated,
France sends 1,000 troops to assist a rebel force of 5,000. They have
some initial success, but are ultimately defeated by the British. The
captured French soldiers are sent back to France; the Irish rebels are
Some rebel guerrilla forces continue to harass the British for a number of years afterwards, until 1804.
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This issue was edited by Ulli Diemer.
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