Defocused background of urban public park in New York, Manhattan, USA

Individuals might spread coronavirus by not socially isolating properly — but the conditions under which they might spread coronavirus by not isolating themselves have been created by the poor decisions of states unwilling to take decisive action when the crisis first presented itself because they were scared of the economic damage it might do.

Some people are in such poor health that catching coronavirus would have been fatal to them regardless — but millions more will die because they happened to catch the illness in countries where decades of criminal under-investment and pathetic servitude to the profit motive had already left health services stretched to breaking point. The crisis surrounding the pandemic — not just the disease and the deaths but the breakdown of supply chains; the loss of jobs; the dwindling of freelance work like trying to tap an exhausted well; the slack now having to be taken up by precarious workers in supermarkets and schools and in hospitals — is the product of our whole political culture. The actions of individuals are a part of all this, but only as a link in a much longer causal chain.

What we are witnessing here is an attempt to privatize responsibility for the crisis. Obviously this seems likely to work out great for the powers-that-be: if people can be made to blame each other for the disaster that is being wrought on us by coronavirus, then they are much less likely to turn their blame on their leaders as well.

Read more in The Outline.

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