|Posted on June 1, 2020 at 1:30 PM|
Empires are always calling upon the people to make sacrifices of themselves for the empire. The demand is framed as a duty. It appeals to the altruistic tendencies of people and good people find themselves complying out of concern and to feel good.
I question the ideal of sacrifice of both old empires and new. An underlying assumption of it is that many people are dispensable, which is itself grounded in the premise of inequality. From this perspective, inequality is a necessity and even natural. In this world view, there is a desrving elite who merit privilege and subservience from the rest of the population. I say nuts to the whole vision!
Sacrifice is a key word in Armistice Day ceremonies, dubbed Remembrance Day in the British Commonwealth, the network of former and lasting colonies conquered and run by the British Empire into the 20th century and longer. We are to remember and honour the sacrifice of soldiers and other military personnel who have done their duty for the state and a "way of life." Coloured in comforting hues of "democracy" and "freedom", "way of life" is the norms and rules of empire. They express shallow gratitude for sacrifices of the past and call for further sacrifices.
Today empires are private holdings that seek exponential growth of wealth for a smaller and smaller strata that claim the right and ownership of the most enjoyment, materials, status and respect. They enslave others in one way or another: force, debt, starvation, threats, deals and favours, They protect themselves with armies, massive weaponry, technology, spin doctors, lies, murder and intimidation. Their systems are suffocating and confining webs that hold back social progress by greed and bullying and snuff out joy with pain.
Austerity measures that cut and deny health, education and social welfare services are deemed economic necessities. The people must sacrifice their bodies, families, rights and pleasures for their economy, which they describe as the greater good. It is as if there is only one kind of economy, the kind wherein they rule and oppress others to maintain their rule. However, the labour, production, land, culture and reproduction of all is the whole economy; it is not just some dominating corporations that suck up investments from smaller contributors and state treasuries while workers and nature are plundered and exploited. There are other models, ones in which production is planned according to priorities of life, and surplus is distributed equitably, according to need and merit.
The management of the coronavirus pandemic is done with the same approach. The people are to accept that health care systems are inadequate, that there is no disaster planning and under-stocked supplies and under-paid and insufficient staff to meet all the peoples' needs. Right away, authorities laid the bulk of responsibility on the people, demanding that we either lock ourselves down or face grave illness and death for the good of this society. It has been described as a moral imperative. Of course, without adequate health care materials and services, the safest thing has been to stay home. Those working in the designated essential services have been described as heroes because they are willing to sacrifice themselves. Is so much sacrifice necessary? No. Countries with well developed public services and emergency management plans have demonstrated that risk of infection and incidence of death as a result of this virus could be low everywhere, were such services and plans available everywhere.