At the time I am writing, confined at home with my family, trying to maintain routines and sanity, I realise that the craziness and drama we live with the COVID-19 is not at a click away from the screen, like it was a few weeks ago. No, it is not a virtual reality from which we can hide, no matter how much in this phase we still insist on denying negate this same reality. We are almost all in the same boat, without knowing where we are going exactly.
This image, almost a cliché, of a gigantic Titanic in which we travel together has, however, the “virtue” to remind us that we travel in separate classes, worlds apart between the rich and the poor.
In this world, on this ship deck, from where I am writing to you, inundated daily by frightening numbers, which do not cease to grow exponentially, many of us have the “luxury” to have a home and conditions to maintain a normal life, to work, take care of ourselves and of the people around us. However, in a house, in a street, or in neighbourhood a little bit to the north or to the south, these conditions vary and only the uncertainty is a constant. There are whole families who, from one day to the next, have found themselves out of work, or who, even though they still have work, no longer have anyone that can look after their children. Or who live with anxiety and insecurity the situation of their most fragile relatives, the elders, the disabled, the people that need special care, the dependent people in general, without knowing how long they will resist.
Now, if there is one thing that unites us, despite the fact that we do not always express it that way when they call us to the polls to deposit our vote, is the confidence in our public health care and in our health professionals. It is, in the case of Spain and its Autonomous Communities, the trust in the National Health System, with a universal coverage, free at the point of service and of quality. Trust in knowing that it wa created to respond to the provisions on public health inscribed in the Constitution, which establishes the right of all citizens to health protection.
In this country, with one of the most advanced health systems and best-trained professionals in the world, in the face of the daily drama of the figures (specific people with faces and names) who enter into our homes every day through screens, we pause to think about what it would be if the drain on public resources carried out by governments at the service of neoliberal ideology and of the interests of big private corporations had continued. We pause to think whether the quality of the governance system itself, the democratic quality, the capacity of our decision-makers and legislators are equally or more determining than the quality of the health system. In sum, its capacity to manage the common good.
After seeing time and time again in the last few years the exhausting spectacle of Spanish politics, perhaps the latter is the weakest link and the one which most hinders a more effective response and management of the crisis caused by the pandemic, given that some “policy-makers” have done anything in recent years other than divide us and potentiate conflicts, helping dismantle social cohesion and exacerbate economic inequalities. In times of economic crisis, we have had politicians indifferent to the suffering of others, cutting on acquired rights, faithfully applying imposed recipes, trying to destroy basic public services, including health, and leaving us in the hands of financial speculation. Today still, some of them still raise their flags – they have so many, and they could be a solution for when they are out of toilet paper – of their fear of the strengthening of the public/state sphere. But don’t let them fool us. The fear of the strengthening – inevitable without being the per-se solution – of the public/state sphere is not exactly their main fear. They love a strong state where they find it convenient. They do not survive without it, literally. love a strong state, where it benefits them, granting privileges and monopolies for the same old ones, controlling and cyber-controlling the citizens, violating our rights (against the police abuses of these days they do not raise their flags), keeping us quiet, entertained, passive and at their mercy as a disposable workforce.
After this crisis, when the ship can dock in a port, we do not know with how many less passengers, nothing will be like before. There will be many studies about what happened, how it happened, how things could have been done better, how they were done by the ones and the others, with which results and why. There will be panic, doubts and fear. There will be unquantifiable economic, social, psychological and familiy damages. Individual, family and community post-traumatic care will be needed. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that there will also be some Joseph Bruce Ismay (president of the company that owned the Titanic) around, who will fear being rejected by a more united and conscious society. From the heights of their sanitised palaces, they will try – in the first place, to sell us a vaccine – to buy their innocence or ease their conscience with philanthropic donations, or with a sudden empathy towards the public health services and, who would have imagined it, towards those who suffer most from inequalities. But this time we will be even more attentive and vigilant with those who allow them to play with our health, as if it were a commodity (privatization of services, patents, etc.); who allow them to launder our money (from the taxes they do not pay) through tax havens, thus reducing our capacity to provide quality public health; and finally those who make, and let them benefit from, abusive labour laws to keep us in precariousness and dependence, with low wages or benefits, including those of our health professionals who we now remember to applaud, as they deserve to be.
Thank you all men and women that look after us, protect and feed us. Let us take better care of those invisible and “made invisible” people who take care of us, today and tomorrow. Let us also take care for our sons and daughters (we do not know how they will come out from all of this), giving them love, hope and perseverance to fight in the future for all of us, following the best example that we can give them now. Let’s look after the common good, always!
Translate by: Frederique Vilter and Francesc Alvarez