Sometimes, being a novelist, I have a memory of the future. An impossible thing. It’s a kind of intimation perhaps. An intuitive glimpse? A guess? Anyway, I will share a personal memory of the future I had over the past two days or so, with you now:
When I heard the enraged and deranged blather of Donald Trump, that golden headed idol with filthy clay feet, telling lies through his teeth to cover up his past denial of the coronavirus epidemic and pretending he was the first to see it coming, when everyone knows he had opposed all the scientists for weeks and weeks as they warned him, and everyone heard him saying on TV that cases would “be down to zero” and “disappear”; when I heard him telling lies through his teeth to cover up that he, as President of the USA, was the cause of so much suffering and death there because of his delay in doing the necessary prevention, I began to get the memory of the future. And when in the same press briefing that engendered this memory of the future, he was droning on about how to give intensive care treatment to the oil markets, how he, in cahoots with his friends the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia and Vladimir Putin would do it, I got the whole fully-experienced memory of the future. It is as follows:
When the earth’s climate and all the species on the surface of the earth both begin to tip into total disequilibrium as a result of man-made pillage and pollution, he will do the same thing then. (Take “him”, as a symbol of capitalist rule. It’s not for nothing that he has a golden head and feet of clay.) He will tell lies through his teeth to cover up his previous denial of this pillage and pollution, and also to cover up his being the cause of climate change and extinction, and he will pretend he was the first to see it all coming. (As if it is all about him. That is the reality of the capitalist. Everything is about him. Even as an infectious disease threatens everyone, including him. Even as 50 years of extreme pillage and pollution of mother earth threaten everyone, including him.)
But, while most consequences of the coronavirus epidemic are probably reversible for humanity, the consequences of climate change and extinction will, by contrast not be. Lies will not help. Cover-ups will not help. The fact that capitalists are to blame will not help. They will be gone, like the rest of us.
And looking at the particularly big moon rising the other night, all orange and rich, I was moved, as we humans are when there is quiet around us, by the beauty of it and of us, that strange two-legged creature with the ability to be conscious of beauty, and then conscious of being conscious of beauty.
Can we be conscious enough from now on, though, as we come out of this virus crisis, to be able to get together to change things? And to change them in the interests of all of us?
That golden-headed idol with his clay feet soaking in fracking oil is already talking about opposing any change, going forward: he is talking about saving the “great energy industry”, as it plunges towards a cascade of bankruptcies, following the American company, Whiting Petroleum.
How much thinking outside of “me”, “I”, the “individual” will we need to re-nurture? Our nature is collective. Our defining characteristic – human language – develops in us only in collectivity. We understand the world through our shared human language capability. We are our sharing.
That a small class of people have managed to get their hands on the collectively-produced wealth and stocks of the world does not mean that that remains inevitable. Nor does it change our nature as collective beings. Look how much we suffer just having to stay indoors for a few weeks. Look how much we recognize what the suffering of being locked up means: we predicate an entire legal and judicial system on separating people off from others and locking them up in jails to make them suffer. This awful system proves that we know we are collective human beings. And prison mutinies prove that, even when isolated and locked up, people can come to a common understanding and act.
We, humans, are happy when we are being loved and cared for by others as we are happy when we love and care for others. And when we know that this symbiosis will be safe into the future. Simple as that.
And the coronavirus epidemic gives us glimpses of this: in the UK, all the bosses and Conservative leaders in the country were not enough to stop people loving the National Health Service, caring for it, volunteering for it, even collecting money and protective gear for it. And it, the NHS, is one of the best examples of an institution that has codified that love and care that humans need to give and be given – and it has maintained this essence, even as the pharmaceutical companies, private clinics and insurance companies have tried to ambush it since the day it was set up after the last great crisis in Britain, World War II.
And in Mauritius, our health services – from the fine trace-and-test of the Bureau Sanitaire that was developed when Mauritians eradicated malaria in the early 1950s to the dispensaries and hospitals – have a good beginning for a much better service in the future, for everyone. Insurance and clinics and private medicine are all just shown up as pure fraud, when an epidemic strikes. Our collective destiny is too clear during a pandemic for individual solutions. If other people do not act with care and love, just as we do, we are all exposed to severe illness and death. What extreme events are needed to instruct us on the nature we know, or can know, that we already have.
Indeed for 200,000 years we lived in collective groups. More than that, we have lived in equality, without any social classes even existing. So, it is not surprising that we easily remember our collective natures. Capitalism only came to power 200 years ago. This, and the State it needs to maintain and perpetuate its existence, then allows this private accumulation by the tiny minority of most of the collective goods in society, to persist and, since the 1990s, go berserk.
And even before that, when various kinds of feudal reigns had developed the original forms of class inequality, it was only over the previous 5,000 to 10,000 years here and there, that class and caste inequalities were slowly established and maintained – by all manner of forms of violence.
Now is the time for us to dedicate energy and time to coming together around shared ideas of what society can be like. For the first time in human history, we can have enough food and good education and health for all. Our technology permits that. Now, we must care for the mother earth that the capitalist system has ransacked, even as we care for ourselves.
This way, we can dismantle all the instruments of war, too, and all the waste and harm they do. Even as the coronavirus shows that the great big, steel aircraft-carriers are brought limping to dock by the outbreak of a virus on board amongst the sailors. And if the top brass don’t take care of the sailors, there will be mutiny.
Which is why in Mauritius, we must all come together around a program, which is no more than a conscious understanding of what we agree together to do, for food production for all, for health and education for all. And then, at the same time, link up with like-minded people all over the world – in India, in China, in America, in Africa, in Europe.
And those of us who are in LALIT are doing our bit towards this. When we present the Government with a Common Platform, and when union Federations sign up to it (two new ones have signed up – the FTU and the NTUC), that is part of it. When we write an open letter to the Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security, who happens, serendipitously, to be Minister of Justice, to demand that he pass laws to force big land-owners to plant food for all, this is also doing a bit towards that future that we all need to put our heads towards building.
In Mauritius, during World War II, the colonial Government “tried applying economic and moral pressures, then finally resorted to legal measures that forced planters to take thousands of hectares out of sugar and replant them with potatoes and vegetables” (Adele Smith Simmonds) and indeed rice and maize, as so many older people have told me. And the mass uprising of 1943, when food began to run out, helped force the sugar bosses to comply. Curiously, in 1943, there was even a mutiny of the Mauritius Regiment (in the British forces) stationed in Madagascar. It was international, even then. And remember that the leader of a slave rebellion in South Africa, Louis de Mauritius, was, as his name point out, Mauritian.
So, our ability to act collectively is there. This is not ideology. It is us all. We need to make this human capacity get organized enough now, so that we can go further than rebellion or mutiny, which are perhaps inevitable but not sufficient for change, and into revolutionary transformation – which means us all consciously creating a new society, in all its complexity, where all the facets of human possibilities are drawn together in consensus. But for that, you need to do away with socio-economic classes at the same time.
The coronavirus, in its favour, points out what social classes are – at least. Even as it threatens the ruling class by its levelling tendencies.
for LALIT, a personal view.