Undoubtedly, the world has taken an ‘unprecedented’ (in the words of every leading politician recently) turn towards the dystopian narratives we’ve grown up seeing in TV and film. The world is turning on its head with even Britney Spears coming out as a comrade, too. In the past few days I’ve been seeing the same people who rallied for Boris in the recent General Election now circulating petitions for equal pay and protection of their rights as workers. I want to say that I’m surprised, but ultimately, I’m not. Essentially, the world has found a new enemy, the new coronavirus, and is yet to realise that its previous enemy, socialism, is actually their friend. If anything, capitalism is the disease.
It’s true, this is probably one of the biggest collective struggles we’ll ever have to face. The coronavirus pandemic has genuinely taken the entire world by storm, with almost every country in the world reporting cases and numerous countries dealing with a tragic amount of deaths. To attempt to slow the spread of the virus, PM Boris Johnson revealed on Monday evening after an emergency Cobra meeting that everyone will be required to stay at home, with a few exceptions. This comes after only people with symptoms were asked to self-isolate, and many other asymptomatic or untested symptomatic people continued to integrate with society and transmit the virus. The stay-at-home rule has made it clear that we live in a deeply divided and hierarchal society when it comes to work. Some people may not work jobs that they are able to do from home, whilst others are learning that their companies do not truly value their labour even though what have been previously seen as ‘low-skilled’ labourers are now being described as ‘key workers’. Wetherspoons CEO Tim Martin primarily refused to pay employees (now backing down on this, after retaliation), and bosses like Gordon Ramsay, and University vice-chancellors like Adam Tickell are sacking their workers instead of paying them in these difficult times. Importantly, we are seeing the cracks in the capitalist ideals that dominate society.
After Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the government will help businesses pay 80% of wages to their workers, it was not until today that support was offered to the self-employed, whilst there remains little protection for temporary and zero-hour contract workers. The funny thing is, these are things that current Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who I know there can be other bones to pick with, has attempted to fight for. The truth is, the Tory government does not care about workers unless they begin to affect the stability of key businesses that help to keep the elites rich, and the economy of the country going. So, those who are not necessarily ‘important’ to companies are being laid off and self-employed people have no use for their trade. So, suddenly, the people who fight against socialism and the redistribution of wealth now want their piece of the pie. Yes, capitalism is difficult to dismantle but only because it has been so well established that those who benefit will not be able to settle for less. All this pandemic has done for society is highlight that we truly are a selfish people.
It’s been humouring for me to see the people who voted for this government fighting with themselves in maintaining support for it. I’m sure you’ve seen the posts on Facebook: ‘You may not like this man, but you have to praise him for what he’s doing.’ At the same time, ‘where’s the protection of my job?’. It’s easy to discredit what socialists have fought for when it isn’t affecting you and when you’re living your idealistic life. People tend to forget that the man-made societal homeostasis that we’re used to is completely permeable, and only strong insofar as there are no external forces existing to destroy the people who enforce it. Because that’s what we are, and what COVID-19 is proving to us. We are cogs in the way society works and we refrain from questioning our misgivings because it’s presumably just the way things are.
I am not angry at the people who are only now realising that what they voted for is backwards, but I do just feel sorry for them and their ignorance. This is only being described as unprecedented because you never do expect your idyllic world to be interrupted until it is, and when you are not used to being disadvantaged in life. I don’t know if it’s more humorous to me because I’m a brown woman, or if it’s because I’m a decent human being.
So, we are finally learning that society is ‘secretly’ against the working class. Unless you are part of the super-rich, this pandemic is going to affect you economically whether you like it or not. I want to know is whether or not this will teach humanity some empathy. People are living insecure lives every day, pandemic or not, their jobs could be taken at any moment, they don’t know if they can afford rent, they’re not sure if they can pay bills. We are seeing people complaining that they cannot live off the Statutory Sick Pay Allowance of £94.25 a week, when Asylum Seekers are given an allowance of £36.95 as well as being subjected to prejudice.
And still, amongst this all, we are seeing the racial discrimination within the NHS and the greater population, as Kayla Williams, a 36 year old black woman, died of suspected COVID-19 after being told by paramedics that she is ‘not priority’ despite showing severe symptoms of the virus. We already know that we are simply statistics to the government, but this demonstrates that the circumstances are still worse for members of the black community in the UK. This comes just weeks after the charter flight to Jamaica which called for the deportation of family members of the Windrush generation if they possessed a criminal record. The racism in this country could not be more evident, especially after Jonathan Mok, a Singaporean student, was attacked on Oxford Street in accusation of being part of the spread of the coronavirus.
Now that we’re in lockdown, we are left with a lot of time for self-reflection. People are suddenly realising that the system is designed to keep the working class distanced from actual representation and consideration. Further, the aspirational and otherwise privileged working class are beginning to find the loopholes in the government they voted for. I don’t believe this will make them realise that others suffer with these issues regularly but at least we can laugh. And if we don’t laugh, we’ll cry. What we can hope is that this pandemic will teach us that we need to come together and be more aware of the issues people face regularly, as well as ensure that there is protection for those who are likely to be largely disadvantaged in this struggle.