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Sostener la vida en condiciones dignas

  • May 13rd, 2020
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Descubrimos la vulnerabilidad. Las estadísticas mostraban bolsas de pobreza, situaciones de marginalidad, hiperprecariedad, desamparo social, económico y violencia de género. A partir de esta pandemia, todas las alertas se han disparado, para quienes aún se resistían a reconocer la crisis civilizatoria, y se amplifican las desigualdades estructurales existentes, ya racializadas, marcadas por la clase y el género.

Crossroads: The world cannot simply recover a model that was already broken. An eco-social transformation with a feminist perspective is urgently needed.

One in four people were already at risk of poverty or social exclusion, with single parent households (one mother leading 80%) and women most at risk, according to the latest report from the European Network to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion (EAPN). The gender gap showed that something was not quite right for women: poverty indicators were falling more easily among men.

Institutions such as the WHO insist: "Countries need disaggregated data to understand who is being left behind and why"; both UN Women and the ILO warn of the need to interpret data using gender analysis. The diagnosis in the gender impact reports of covid-19 is consistent: the coronavirus has a higher cost for women; they are in the front line, in unpaid household work and in hyper-pre-categorised occupations that are key to survival during the pandemic; they are in the majority among health care, cleaning, household employment, home help and care, food and supermarket staff. Confinement measures and economic stoppage have increased care work in the home, assumed by women, increasing the risk for many to live in isolation from their abuser.

The pandemic reveals that the business model of the orthodox economy is fattened by disregard for life, when it does not refer to that of the economic and social elites; bodies, relationships and biological processes converted into commodities on which to extract surplus value.

Frustration at the fragility and uncertainty is amplified by the discovery of cracks in our public care system, following health cuts, and the dehumanisation of old people's homes and residences managed mostly by multinationals and vulture funds that are dependent on profits. It is difficult to digest the information on the conditions in some centres, and even more so in those cases where deaths could have been avoided if there had been interest from the institutions in the quality of the privatised services. The revulsion feeds indignation, as a collective feeling and demands an ethics applied to the economy, something imbedded in the DNA of the alter-globalist, feminist and ecological movements: the life of people and living beings first, before the profits of the markets.

Climate emergency

On the other hand, the reduction of air pollution in large cities by more than 64% as a result of the economic downturn tells us that if we want to breathe better, we already know that we can do so. It is a matter of tackling the climate emergency without attacking the links of social reproduction, the relations that sustain life, reorienting the material and economic organization of societies so that it does not continue to be at the expense of biodiversity and the quality of ecosystems.

Now imagine that we manage to make that lesson last beyond the Covid-19, that we incorporate what we have learned and stop feeding the false imaginary of pretending to return to what happened before. During the physical distancing, seeds of change have emerged, rooted in the community, social articulation through windows, balconies, support and care networks among the neighbourhood; that is, there is space for neighbourhood cultures, more cooperative economic relationship models, synergies and shared social responsibility. We have connected with the need to learn to live well, from social empathy, adjusting the criterion of sufficiency and reducing the use of material resources; we are more aware that technological development can be an ally for the sustainability of life and also the opposite. There are many edges from which to rethink the economic model, but any of its dimensions should integrate a feminist perspective and different horizons, depending on the immediacy of the response, the sustainability of the new pace of life and the eco-social transformation; without leaving anyone behind.

Let us get going and prevent this 'shock' from giving way to a new phase of neoliberal orthodoxy

The scenario is complicated, and risks are difficult to manage. However, it is urgent to take another direction so that the interests of the economic elite are no longer confused with the general interest. In this arduous task of articulating the post-covid-19 economic transformation, there are at least four inspiring axes.

Care as the central axis of the eco-social reorganisation to configure a public system of welfare provision, reinforcing the coverage of the system of care and attention to dependency, with public employment and opening community space from which to share social responsibility for activities essential to sustain life. In this approach to care, there are four transformative movements to be developed: de-mercantilisation, so that care remains outside the processes of capitalist accumulation; de-familiarization, placing responsibility for its provision outside the home; denaturalisation and de-patriarchy.

Vital sovereignties and conditions that dignify the right to life It is a matter of broadening the view of fundamental rights, including access to resources (food, medicine, water, clean air, energy, housing, time) and the material conditions that guarantee them. It is no longer enough to turn a blind eye: there is an urgent need to guarantee an individual, unconditional and sufficient income, to discourage social protection and to shield the system of production and distribution of the basic resources of life from the public sphere.

Economic democracy as a regulatory criterion of the eco-social fabric, from local economies, with short circuits of production and facilitating the direct participation of society. This opens the way to the social and solidarity economy, as well as to transforming alliances through co-responsibility with well-being, equality, and progress.

Redistributive justice of jobs, time, and income. It requires a reorientation of the structure of public expenditure so as not to leave anyone behind, and also a broad reform of the tax system, strengthening its progressiveness to ensure the co-responsibility of the great monetary wealth and capital income, as well as the dismantling of tax evasion and avoidance mechanisms.

Let us get moving and avoid, above all, this shock giving way to a new phase of neo-liberal orthodoxy.

Carmen Castro García.

Article originally published in the Alternativas Económicas Magazine.