In a recent interview with Gustavo Arellano for the L.A. Times, Patrisse Cullors, a leader of the movement to reform L.A. jails and co-founder of Black Lives Matter, discusses “lessons” from the coronavirus over these last two months:
“The coronavirus is telling us, and when I say us, I mean the world, what organizers have been saying for a very long time: which is [that] we live in a capitalist system that benefits only a few, that is laser-focused on money over people…and [that] you would think in the middle of one of the biggest pandemics we’ve seen in our lifetime, that it would shift the course for everybody. But in fact that hasn’t been the case.”
Walking through Los Angeles, it’s clear how much of the city still depends on its business–or capital–particularly its small business, for significant portions of its movement; restrictions or not, people continue populating the city streets making exchanges, reducing, canceling or acquiring debts, and in effect maintaining their advancement towards another meal, another check-point, another logarithm.
Not far along from the small businesses, a great many people left behind for failing to submit to the motions of this renter’s town, or this place belonging to no one or nothing but the movement itself, also conduct business, though in what might be called a hyper micro-economy, taking care of the most fundamental needs for themselves with what they can afford from bodies worn by constant exposure to the concrete.
What’s also true is that each movement has its costs. The more that people populate a place, the more of that place’s ecosystem they affect; with more food comes more packaging to throw out, as with more electricity comes more bandwidth to extend, and on. Eventually every system requires an update; even the mayor’s press briefings are an example of this, going from five days a week recently for L.A. residents to now twice a week.
But what if we could update the capitalist system that Cullors calls attention to, in order to allow more people to reduce their work–and the costs accrued–in the same way?
In the midst of a world that continues spinning on its axis, coronavirus notwithstanding, it may seem like a waste of time to ask about “some day” in a future or theoretical world other than the one right in front of us.
But if we don’t ask about this update, and move forward incrementally towards it, it’s not just that we may find ourselves at the losing end of a wasted opportunity costing only more human life and health. It’s that, as the last two months, and as the last twenty years, and indeed as many decades prior show: wasted opportunity for a change when time calls for its is precisely what costs people their lives.
In any case, the honorable Ms. Cullor says:
“I don’t know what elected officials are going to do. But I know that the people of Los Angeles who have always cared about Los Angeles, who’ve cared about Los Angeles and the country. We are going to continue to do the work.”
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