Here we are. 2020 is suddenly coming to an end. I don’t know about anyone else but this year has flown by and for most people it has seemed to be a series of unfortunate events. Starting with the raging fires in Australia, oil spills in Mauritius and obviously primarily dominated by our dear friend Rona. It hasn’t been a completely lost cause however; humankind seemed to have made some headway with hugely important movements such as Black Lives Matter, we have learned that the people we rely on most during a global pandemic are those paid the lowest wages, that given the chance mother nature can recover and that human connection is one of the greatest gifts we have. For myself, it has been a year of learning, re-prioritising and growth.
I hear so many people expressing their wish for 2020 to be over, as if by Jan 1st, the mess of 2020 will all be behind us. Well, here I am to remind you that, yes – we must be hopeful for the future but also, that very future is completely in our hands and if we want to prevent a repeat of 2020, we must work collectively to dismantle the very system we live in and demand more from those who hold power. The events of 2020 such as Covid-19, occurred as a result of power structures such as racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, classism, ableism, speciesism etc which have allowed the exploitation of communities and our home planet to occur, resulting in climate change. In turn, climate change impacts marginalised people and communities more significantly than others with the countries most impacted by systemic oppression and climate change actually contributing the least to emissions. Eventually however, it will affect all of us, as we have seen with Covid-19. In regards to Covid-19 let’s think about speciesism. Because humans insist on exploiting and consuming animal products, treating the animals as lesser than ourselves, as well as taking whatever we want from the natural world, we have placed ourselves directly at risk of creating zoonotic diseases, which is exactly what happened with the Coronavirus.
The root of the power structures mentioned above all come from the same violent, destructive, structural and dominative roots – Capitalism, Colonisation and Patriarchy. Therefore, it is important to adopt an intersectional way of thinking when tackling these issues and undoing the systemic patterns of oppressed – oppressors that we are sneakily taught to replicate time and time again.
‘Intersectionality is an analytical framework for understanding how aspects of a person's social and political identities combine to create different modes of discrimination and privilege’
For simplicity, let’s continue focusing on Covid-19, as it is this virus which has dominated our lives this year. From preventing us from being able to hold loved ones, to closing businesses, causing millions to lose lives, so many to lose their jobs, whole industries to be left behind in the dark but also highlight how diabolical our political ‘leaders’ are (hello UK and USA). Sure, this news of a vaccine is welcomed and a huge step forward but I am just here to remind you that prevention is better than a cure. If we continue exploiting the planet and each other in the way that we currently do, this will certainly not be the last time we see a pandemic such as this. At this moment of writing, I am still being told to distance myself from those outside of my household to prevent the spread of the virus, as I have been doing for the past 9 months. At the same time, in the very same country, millions of animals are still forcibly crammed together in disgusting conditions in farms. In turn, we are creating ideal environments for viruses such as Covid-19 and bacterial infections to spread and replicate resulting in mutation and thus astronomically increasing the chances of the virus becoming infectious to humans, all whilst also propelling us towards an antibiotic resistant era. Yet our politicians continue to ignore this major factor. Forcing us to stay locked inside and distanced to stop the spread instead of giving the real facts, encouraging reduced animal product consumption and banning intensive farming, which would dramatically reduce the chances of another pandemic. Instead, they continue to allow animal products to remain cheap and prop up the animal agriculture industry through subsidies from the tax payers money.
If you have read any of my previous posts, you will have some idea about how the capitalist, patriarchal society we currently live is plummeting us towards our own extinction. We (yes us, the human race) created Covid-19 as a direct result of humankind’s continued exploitation of our planet and the other species we share our home with. Covid-19 is a zoonotic disease which mutated to become infectious to humans as a result of animal species carrying the virus being continually exposed to humans, which in turn, meant the virus was repeatedly exposed to humans. This happens because a) we still insist on eating animal species even though humans can survive, and thrive, on a plant based diet (and to keep up with demand, animals are intensively farmed) and b) humans are continually destroying natural habitats, thus driving animals into more condensed areas to live, until they are forced to reside in close contact with humans.
Capitalism is based on the idea of infinite growth on a planet of finite resources. You can already see the problem there. It allows people to privately own corporations which produces gargantuan chasms between socio-economic groups. We end up with the likes of Jeff Bezos, owner of Amazon, whose net worth is now estimated to be $143 billion (£117b), which is around $18 billion (£15b) more than before Covid-19. This kind of money (which cannot be made without exploiting other human beings or the planet) could comfortably solve most of the planets major issues, and still have change to spare. All the while, nearly 30 million Americans are now unemployed and in the UK (the sixth richest country in the world) UNICEF are having to step in to help feed children. At the same time Dominic Cummings, our Prime Minister’s most senior advisor who is probably best known for breaking Covid-19 lockdown rules this year, received a £45,000 pay rise. Plus, all the while the nation has been in and out of lock down, the government has allowed the go ahead for the destruction of various sites of ancient woodland, home to a huge number of species, and will spend an estimated £106 billion on the construction of HS2; a railway line that is not needed and will never be carbon neutral in it’s 120 year life span. Breaching the Paris Agreement and wasting billions that could be spent elsewhere. So much for this promised ‘Green Recovery.’ * eye roll *
Capitalism thrives off exploitation, both of humans and our non – human counterparts. Patriarchy (men holding primary power), racism, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, fatphobia etc. all help uphold the system, created by white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied males, to keep those very males in power and the money flowing into their pockets (just look at the tremendously unqualified Donald Trump, somehow getting to into power in the US). Huge corporations, predominately owned by such men, hold incredible amounts money and thus power and so are able to sway leadership to make decisions that will benefit them, rather than the majority. Most of us are oblivious to the ways the system works to benefit some and not others. For some, it is all we have known and it has been this way for so long, change often seems extremely far fetched. For example, as a woman, being continually encouraged to look a certain way by corporations and media to achieve societies beauty ideals, in order to appeal to the male gaze, and so continue to buy products and treatments in order to meet these ‘ideal beauty standards.’ No thank you. For others, we live with privileges which means the system benefits us and so we cannot see a reason to seek change. For example, I am a white, cisgendered, straight, thin, able-bodied woman (already ticking boxes that appeal to the male). This means that although of course, life will throw curve balls at me and not everything will be easy sailing, I am in a more privileged position than most (except for a white, heterosexual, cisgendered, able-bodied male) and so, except for being a woman, the system we live in will not hinder me to the extent that it would a person who did not live with the same privileges I was born with.
So, this is where we need to step up as individuals, collectively. Especially those who have been lucky enough to be born with the aforementioned privileges. These imaginary structures which people from years ago deemed to be either right or wrong, thus shoving us into strict brackets which decide who holds the power and who does not, need to be destroyed. We have to do away with this system we have become so used to, which benefits so few. The sooner we stop exploiting our own species and the natural world, the better off we will all be. For a start, there will be a hugely decreased chance of more zoonotic diseases and antibiotic resistance, more evenly spread wealth and opportunities for all, a fighting chance against climate change, the end of the completely unnecessary world hunger, an end to war and basically the survival of the planet and all her inhabitants.
So, please remember that instead of wishing for 2021 to be nothing like 2020, let’s join together and start fighting for a future we want for ourselves and our children. Start with your daily acts of rebellion against the system. Call out the racism or sexism or ableism or classism you see in your work place or uttered by a friend or family. Open the discussion and help them to see why it is wrong and will not benefit them in the long run; how instead they are just feeding into a system which is not truly benefiting them. If you live with the privilege to vote and access to voting easily, USE IT. Sign petitions every day, email your political representative, contact companies demanding better. If you can, PROTEST. If you see something that is not acceptable, speak out. Get rid of the megalomaniacs who only want the power to benefit their own interests. Buy from independent business; support local, not the massive conglomerates who pay their workers pennies and fire them for taking a toilet break. For the love of God, stop buying from Amazon. Switch banks away from the likes of Barclays and HSBC who directly fund climate wreaking industries. Hold companies such as Coca -Cola and Nestle accountable for our planets’ plastic problem and demand a change. Eat plant based, support slow fashion, reduce consumption and reuse what you already own, find happiness in what you have, be present in the now, and call out the bullshit. Capitalism wants us to be unhappy with what we have so we continue to buy. Break that cycle. Start holding the people in power and the corporations accountable. Use your voice, particularly if you are in a privileged position to amplify the voices of those who are not. Demand accountability and transparency throughout corporations’ entire production processes. They love to place the accountability on us as individuals. Take BP promoting and popularising the term ‘carbon footprint’ and hence shifting the blame of the climate crisis onto us as individuals and away from the very company based on the extraction and use of fossil fuels who also leaked hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.
2021, time for some DADS – Daily Acts of Dismantling the System. I’m with you, I don’t want to have to experience another pandemic, or witness raging fires, oil spills, police brutality or see the likes of Donald Trump in places of power. So let’s work individually, on a collective level, to change the system which has allowed such to take place. Because prevention is always better than a cure.