Covid-19 and the question of collective care

Of course, the Corona-Crisis is not affecting everyone equally. On a basic medical level people of so-called “risk-groups” are far more likely to die to the virus as average persons with stable physical health. And on a social level marginalized and poor people are more affected by the socio-economic effects.

This can mean a variety of effects, for example the basic question of income without wage-labor or getting medical treatment without insurance. This can also mean an increase of gendered care work – as feminized people have to do the majority of care work for sick people but also childcare at home, which is no longer provided by the state due to quarantine.

Also, we see increased racism, even physical attacks against Asian communities and people of color. The strengthening of far right nationalist discourses and practices of protecting the “national health” against the “foreign” virus etc.

Most likely the virus itself will be most disastrous where 1) measures of containing are not effective and 2) the social infrastructures of health care are generally in a weak condition. I agree with people that think this is why China – after a first period of denial – was capable to react to virus effectively and western countries are struggling more. Western societies are generally speaking more disintegrated and individualized. I guess that within countries with the most advanced so-called neoliberal reforms and the most privatized health care system the virus will be deadliest.

On a medical level I’m not worried for myself. While it’s likely that I will get the virus at some point, it looks like there is more than a 99% chance of surviving it with an average physical health. I’m much more concerned for others of so-called risk-groups, elderly people and people with chronical physical health problems. And of course, people in camps, people who have no access to medical care or people in places with less medical infrastructure in general.

All in all, there is not “one” shared human experience of the Covid-19 and the Corona-Crisis, but a variety of experiences that differ heavily depending on social class, race, gender and ability. While this last point is often lost in traditional left thinking a genuine health-crisis can bring the everyday struggle of the chronically ill people to awareness. Because within the crisis we truly have to change our practice and mode of social reproduction to help the sick.

That said I still think that within the Corona-Crisis there is a chance for more general understanding of the human condition as frail and depended on others. While my life as a chronical ill person is hardly changing at all, a lot of people are confronted with what it means to be sick, to be worried about sick friends and family, to not be able to leave the house, to not know what will happened. To feel less souverain in general.

To be able to have an impact on the situation we have to organize ourselves. To organize our reproduction, and health care and also transfer knowledge. For example, there are more and more telegram groups of neighbors trying to give help and share knowledge with each other. And while this micro-organization of solidarity, of course, is limited and not sufficient to deal with the Covid-19, destroyed health infrastructures or the coming economic crisis this is important.

I think even if not all of the left has made this progress in the last years there has been a lot of movement in general to develop feminist, anti-racist and ecological perspectives and praxis. The Corona-Crisis can be a turning point for understanding also the struggle of the ill, more awareness what it means to lack health, to be sick, or to be afraid for sick friends and family. And on basic level this crisis also asks the question: how can we do politics when we can’t leave the house? How can we include and care for people who are isolated?

This turn is, of course, not implemented in history. Neither is a more state authoritarian government or a more nationalist discourse and praxis of exclusion. It’s how we react to the crisis. And how we are able to offer praxis and discourse of solidarity and help that are also anticipations of a different social reproduction and thus to come a different society.

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