The Coronavirus was not an accident. It is the result of excessive human pressure on the biosphere resulting from an economic system that destroys everything on this planet to perpetuate itself.
Jule Goikoetxea is a Basque political philosopher, writer and feminist activist
Zuriñe Rodriguez is a Basque freelance journalist and feminist activist
We label the structured exploitation of women workers, especially women, “democratic normality”, on the other hand we term the loss of profits a “crisis”. We call the privatisation of resources and health care, the mass murder of women, migrants and refugees, and industrial accidents “democratic normality”. Yet we call it a “world crisis” when Europeans start to die, especially if they are men and white. When the androcentric myth of personal self-sufficiency in which you live collapses, it is a crisis!
But that’s what slaves are for. The fact that the head of the health dempartment of the Basque Country government, Nekane Murga, says, without mincing her words, that grandparents (grandparents?) can look after children perfectly well as long as schools are closed because of the coronavirus, is a clear indication of the extent to which slavery is normalised in the area of care. Forty per cent of GDP comes from unpaid care by women. 95 per cent of care is provided by women, not men and grandparents. Moreover, the closure of schools affects mainly women, who constitute a majority of workers in that sector, as well as in the health sector, so they become infected much more than men (as with Ebola and Zika), and much more rapidly. Add to that the fact that women, as they are paid less than men are poorer and the first to be laid off. This is not because of the coronavirus.
Crises are complex and social phenomena, not natural. Feminists have been proposing for years other ways of governing, of building community and public affairs (res publica), which “democratic” rulers refuse to consider since that would mean the impossibility of accumulating capital in (their) private hands, which is the goal of all privatisation. As if this were not enough, the official discourse of these rulers demands that we dissociate floods, droughts, poverty, fires, pandemics and pollution from political decisions, and we treat them as uncontrollable and unpredictable natural events. To accumulate capital we must privatise (health, resources, education) and the more privatisation there is, the more pandemic, the more pollution, the more death, disease and misery. This is not a result the coronavirus.
We have been saying for years that neo-liberalism and its patriarchal rationality, based on usurpation, commodification, privatisation, sexualisation, racialisation, and dissociation as mechanisms for governing the population, lead to very sophisticated and bestial necropolitics: letting the population that has no resources die, that is to say, killing the population legally through the implementation of foreigner laws, commercial, health, fiscal, and labour laws. It is not only that private health care is allowed to exist, but also that it is paid for by the people, who cannot pay 300-800 euros to have a coronavirus test, while public health care cannot cope. The coronavirus is not guilty.
If you don’t know that care in this society is done by women (through leave of absence, double workdays, and as unpaid work, i.e. slavery); or by state institutions, it is because you have an interest in it. And both the slave or precarious work of caring by women and the privatisation of public structures are based on an absolutely patriarchal state-phobic thought (often shared by a certain members of the Left). Decrying that “the state is bad” does not help in creating welfare, much less the patriarchal assumption that individuals appear in the world already eighteen years old, ready to reason universally, make money, or support social justice. This fairy tale, like all fairy tales, does not work without slaves. We are not born free or self-sufficient, poor or female or black or French. These are political phenomena. We are born mammals. And it is women and public institutions that turn mammals into semi-autonomous and interdependent subjects. So the questions are: First, what is behind the rejection of public structures (even if on a theoretical level)? and second: Why are women and men still being created (since we are not born women or men)? Don’t know/ Don’t answer.
Because patriarchal state-phobia is indispensable for creating hetero-family neoliberalism. To create beings who, out of obligation, have to take care of the whole of society under outrageous conditions. Because that is what women are, beings who work more than men, but have less economic and cultural capital than them; beings who care more than men, but have less social and symbolic capital than them. That is why women are created: to work for free, to produce life for free, to take care of everyone practically for free. Did you know that almost 50% of women worldwide are not commodified, that is, they are not paid anything for their work? Can you imagine if they were men? And if they were white and European?
Excuse me, but we are not going to give in to this struggle of the senses; to this struggle for discourse. What you want is slavery, not “conciliation”. What you want is slaves, not “caretakers”. You are suspending income and the allocation of places in the old people’s homes everywhere, knowing that it will be women who will look after senior citizens in the unpaid private sphere. In your democratic normality you refuse to increase the ratio in day centres and homes (we have strikes in this sector throughout the Basque country) and, moreover, you privatise them; you refuse to implement a public system of domestic service for care, and, as if that were not enough, you pretend that we do not relate all this to the subcontracting and miserable agreements of the feminised sectors. The crisis takes the form of patriarchal and capitalist slavery, because your normality is made up of misogyny and neo-liberalism. The coronavirus is not guilty.
We have not come just to confront. We have come to propose and to govern. We have come to create a feminist, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist republic, where care is obligatory and rotating for all of society. We demand the urgent creation of a Public Care System where care is not only a right (in the liberal style) but a political capacity: public, collective and communitarian.
Because none of this is the result of the coronavirus.