Selfish Desires 5/15/20

Thoughts by Richard Bleil

Today has been very eventful in the pandemic news. Once again, heavily armed and armored protesters have gathered outside of the Michigan state capital to protest the governor’s isolation orders. These protesters are often not wearing masks, but in true irony, some are. In Wisconsin, the state supreme court has ruled that the statewide stay at home orders are against the state constitution and has given permission to bars to open up once again, many of which have done. In South Dakota, the native people have taken matters into their own hands setting up testing sites along the interstate highways that pass through their reservations in response to the governor’s inaction. The governor has finally decided that she does, after all, need to take action, and the action she has chosen is to threaten the native Americans who have set up the checkpoints with lawsuits.

Meanwhile, in Germany, a nation praised for its response and quick control of the virus has experienced a resurgence after relaxing its restrictions. It’s not alone; in China, the Wuhan district is showing hot spots of infection once again. Our own president is at odds with his own cabinet medical experts, as he wants to lift restrictions because of the harm to the economy while his advisers are insisting of the dangers of new viral infections. While I understand the fear of economic damage, I choose to protect people.

I don’t understand the protests. There is evidence that these are not as spontaneous as they would have us think. Several reliable groups have linked these protests to a few extreme right-wing organizations, many linked to the NRA to sow discord in our society. But regardless of the roots, I don’t understand why people fall for it. The individuals are still the ones who have chosen to show up, and for what? The opportunity to drink in a bar instead of at home? Is this really worth risking infection?

With so many selfish acts making headlines, it’s nice to hear of selfless acts as well. A good friend of mine is creating art and making it free to the general public for children to color. A couple of my Wisconsin friends forwarded a post from a local bar that has decided to protect its customers despite the court ruling and keep their doors closed to the general public, keeping their service open for take-out food orders only.

In my opinion, we are lacking a uniform leadership in our country. We have a president that is bowing, kind of, to the advice of his medical experts while turning around and tweeting support for the protests against it. In the absence of such uniform leadership, natural leaders are rising to the top such as the bar owner and elders of the native reservations. Some things make sense; I understand that in states with lower population density a “one size fits all” approach may not fit, but leadership is not simply saying “no, we won’t do that”. In many ways, it is more difficult to be a true and effective leader in these states. The governor of South Dakota has lost a golden opportunity to take leadership and protect her citizens by failing to formulate an actual plan to keep the virus out of the state, and deal with “hot spots” as they arise. Because of her lack of planning, a major national pork processing plant was shut down (by the employees, no less) risking the national food chain.

That’s kind of an interesting story, actually. This processing plant, in a state that elected to ignore all advice for self- quarantine, began having employees showing signs of infection. In the shadow of a failing governor, even the owner of the company refused to take action. Out of fear for their safety, and with their complaints falling on deaf ears, they began a form of a strike, basically simply refusing to go to work. Unfortunately, they were too late (because they were trying proper channels) and the hot spot was formed.

What I find most interesting about this is the way in which these actions parallel the prediction by Karl Marx in The Communist Manifesto. No, this is not an endorsement of his work, but the similarity is incredible. In his work, Marx predicted class warfare between the owners and the workers. When the greed became too great and the divide between the classes became unsustainable, the workers would rise up against the owners and take control of the production themselves. The greed of the owners of this pork processing plant has caused them to refuse to take action to protect the people who worked for them. The workers were forced to rise up against the owners and take control of the production themselves by basically shutting the plant down.

If our leaders are not careful to start caring about the people, there is a true danger that the people will come to realize exactly how much power they actually wield.

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