The Unraveling of America : Anthropologist Wade Davis on how COVID-19 signals the end of the American era. In Rolling Stone, July 2020
In this article Davis eloquently and intelligently outlines the history of cataclysmic change and what America has become in the last century. He then focuses on how the covid pandemic has and will affect America; “COVID-19 didn’t lay America low; it simply revealed what had long been forsaken.” Everyone should read the article and discuss it with friends, family and colleagues.
Without denigrating the quality of the article, it is important to note that others (like Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Joseph Stiglitz and Chris Hedges) have been writing and talking about the demise of America and “what had long been forsaken”. And I speculate that most Canadians already share a generalized awareness of how America has already crumbled, though we may not have pulled all our assumptions together as well as Davis has.
I only wish Davis had named “what had long been forsaken”. I would appreciate if he had taken the risky step to say the capitalistic system, with its extreme competitiveness and individualism, that America has idealized, has failed. Underlying everything Davis shows has changed in America, the irrationality of electing Trump and how US globalization failed to deliver benefits for citizens in North America points to the efforts to prop up US capitalism and then its virtual collapse. (Note: this perspective is not a blanket condemnation of capitalism generally, as Davis points out social democratic governments can and have extracted benefits for citizens from capitalism.)
Then the next effort for Davis and others is to propose what needs to be done to reverse the collapse of society in America. And for Canada, what should be done to ‘build back better’ after covid-19. While it is important to clearly describe the collapse of the American dream and all the social weaknesses covid has exposed in Canada, it is more important to get started on restructuring government, democratic institutions and social relations. Let’s get started on figuring out what we need to do to avoid the inherent weaknesses of our past economy, foster genuine social equity, aggressively stop damaging the environment and rejuvenate democracy. Lamenting what has happened and how we failed each other and the environment is cathartic, but lets get together to support each other and build the world we want and need.
(My next blog will offer a few ideas of what I think we can do going forward.)
US versus WE
It is great that the WE controversy is getting scrutiny. I believe the inqurery will expose a great deal of how our government is removed from the daily cultural and economic realities of most Canadians.
First, let’s not forget the plan to set up a huge job fund for students through a non-governmental agency was a good idea.
However two errors took place. Clearly the Prime Minister and Minister of Finance had direct ties to WE and should have recused themselves from any discussions about WE. They have admitted that. Second they and the bureaucrats should have known that WE was incapable of delivering the results intended.
WE is a registered charity. WE officials claim to be working for children and youth and in countries of the south suffering poverty. However, I believe they are an elite business fronting for corporations and celebrities wanting to look like they are progressive and empathetic. The organisation in my opinion is doing little or nothing to change the root causes of poverty and discrimination. WE is paternalistic and colonial in how they engage with countries of the south. While their rhetoric is progressive their behaviour is regressive.
The second aspect of what I hope the inquirery exposes is how our opposition parties are so out of touch with Canadians. They are focused on the ethical breech and are demanding resignations at a time of national crisis. Canada needs a strong leadership now and whether anyone likes the Liberals or not (and I am not or ever have been a Liberal supporter), they have done a decent job buffering the worst impact of Covid-19.
The opposition parties should be challenging the Liberals on the bad choice of delivery organization, a bad management decision. The Liberals and the civil service involved should have done their homework and known that WE is the worse kind of charity. And it is certainly not a social development agency. As well, all MPs should be engaging with genuine social development agencies