by Andy Piascik, freelance writer and PAR reader
After two years, COVID-19 continues to ravage planet Earth. Over 5.5 million people have died, millions more have suffered major health consequences and millions beyond that have experienced severe economic hardship. In the United States, the official tally is 850,000 and the real toll is probably over one million.
Much media attention has focused on large segments of the population who refuse to get vaccinated and/or wear masks in public. In both cases, millions of people are downplaying the seriousness of COVID-19 and asserting individual rights in a thoroughly irresponsible manner, egged on by reactionary politicians and media figures. According to all data, the roughly 95% of current cases are the unvaccinated.
The pandemic has highlighted the destructive ramifications of a grossly unjust economic system. Domestically, a health care system based on profits led to hundreds of thousands of unnecessary deaths. Millions of workers in the United States lost their jobs and, when normal unemployment benefits proved inadequate, the federal government was forced by popular outrage to provide a short-term supplement. When the pandemic ebbed somewhat, working-class parents faced the terrible dilemma of fearing to send their children back to school while not being able to keep them home because of having to return to work.
Internationally, hundreds of millions in the global South are unvaccinated because elites in control of the vaccines have primarily only made them available on a for-profit basis. Millions of doses remain warehoused in the US because of those who refuse to get vaccinated and as many as 100 million doses will soon expire. The richest of the rich, meanwhile, have prospered so much that 2020 saw the introduction of a new word to the English language: centi-billionaire.
While we will hopefully get a handle on COVID-19, we nonetheless confront a planet more unstable and dangerous. As in every other instance of human progress, organized collective action is key. All individuals, organizations and movements have a role to play. No one in power is going to do it for us.