“Under the paving stones, the beach!”
Our fifth issue comes during the midst of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Across the last few weeks we have experienced tremendous shifts in the architecture of our daily lives. The coronavirus has the potential to wake us out of our complacency and remind us as to our position in history, and more importantly, our agency to affect the future. COVID-19 has already served as a reminder of one important political truth in particular:
We do not live outside of history.
The material conditions of contemporary society (late capitalism) are not natural, rather, they are the results of centuries of cultural and historical developments (colonialism, imperialism, slavery, inequitable access to opportunities and resources).While capitalism presents itself as being natural, it is an economic system that has only come into existence in different geographies at different times across the last few hundred years. Capitalism presents itself as an idealist tabula rasa—the market is a blank surface upon which each human has equal rights, liberties, and access to resources and opportunities— however the material inequities still left behind in the wake of what capitalism replaces (be it European feudalism, sovereign indigenous governments, etc.) are rendered invisible to the capitalist eye.
The present moment brings these material inequities into hyperfocus as we see the ways in which COVID-19 more severely affects those with underlying health conditions, with statistics pointing to its disproportionate affects on communities without access to proper healthcare and humane living conditions.
It is the realization that our contemporary conditions are not natural but cultural that can allow us to realize our own potential to shape and reimagine our future.