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Musing with uncertainty

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An affordable housing building in Vancouver with inspiring signage such as "dignity, vision, work, home." Image: Cathy Crowe

An old friend I hadn't seen in ages recently visited me. Immersed in the present, his main complaint wasn't being isolated at home during the lockdown, it was the terrible uncertainty. After he left, I began to muse.

The vacuum is palpable. Social distancing and the pandemic have produced little advice about the economic disaster that has been unleashed. If we are entering the worst crisis since the 1930s, there is little to alarm us to the fact that we need a major emergency and long-term response to survive. The enormity of the response will have to be unprecedented in its scope and resolve.

Before the entry of this COVID disease, warning abounded of a daunting economic collapse, similar or worse than that of 2008. It happened. We now need a new deal like the one that came out of the fightback in the 1930s. Investment in infrastructure brought us jobs. But today, there is a caveat. Our planet is hot and polluted and can't take it anymore. Thus, our deal must be green. Our survival depends on it.

We need affordable housing, safe shelter, adequate income, health care, education, daycare, and services for all. People are losing their jobs, income and housing at an alarming rate. Tent cities are exploding around the world.

Chatter predicts that many workplaces will never open again. We are not going back to the good old days or even the bad old days.

Yes, we need a new green deal with which to enter the next one hundred years and onwards.

COVID-19 has exposed some of our fault line. It helps us see what must be done.

Austerity has damaged our health-care system. We now have many unhealthy people, and a rusting and rusty public health that welcomes new and old diseases. Seniors were particularly injured, and many died during the pandemic. There wasn't enough care or caregivers, and they weren't adequately trained or paid properly. The results were catastrophic. In the end we all want safety from disease, but we also deserve to live and die with dignity.

There are stark choices to be made. At all costs, we have to end neoliberalism and its cruel austerity measures. Instead, debts -- even national debts -- have to be forgiven.

There must be full employment for those who need work. A four-day work week can be established. New support programs to serve seniors, youth and those with mental and physical disabilities are vital. Factories can produce solar panels, wind turbines and trains. A national housing program, ensuring affordability and supports for those who need them, is imperative.

Let's subsidize good food which will be grown next to where it is eaten. We must wean ourselves out of the sky and ground ourselves with a sustainable energy program. Cruise ships will go the way of the carnival, and like planes will no longer be petri dishes for the spread of disease.

Capitalism and its lack of planning, and its allowance of capital to rule must be relegated to the dustbin of history. This has been long promised. What certainty we can muster will come with plans.

Friends are warning us about climate change and the threat of war. If we listen, we can hear them pleading "C'mon now, we don't have a lot of time."

We have to answer them.  Our youth and our tomorrows are in great peril. "We're coming, we won't be long now!"

Thankfully, Black lives and Indigenous peoples are leading us into the streets. You can hear our voices mingle and gain strength. Many of us muse and act.

We extend our hand to the future and hope that she clasps it.

Beric German is a long-time anti-poverty activist and co-founded the Toronto Disaster Relief Committee which declared homelessness a national disaster in 1998.

Image: Cathy Crowe

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