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April 20,2020

by Efrén Poveda García

Clapping Against The Minimal State

I see the photos and videos and I’m about to burst in tears. Citizens around the world show their gratitude to health workers in different ways, mostly applauding from their balconies and windowsills. With the passing of the first days, lorry drivers, grocery stores’ staffs, cleaners and other people without which human civilisation would collapse are added to the tribute. With the passing of weeks, there’s a feeling of not only expressing gratitude to those working for the sake of the rest of us, but also of cheering one another, of communicating your confined neighbours that they’re not alone.

The sense of unity, of mutual support, of solidarity, moves me when I watch it from afar. However, I have been reluctant to join the 8pm clappings in my street. At first, I considered the gesture profoundly classist (it was only directed to nurses and doctors). After that was changed, wariness towards my neighbours remained. I suspected they had been consistently voting for the facilitators of the gradual dismantling of the Spanish public healthcare system.

Certain behaviours and verbal manifestations, really eloquent in the context of this country, reinforced my misgivings.

Honestly, I am not sure that the wave of reciprocal support arisen in the architectural interstices between people’s private and public realms is more than a superficial resource of our psyches to help us cope with the situation. But I hope that, at least, the current crisis is convincing most of us not only of the need of solid public healthcare systems, but also of the imperative of overseeing the decisions our politicians make regarding this matter.

LET’S IMAGINE: WHAT IF WE WERE AFFECTED BY AN AGGRESSIVE EPIDEMIC DISEASE?

What I’m telling you next must have happened around ten years ago. Spain was suffering the huge consequences of the 2008 economic crisis and I needed to have several medical tests done.

I needed them. I did. But the public healthcare budget wasn’t enough to cover the needs of every citizen. And wasn’t enough, in a considerable amount of cases, to provide each patient with relevant information about their health status within a reasonable time lapse.

That’s why I took my savings and went to a private clinic.

There I was, waiting for my turn, when a woman approached me. She wanted my signature in support of a petition to the government. As she saw it, those of “us” who pay for a private health insurance should be asked for less taxes. It wasn’t fair, she explained, that “we” were forced to pay twice for medical services.

My refusal to support the cause wasn’t precisely well received. But I guess her dissatisfaction went away when the four or five other people in the room signed the document she carried on a clipboard.

Handwash

“I should have said it… I should have saidit for her and the others to hear….” My “I’m sorry, I don’t agree” didn’t feel enough. What had I changed with one less signature? The pportunity to make my fellow citizens reflect had been wasted. But, anyhow, I had an excuse: I wasn’t feeling very well…

Back in the day, I used to feel the urge to share my reasonings in circumstances where all that could be accomplished was energy loss. With time, I learned that some individuals in their usual contexts will never engage in argument-based discussion. They are too sure of their opinions to think about them.

Anyway, with physical and emotional energy at my disposal, I would have told this woman that you don’t pay your taxes so that you, the individual tax payer, can benefit from what’s done with your money. You pay your taxes so that anyone who needs certain kinds of assistance has access to them.

One of the guiding principles of welfare states is that everybody is entitled to important services in basic areas of life, independently of how much she has been able to contribute to the sustenance of such security system. This way, some will receive medical services of an economic value highly superior to that of the contribution they have been able to make, while others who have contributed a lot won’t require expensive attention. If you are lucky enough, you won’t need your taxes returned in the form of medical treatments.

An argument the woman had used to try to persuade me was that private insurance purchasers unburden the public system, but that can’t count as an appropriate reason from the perspective of universal welfare. The basic assumption of her standpoint was that your money is being wasted when used to help others.

Among the possible causes of this position, three of them strike me as especially, and non-exclusively, likely. One would be a neoliberal, empathy-limiting, ideology. Another one would be confusion regarding the point of social services, induced by the fact that ours was (and is) far from being an impeccable welfare state. When there’s a lack of coherence between the principles that guide different policies, it is inevitable that citizens end up confused. (But, ah, isn’t all this in the very nature of “welfare” states?). The third possibility would be that austerity measures were inducing citizens to start contracting private insurances in order to access better healthcare, perhaps at significant costs for their households’ budget.

Hopper

Obviously, I could relate with the third cause although, still, it was incorrect as a justification. The response to austericide measures couldn’t be to drop out of the social security system, making it even more feeble and, thus, increasing the vulnerability of less privileged citizens. (After all, and no matter the efforts, if she was able to pay the fees of a private insurance, she was in a much better position than those who, no matter the efforts, could never afford the expenditure).

This is the crude reality of economic crises. And this woman’s attitude was the crude reality of individualistic cultural programming, the final consequences of which would be the substitution of social security for an everyone-for-themselves kind of social order were most of us have literally everything to lose at every step.

What a shame, because I was in possession of the appropriate argument for a mind like hers, the ultimate argument, the ace up my sleeve that would have settled the discussion: If an aggressive epidemic disease appeared, if it were transmitted through the air, she would be glad for the existence of a solid public healthcare system controlling the expansion of the disease by treating the majority of citizens (citizens who only have that system to rely on).

From a strictly selfish point of view, such a system favoured her interests as anyone else’s, unless she was one of those wealthy guys buying comfortable, ultra-modern, high-security bunkers and underground flats.

Layouts

(In case you’re interested, you can find examples of this kind of facilities here, here and here. Now, that’s quarantining with class…).

But even if she was, her individualistic brain was sufficiently developed to understand that the excellent surgeon who would safe her from a severe condition in the future, or the biochemist who would find the cure for our hypothetical epidemic, could be dying or becoming impaired as we spoke owing to a lack of public resources.

At-your-service

A SPECTRE IS HAUNTING EUROPE

In the last weeks, many people have been killed in my country by a years-long absence of proper budgets and governmental planning. Public healthcare is not a trivial issue, and the very possibility of jeopardising it should cost political careers.

But this is not an isolated aspect of political management. On the contrary, it is connected with broader ideological frameworks and, most importantly, private interests. Defences of the strengthening of public healthcare conflict directly with the minimal state formula. That is, with the neoliberal ideal, common among right-wing, far-right and right-wing populist politicians, a bunch of which are situated in very prominent positions of power around the world.

The minimal state is one mainly focused on external security (army) and internal security from aggression and property theft (police). It is a state which refrains from intervention in the economy, leaving the conditions for social security (or lack of it) in the hands of uncontrolled markets and, therefore, imposing significantly reduced taxes. In their mottos, partisans of this model often use the words liberty, security, and, as a way to mobilise voters’ tribal instincts, nationhood (frequently understood in an ethnic sense, implying race, religion, traditions and mythical stories about glorious pasts, and excluding those deemed as different or as foreigners). In their speeches, they also allude to low taxes and a renewed greatness through economic competitiveness, setting aside equality of opportunity, common humanity, sustainability and solidarity.

Trump

Knowing as we know now that unfettered economy doesn’t distribute wealth, but tends instead to concentrate it in a few hands, I wonder how minimal state’s champions would suggest tackling a situation like the corona-crisis in their lubriciously dreamed of ideal country.

Would the state have money saved just in case a pandemic occurs? Highly unlikely. First, because its elites wouldn’t care much about the rest of humanity (common trait among neoliberal puppeteers). Second, because there are few things a neoliberal hates more than public money out of circulation (They can’t use it to grow richer!).

Would the state get into debts to provide the services citizens lack? In the event of an affirmative answer, would it get the funding needed? Or, to put it another way, would this state be trustworthy enough for private investors? But then again, even if it were, would money transfers arrive on time? We’re talking of emergencies here. Would the whole process happen in a short period that allowed preparing materials, infrastructures and professionals fast enough? The answer, as proved by the real responses of current states during the last month is clearly no.

Although, on second thought, it’s easy to imagine the interest on the side of puppeteers (investors themselves) in the survival of enough workforce to keep the economy going (Y’know, it’s very beneficial for them…). I can thus think of a minimal state developing some kind of emergency system (perhaps a mixture of the two foregoing possibilities) that lets citizens die but saves the number of lives necessary for the ones on top to continue on top.

Uncle-Sam

In any case, the aim would be to prioritise profit over human lives. And, yes, dear reader, this sounds familiar. Just look at how governments have resisted taking measures that would slow “the economy,” and how states and leaders closer to the neoliberal ideal (I have the Land of Liberty in mind) have reacted.

If I’m writing about the minimal state, it’s due to the presence of great forces pushing in its direction even in what used to be European “welfare” states.

CLAPPING IN THE AGE OF NEOLIBERALISM

My beloved Neoliberalism places our destinies in the hands of private interests. The interests of investors, of those who amass lots and lots of wealth. Incontrollable due to their private character, unpredictable to a certain extent, but probably willing to taking profit of the situation. Great fortunes became greater during the last economic crisis, and great fortunes will continue to grow during the post-COVID-19 economic crisis. Without the adequate help, many medium and small businesses will disappear and great corporations will be able to take their place while enforcing lower salaries and setbacks in workers’ rights.

Learning that Donald Trump considered transferring money to every USA citizen was, in the beginning, bewildering. But later I understood that, if he finally did it, we shouldn’t attribute the measure to a sudden ideological change. Trump wants to win the next elections and, for that, people need to feel they’re being protected. In fact, the minimal state hasn’t been completely implemented because voters wouldn’t tolerate such a radical neglect. But they, however, tend to respond favourably to the appeals to greatness, nation and liberty that neoliberals use to obscure their true purposes.

Anyway, $1,000 won’t counteract pre-existent inequalities, nor the effects of decades of unequal access to healthcare. The same goes for any ad hoc investment. Besides being a means to protect himself from electoral loss, I can’t help thinking that Trump might be trying to prevent with this decision a new collapse of his dear financial institutions as lots of consumers at the same time become unable to repay loans and mortgages. Remember: Keep the (unfair) economy going.

Knowing as we know that unfettered markets don’t distribute wealth, but tend to concentrate it in a few hands, I wonder if “we” who “know” includes my neighbours. I wonder who are “we” who “know”, and I end up with the idea that in this case the subject of knowing is a small group of people. I end up with the idea that my neighbours aren’t aware of the contradictions in, and implications of, their clapping. The daily ritual which, with the passing of one more week, went back to its origin as an exclusive tribute to the doctors and nurses in the public system.

Simpson

Isn’t it funny that, even though our lives are dramatically conditioned by politics and economy, formal education is so deficient in basic knowledge about institutions, political ideas, social processes and macroeconomic facts and models?

Image Credits

Super Nurse: FAKE (https://www.highonspraypaint.com/, IG: @iamfake)

Intervention of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine on Mrs Worrell as Hebe, by Benjamin West

The 20 Second Wash: Mark Mastroianni (https://woodwardgallery.net/artists/mark-mastroianni/). Part of WashYourHands.art Exhibition at Woodward Gallery (https://woodwardgallery.net/exhibitions/current-exhibitions/washyourhands/, IG: @woodward_gallery)

Intervention by Genevieve Blais (https://www.genevieveblais.com, IG: @genevieveblaiseart) on Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks for her series Black Death (IG: @plaguehistory)

Images extracted from https://terravivos.com/

Viktor Hertz (www.behance.net/viktorhertz, IG: @viktorhertz). Part of his series “Fake” News: Honest Trump Magazine Covers

“Divided We Stand, United We Fall,” Mixed Media on Urban Furniture: TVBOY (https://www.tvboy.it/, IG: @tvboy), Barcelona (Spain)

Sweet Home…: Nello Petrucci (https://www.nellopetrucci.com/, IG: @nellopetrucci)

April 20,2020

by Efrén Poveda García

Clapping Against The Minimal State

I see the photos and videos and I’m about to burst in tears. Citizens around the world show their gratitude to health workers in different ways, mostly applauding from their balconies and windowsills. With the passing of the first days, lorry drivers, grocery stores’ staffs, cleaners and other people without which human civilisation would collapse are added to the tribute. With the passing of weeks, there’s a feeling of not only expressing gratitude to those working for the sake of the rest of us, but also of cheering one another, of communicating your confined neighbours that they’re not alone.

The sense of unity, of mutual support, of solidarity, moves me when I watch it from afar. However, I have been reluctant to join the 8pm clappings in my street. At first, I considered the gesture profoundly classist (it was only directed to nurses and doctors). After that was changed, wariness towards my neighbours remained. I suspected they had been consistently voting for the facilitators of the gradual dismantling of the Spanish public healthcare system.

Certain behaviours and verbal manifestations, really eloquent in the context of this country, reinforced my misgivings.

Honestly, I am not sure that the wave of reciprocal support arisen in the architectural interstices between people’s private and public realms is more than a superficial resource of our psyches to help us cope with the situation. But I hope that, at least, the current crisis is convincing most of us not only of the need of solid public healthcare systems, but also of the imperative of overseeing the decisions our politicians make regarding this matter.

LET’S IMAGINE: WHAT IF WE WERE AFFECTED BY AN AGGRESSIVE EPIDEMIC DISEASE?

What I’m telling you next must have happened around ten years ago. Spain was suffering the huge consequences of the 2008 economic crisis and I needed to have several medical tests done.

I needed them. I did. But the public healthcare budget wasn’t enough to cover the needs of every citizen. And wasn’t enough, in a considerable amount of cases, to provide each patient with relevant information about their health status within a reasonable time lapse.

That’s why I took my savings and went to a private clinic.

There I was, waiting for my turn, when a woman approached me. She wanted my signature in support of a petition to the government. As she saw it, those of “us” who pay for a private health insurance should be asked for less taxes. It wasn’t fair, she explained, that “we” were forced to pay twice for medical services.

My refusal to support the cause wasn’t precisely well received. But I guess her dissatisfaction went away when the four or five other people in the room signed the document she carried on a clipboard.

Handwash

“I should have said it… I should have saidit for her and the others to hear….” My “I’m sorry, I don’t agree” didn’t feel enough. What had I changed with one less signature? The pportunity to make my fellow citizens reflect had been wasted. But, anyhow, I had an excuse: I wasn’t feeling very well…

Back in the day, I used to feel the urge to share my reasonings in circumstances where all that could be accomplished was energy loss. With time, I learned that some individuals in their usual contexts will never engage in argument-based discussion. They are too sure of their opinions to think about them.

Anyway, with physical and emotional energy at my disposal, I would have told this woman that you don’t pay your taxes so that you, the individual tax payer, can benefit from what’s done with your money. You pay your taxes so that anyone who needs certain kinds of assistance has access to them.

One of the guiding principles of welfare states is that everybody is entitled to important services in basic areas of life, independently of how much she has been able to contribute to the sustenance of such security system. This way, some will receive medical services of an economic value highly superior to that of the contribution they have been able to make, while others who have contributed a lot won’t require expensive attention. If you are lucky enough, you won’t need your taxes returned in the form of medical treatments.

An argument the woman had used to try to persuade me was that private insurance purchasers unburden the public system, but that can’t count as an appropriate reason from the perspective of universal welfare. The basic assumption of her standpoint was that your money is being wasted when used to help others.

Among the possible causes of this position, three of them strike me as especially, and non-exclusively, likely. One would be a neoliberal, empathy-limiting, ideology. Another one would be confusion regarding the point of social services, induced by the fact that ours was (and is) far from being an impeccable welfare state. When there’s a lack of coherence between the principles that guide different policies, it is inevitable that citizens end up confused. (But, ah, isn’t all this in the very nature of “welfare” states?). The third possibility would be that austerity measures were inducing citizens to start contracting private insurances in order to access better healthcare, perhaps at significant costs for their households’ budget.

Hopper

Obviously, I could relate with the third cause although, still, it was incorrect as a justification. The response to austericide measures couldn’t be to drop out of the social security system, making it even more feeble and, thus, increasing the vulnerability of less privileged citizens. (After all, and no matter the efforts, if she was able to pay the fees of a private insurance, she was in a much better position than those who, no matter the efforts, could never afford the expenditure).

This is the crude reality of economic crises. And this woman’s attitude was the crude reality of individualistic cultural programming, the final consequences of which would be the substitution of social security for an everyone-for-themselves kind of social order were most of us have literally everything to lose at every step.

What a shame, because I was in possession of the appropriate argument for a mind like hers, the ultimate argument, the ace up my sleeve that would have settled the discussion: If an aggressive epidemic disease appeared, if it were transmitted through the air, she would be glad for the existence of a solid public healthcare system controlling the expansion of the disease by treating the majority of citizens (citizens who only have that system to rely on).

From a strictly selfish point of view, such a system favoured her interests as anyone else’s, unless she was one of those wealthy guys buying comfortable, ultra-modern, high-security bunkers and underground flats.

Layouts

(In case you’re interested, you can find examples of this kind of facilities here, here and here. Now, that’s quarantining with class…).

But even if she was, her individualistic brain was sufficiently developed to understand that the excellent surgeon who would safe her from a severe condition in the future, or the biochemist who would find the cure for our hypothetical epidemic, could be dying or becoming impaired as we spoke owing to a lack of public resources.

At-your-service

A SPECTRE IS HAUNTING EUROPE

In the last weeks, many people have been killed in my country by a years-long absence of proper budgets and governmental planning. Public healthcare is not a trivial issue, and the very possibility of jeopardising it should cost political careers.

But this is not an isolated aspect of political management. On the contrary, it is connected with broader ideological frameworks and, most importantly, private interests. Defences of the strengthening of public healthcare conflict directly with the minimal state formula. That is, with the neoliberal ideal, common among right-wing, far-right and right-wing populist politicians, a bunch of which are situated in very prominent positions of power around the world.

The minimal state is one mainly focused on external security (army) and internal security from aggression and property theft (police). It is a state which refrains from intervention in the economy, leaving the conditions for social security (or lack of it) in the hands of uncontrolled markets and, therefore, imposing significantly reduced taxes. In their mottos, partisans of this model often use the words liberty, security, and, as a way to mobilise voters’ tribal instincts, nationhood (frequently understood in an ethnic sense, implying race, religion, traditions and mythical stories about glorious pasts, and excluding those deemed as different or as foreigners). In their speeches, they also allude to low taxes and a renewed greatness through economic competitiveness, setting aside equality of opportunity, common humanity, sustainability and solidarity.

Trump

Knowing as we know now that unfettered economy doesn’t distribute wealth, but tends instead to concentrate it in a few hands, I wonder how minimal state’s champions would suggest tackling a situation like the corona-crisis in their lubriciously dreamed of ideal country.

Would the state have money saved just in case a pandemic occurs? Highly unlikely. First, because its elites wouldn’t care much about the rest of humanity (common trait among neoliberal puppeteers). Second, because there are few things a neoliberal hates more than public money out of circulation (They can’t use it to grow richer!).

Would the state get into debts to provide the services citizens lack? In the event of an affirmative answer, would it get the funding needed? Or, to put it another way, would this state be trustworthy enough for private investors? But then again, even if it were, would money transfers arrive on time? We’re talking of emergencies here. Would the whole process happen in a short period that allowed preparing materials, infrastructures and professionals fast enough? The answer, as proved by the real responses of current states during the last month is clearly no.

Although, on second thought, it’s easy to imagine the interest on the side of puppeteers (investors themselves) in the survival of enough workforce to keep the economy going (Y’know, it’s very beneficial for them…). I can thus think of a minimal state developing some kind of emergency system (perhaps a mixture of the two foregoing possibilities) that lets citizens die but saves the number of lives necessary for the ones on top to continue on top.

Uncle-Sam

In any case, the aim would be to prioritise profit over human lives. And, yes, dear reader, this sounds familiar. Just look at how governments have resisted taking measures that would slow “the economy,” and how states and leaders closer to the neoliberal ideal (I have the Land of Liberty in mind) have reacted.

If I’m writing about the minimal state, it’s due to the presence of great forces pushing in its direction even in what used to be European “welfare” states.

CLAPPING IN THE AGE OF NEOLIBERALISM

My beloved Neoliberalism places our destinies in the hands of private interests. The interests of investors, of those who amass lots and lots of wealth. Incontrollable due to their private character, unpredictable to a certain extent, but probably willing to taking profit of the situation. Great fortunes became greater during the last economic crisis, and great fortunes will continue to grow during the post-COVID-19 economic crisis. Without the adequate help, many medium and small businesses will disappear and great corporations will be able to take their place while enforcing lower salaries and setbacks in workers’ rights.

Learning that Donald Trump considered transferring money to every USA citizen was, in the beginning, bewildering. But later I understood that, if he finally did it, we shouldn’t attribute the measure to a sudden ideological change. Trump wants to win the next elections and, for that, people need to feel they’re being protected. In fact, the minimal state hasn’t been completely implemented because voters wouldn’t tolerate such a radical neglect. But they, however, tend to respond favourably to the appeals to greatness, nation and liberty that neoliberals use to obscure their true purposes.

Anyway, $1,000 won’t counteract pre-existent inequalities, nor the effects of decades of unequal access to healthcare. The same goes for any ad hoc investment. Besides being a means to protect himself from electoral loss, I can’t help thinking that Trump might be trying to prevent with this decision a new collapse of his dear financial institutions as lots of consumers at the same time become unable to repay loans and mortgages. Remember: Keep the (unfair) economy going.

Knowing as we know that unfettered markets don’t distribute wealth, but tend to concentrate it in a few hands, I wonder if “we” who “know” includes my neighbours. I wonder who are “we” who “know”, and I end up with the idea that in this case the subject of knowing is a small group of people. I end up with the idea that my neighbours aren’t aware of the contradictions in, and implications of, their clapping. The daily ritual which, with the passing of one more week, went back to its origin as an exclusive tribute to the doctors and nurses in the public system.

Simpson

Isn’t it funny that, even though our lives are dramatically conditioned by politics and economy, formal education is so deficient in basic knowledge about institutions, political ideas, social processes and macroeconomic facts and models?

Image Credits

Super Nurse: FAKE (https://www.highonspraypaint.com/, IG: @iamfake)

Intervention of the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine on Mrs Worrell as Hebe, by Benjamin West

The 20 Second Wash: Mark Mastroianni (https://woodwardgallery.net/artists/mark-mastroianni/). Part of WashYourHands.art Exhibition at Woodward Gallery (https://woodwardgallery.net/exhibitions/current-exhibitions/washyourhands/, IG: @woodward_gallery)

Intervention by Genevieve Blais (https://www.genevieveblais.com, IG: @genevieveblaiseart) on Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks for her series Black Death (IG: @plaguehistory)

Images extracted from https://terravivos.com/

Viktor Hertz (www.behance.net/viktorhertz, IG: @viktorhertz). Part of his series “Fake” News: Honest Trump Magazine Covers

“Divided We Stand, United We Fall,” Mixed Media on Urban Furniture: TVBOY (https://www.tvboy.it/, IG: @tvboy), Barcelona (Spain)

Sweet Home…: Nello Petrucci (https://www.nellopetrucci.com/, IG: @nellopetrucci)