On Rent Payments Being Suspended and Prioritizing Those Most at Risk

Tea & Two Slices is a long-running local news round-up by NEEDS frontman and veteran dishwasher Sean Orr, who lives and works in Gastown, deeply aware of his privilege.

Welp. It’s official: B.C. declares public health emergency with 186 cases of COVID-19 and 7 deaths. Why did they downplay it for so long? We’ve known about the curve for weeks now. Why did we allow 15,000 people to attend a dental conference on March 12th?

How did we not learn from the stark differences between Singapore and Italy?

Not that I think these two things are mutually exclusive, but why was it easier for Kennedy Stewart to declare a climate emergency and not a public health emergency during a global pandemic?

We know that in South Korea a whopping number of that country’s widespread ‘positive’ tests were young and asymptomatic, but by March 13th only 6,326 of British Columbians had been tested. Now, and pardon my math here…(I think it checks out), if the fatality rate is 1% and we have 7 deaths, then our 186 cases is probably more like 700.

I get it: our brains think linearly so it’s hard for us to understand exponential growth.

Sure, sure. We need all the facts. We need people not to panic. Blah blah blah. But I just watched a chef fill up a dumpster with perfectly edible food. Where is the large scale infrastructure to mitigate this kind of loss and redirect it to agencies that could use it? (Mark Brand aside, of course.)

This is a stress test for our bare bones, austerity approach to governing and it has already failed. Whatever fiscal packages they come up with must prioritize those most at risk:

There’s nothing like a pandemic to highlight the pathologies of our current social and economic system. The nature of the coronavirus outbreak means that an injury to one is an injury to all — but some are more vulnerable to suffering the most serious wounds.

That’s why the current extraordinary and emergency measures being implemented by the provincial and federal governments must prioritize those most at risk. Applying the principles of justice, equality and solidarity will help us minimize the damage from this pandemic and move us in the direction of a healthier, fairer and more sustainable society.

Exactly. There are already places in this country that have had boil water advisories for decades, or where a jug of OJ costs $26.29. There are sex workers whose lives are in danger every day, not to mention all the gig and food service workers, musicians, film industry lifers and the other precariously employed: Urgent Action: Eviction Freeze, Rent Flexibility, EI for All, Loan Payment Freeze.

Nah, but it’s cool, they’re “looking at it”. Province looking at impact of COVID-19 on renters and landlords. Can you look at little fucking faster? April 1st is two weeks away.

Otherwise we’re gonna take matters into our own hands: Rent Strike 2020.

I mean, Quebec and France I understand, but imagine being the BCNDP and getting outflanked on this by Doug Ford and Mitt Romney: Romney proposes giving $1,000 to every American adult as coronavirus response measure. You might be a politically bankrupt centrist when…

So far we are at the mercy of our corporate overlords: Canada’s Six Biggest Banks Take Decisive Action to Help Customers Impacted by COVID-19. Okayyy, there’s no catch at all…right?

Because: Coronavirus Is the Perfect Disaster for Disaster Capitalism.

These are the perfect conditions for governments and the global elite to implement political agendas that would otherwise be met with great opposition if we weren’t all so disoriented. This chain of events isn’t unique to the crisis sparked by the coronavirus; it’s the blueprint politicians and governments have been following for decades known as the “shock doctrine,” a term coined by activist and author Naomi Klein in a 2007 book of the same name.

History is a chronicle of “shocks”—the shocks of wars, natural disasters, and economic crises—and their aftermath. This aftermath is characterized by “disaster capitalism,” calculated, free-market “solutions” to crises that exploit and exacerbate existing inequalities.

Or to put it another way:

It was Karl fucking Marx.

I wonder what he would say about this: B.C. couple buys entire meat section at Save-On-Foods, leaves nothing. He’d probably say something along the lines of: don’t feel contempt for these people, but rather rage at a system that produces this kind of alienation and to think about what you’re doing to build a system in which scarcity is no longer an issue.

Meanwhile: Charity says it can’t provide meals for needy children because of panic-buying. I mean, our reliance on charity to provide for the failures of our economic system was already bad before this…

Or how about the people renting unliveable run-down rooms as ‘Isolation like chambers’?

Why are we – in an ironic reversal of our teenage years – having to tell our parents to stay home? Not okay, boomer: Tensions mount between generations as some seniors resist social distancing. Oh wait, the ‘me generation’ is being selfish again? It’s almost like they have a consistent track record of ignoring science when the conclusions don’t suit them.

Why isn’t this a province-wide mandate? Vancouver Island grocery stores launch exclusive hours for seniors.

Why are people from Hong Kong getting the virus here: Two visitors to Whistler test positive for COVID-19 upon return to Hong Kong

But there are some silver linings: Kind Canadians start ‘caremongering’ trend. Yup, in Vancouver there is the Coming Together group.

For example: Here’s a google doc on how to apply for EI.

Also, maybe this will be a test run for when the Big One hits. Also, as bad as this is, just imagine what the past few days would have felt like if it had been raining. OK, maybe I’m grasping at straws. But I feel like we truly have a chance to bring systemic change which can last beyond the crisis and put an end to predatory capitalism. We can move beyond neoliberal austerity politics and rebuild our social safety net. Invest in public health care on a massive level. Extend health care to include dental. Enact vacancy control. End homelessness. We can do this. I love you all.

Bonus: In a deserted Venice the canals become crystal clear.

There are 2 comments

  1. So right on, Sean! Everything I read here is so astute. Turn down capitalism.
    Also my bank sent word three days ago all fees: major increase. Using our distraction to capitalize.

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