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A Class on COVID-19


On March 3 I led an RC class on the novel coronavirus and COVID-19. [Editor’s note: This was before the virus was established in Texas (USA). A class wouldn’t meet now that the virus is established there.]


We were eleven people—ten white people, one Person of the Global Majority, nine women, and two men. Most of us were elders or close to being elders. All of us were part of an ongoing class.


The COVID-19 discussion has been dominating the airwaves. People have been flooded with information, some helpful and some not. They are worried, confused, and concerned about what is happening. They find it difficult to get good, dependable information about the impact and transmission of the virus. People’s restimulations can push them to withdraw and “go it alone” [do things by themselves]. Many feel overwhelmed by terror. 


We know that any feelings of panic and helplessness come from early hurts and that discharging can help us think more clearly and make rational decisions about how to proceed. I thought a class would be helpful. 


We started by sharing “news and goods” and noticing that we are good and that we are connected with one another. I said a bit about why I wanted to do a class on this subject. Then each class member took a minute to describe what they had heard or knew about the virus and anything that concerned or worried them.


THE VIRUS 


The disease the novel coronavirus causes is named COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 19). This is a shortening of the first three words plus the last two digits of the year in which it was discovered. The name was chosen deliberately to avoid targeting of a particular group of people or location. (Calling the 1918 flu “Spanish flu” for the location of its early identification resulted in lots of discrimination against Spanish people.) For example, naming COVID-19 the “Wuhan flu,” after the location in which it was first identified, would have invited more criticism of the people from that city and Chinese people in general. 


There are many sources of accurate, current information. Suggested actions for preventing and transmitting the virus (hand washing, and so on) are available. It was heartening to notice that there are places where we can get information that will be helpful in prevention and treatment. Here are links to the websites for the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): 


<www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public>

<www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/home/index.html>

EARLY HURTS AND CHRONIC PATTERNS

I reminded the class about the early source of feelings of confusion, panic, helplessness, and so on. I invited them to look at the early roots of their restimulations about the situation. What had been our parents’ and other adults’ reactions to illness, contagion, danger, death, and so on? What had happened to people who became ill? Had your family, identity group, or community tackled a difficult situation in your community? What had you been told or not told about what was happening? 


After mini-sessions, each person had a minute to notice the early hurts and chronic distress recordings that affected their reactions to the current situation. This helped prepare class members to support and counsel each other.


IDENTIFYING AS USers


We all identified as USers and necessarily had a U.S. perspective: 


  • We noticed how the United States has often regarded itself as exceptional (notably during the current administration but traditionally as well). USers can feel like we shouldn’t have to deal with things if we don’t want to. The United States has typically set itself apart, sometimes attributing its lack of involvement in difficult matters to geographical isolation. (The United States tried to keep out of World War II—what was happening “only affected people on the other side of the ocean.”) Our country has often claimed special status because we have a lot of resources. We may have assumed that we are safe because we are USers.
  • Our dominant culture is white, Protestant middle class, and we have often looked down on [devalued] people who don’t fit that description and blamed them for what has happened to them, as if things would be different if they had adopted dominant U.S. values. A veneer of righteousness has justified and hidden our colonialism and imperialism.

PEOPLE OF THE GLOBAL MAJORITY

  • People of the Global Majority are (and have been) disproportionately affected by systemic problems, including by climate change. They have often been blamed for their situations. People of Asian heritage were immediately targeted for the rise of COVID-19. The news media reinforced the assumption that the virus was a “Chinese problem” and if the Chinese had used their resources in a different way, they could have prevented its rise and spread. There is an expectation that Asian people should take care of the problem because “they created it.”
  • Because the virus has animal-to-human transmission and seems to have developed in places where people live in closer proximity to animals than is general in the United States, people with that lifestyle have been blamed and criticized.
  • The media seems to have reported white people’s illnesses most often, suggesting that white people are more important than People of the Global Majority. Health care for People of the Global Majority (in the United States and elsewhere) is often unavailable and inferior to health care for white people. COVID-19 is seriously impacting People of the Global Majority because they often lack access to needed resources.

ADDITIONAL IMPACTS

We know that capitalism is collapsing, but we didn’t know it would look like this! 


  • The U.S. stock market has reacted negatively to the COVID-19 spread. Companies have failed. Businesses and schools have closed, with far-reaching impacts on people who live paycheck to paycheck. People whose jobs are affected are often not paid and cannot care for their families.
  • When schools close, parents have to care for their children instead of going to work. Children who rely on getting meals at school do not get fed there. People sometimes can’t find the items they need to care for themselves and their families.
  • Health care and service workers have been expected to keep serving in spite of their potential exposure to the virus. In spite of being the richest country in the world, the United States has a poorly functioning health care system; millions of people have little and no access to health care. Some people may be reluctant to be tested for the virus, which means that detection and treatment will be difficult.
  • Mass gatherings have been canceled, impacting local governments, businesses, and individuals.
  • Without discharge and a perspective that treasures connection, support, and cooperation, many people struggle to make realistic decisions and take action. Many assume there will be a shortage of resources and are restimulated into hording supplies as well as blaming others, lashing out, becoming isolated, or giving up.

DISCHARGE, DECISION, APPRECIATION

We had long mini-sessions on how people and the environment are being affected by the virus and where we could take action and move things forward. 


Each person took a minute to reflect on their “take away” from the class. People felt much more hopeful, had clearer thinking, and were more connected to each other than they had been at the beginning of class. 


We had noticed that we all were carrying vestiges of the many oppressions—racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, anti-Jewish oppression, and so on—but that together we could deal with the challenge of COVID-19. 


We speculated on the good that might result as we all pull together to handle the challenge. Perhaps there can be a reduction in the acquisitiveness that is so encouraged by capitalism. Perhaps we can care more for each other. Maybe things can slow down; maybe we can interrupt the inhuman pace that is a part of capitalism. Who knows what good could result?


Kathleen Hamilton


Austin, Texas, USA


Reprinted from the RC e-mail 
discussion list for USA political issues


(Present Time 199, April 2020)


Last modified: 2020-07-17 20:50:52+00