storm will pass. But the choice we make now
change our lives for years to come.
Noah Harari, “The World After Coronavirus,” Financial
this too will pass.
most of us stay at home during this Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic,
we should try a thought experiment. Imagine inhabitants on another
planet, eons from now, trolling through the historic records of
Earthlings. Scratching their head or heads or whatever, see these
others trying to imagine us, trying picture what it was like for a
whole species to be obsessed with producing and reproducing and
accumulating inanimate objects that, in turn, are meant to signify
wealth—the value, ultimately, of any given human being!
did these humans invest in irrational schemes, including those
establishing educational institutions, which passed down to future
generations the value of inflicting suffering and death?
Survival-of-the fitness or, rather, the survival-of-the-wealthiest!
Accolades and awards, doled out to the ascending winners.
did human invest in such an irrational sacrifice of human potential?
what’s left is a record of tragic proportion.
grew up loving books, not knowing that I lived in a country that
didn’t give a damn if I did, worse, a country that would
aggressively devise pogroms of poverty, unemployment, legalized
segregation, miseducation as policies devised by the heartless
ultimately for the demoralization of compassion. Born into a working
class family, I was expected to exchange the books for a lifestyle of
wheeling and dealing in poison-filled needles in some alleyway.
Profitable, in the long run, for a neoliberal agenda, which never
recognized the humanity of black Americans.
persisted with the reading of books.
years later, I recognized my younger self in students with the same
love of reading, of books—same love of critical thinking to
bring about social justice.
it around! An act of resistance breeding further resistance!
the outset, I have to say that these women had trouble before some of
us in the US ever heard of COVID-19. But the virus is exposing the
ugliness of a corporate mentality. Forced to surrender their
challenge to the powerful profiteers, these teachers, my friends, and
many like them throughout this country, must busying themselves in
the enterprise of turning a profit for the CEOs and the investors of
corporate-ruled educational institutions. In order to continue the
flow of wealth, the teachers must teach their courses on online-if if
they have never offered instruction of any kind online before. Figure
out how to keep the money coming into the campus!
course, if these underpaid teachers find it hard to cooperate with
this edict, they should keep in mind that they are not being held at
gun point! But, of course, no cooperation means no income. And maybe
no teaching position when this wave of the Coronavirus passes through
our good state of Florida! There was never any health insurance
anyway! Who needs health insurance—in this country! Why are so
many college and university faculty forced to receive part-time pay
for full-time work? Part-time faculty as well as graduate student
assistants working as part-time teachers keep up with the latest in
their field while teaching for a fraction of what tenured (the white
and male gatekeepers) receive—mind you, with health insurance.
human being should be in a situation in which they are hounded by
debt collectors while forced to remain at a job that practices cruel
and abusive measures in order to make it’s workers forfeit
their right to live in service of the betterment of humanity, not
many, the love of books, of learning, once nourished, is diminished
at the university. Under the circumstances, what teacher passes down
anything, except anger for the profession they worked so hard to
access for the benefit of transforming this winner-take all society
into one in which compassion reigns and justice not cash flows like a
might river. The idea of inspiring students is mocked by the
in-your-face demand to produce clients the who will take their
positions as clogs, replaceable and disposable, if the market
dictates their disappearance. And few in America have recognized the
distortion of language employed by promoters of capitalism to brand
identity and cultural studies as an invasion into American identity,
are students expected to function as students when all they have ever
been taught is to successfully crush and destroy like mechanical
devises, calculating and assessing the fastest growth of profits,
ultimately, for the 1%.
the lines of the emails I receive, I see my former students, now
friends, realize they’ve been had! They realize what many of us
did years ago, but, like the traumatized survivors of the Holocaust
or Jim Crow, we of the late 1960s and early 1970s failed to pass on
that most significant piece of knowledge. We taught under a
neoliberal order of silence that dished out severe punishment for
those who violated the edict to train clients rather than teach
be sure, something passes through, but I’ve had to watch from a
distance and wait because to speak of an alternative, of democratic
socialism would have been tantamount to arriving at the nearest
prison facility and requesting a cell on death row. Having been the
object of blacklisting, even when I sought employment outside of
academia, and listened as employers explained they were told not to
hire me, I know it was not possible to say, it’s properly going
to kill your spirit! This pursuit to teach fellow contemporaries in
the ways of being citizens. Creative citizens.
not, as one “mentor,” trying to warn me, suggested, a
matter of becoming a “tragedy.” Don’t become a
tragedy! If the fault is within me, then the warning not to become a
"tragedy" would make sense. If I had expected to become a
clog in the machine, but ended up tossed aside by the machine, then
my life could be summed up as representing a "tragedy."
Even while I mulled over this warning for years, I had no intentions
of becoming an echo chamber, passing down an edict to play it
safe—stop up your ears, cover your eyes, and develop callous
younger friends, these teachers of today, aren’t failures.
Their contemporaries, those in love with learning and with the idea
of teaching to transform the ugliness of this world into something
beautiful and intelligent, aren’t failed Americans.
the economic system is a failure! Incubating greed in our culture is
like the cultivation of a virus that does live or breed life, for it
can and does kill!
kills teachers and students alike. It kills any potential of living
in a world free of this plague and its mutant offspring.
the lines of those emails, my friends are learning something they
never expected to learn. Something I thought my students of twenty or
thirty years ago might not have to learn.
not as if pandemics haven’t been an event in human history.
They have. Most of us, however, come across reference to a plague or
pandemic briefly, if at all, and if it wasn’t mentioned in a
classroom as an historic event, then it’s as if it has never
this outbreak of COVID-19, we are, if we’re not sick or worried
about a sick relative or friend, reading books. And long form
articles too online. There’s been a plethora of articles on the
Black Death or the plague of 1918. Even better are the books and
articles referencing the “smallpox” epidemic that arrived
in the New World.
populated with Indigenous inhabitants, the land is invaded and its
stewards reduced to the sick and dying, many from smallpox and
subsequent diseases such as the “measles, typhoid, and
diphtheria,” writes Elizabeth Kolbert (The New Yorker). In the
end, it is estimated that disease brought over by Europeans “killed
tens of millions” of Indigenous people.
was an “event,” begun in 1518, as every bit as
devastating as any European plaque. Less discussed, however. Still
too sensitive to mention certain “events” from the past.
change should be treated as an “event,” in our present.
As an event, it infects, contaminates, sickens, and kills life daily.
Those activities so detrimental to humanity and that drives climate
change while manifesting lucrative profits for a few, activities such
as fracking and oil drilling violates the right of humanity to live
free of the greed of those few.
production is an event too under threat from the few who have
determined that not all human beings should consume a healthy
diet—unless they can pay for it! A healthy diet is for the few.
is an event that consumes our collective memories, erases our
collective history, generation after generation.
move forward or fall to the wayside. Someone else will take your
place if you fall! The sheer lack of concern about human life
shouldn’t be, as it is in the United States, the make up of our
social, political, economical, and cultural DNA!
the COVID-19 pandemic, we must think of how teachers and students can
meet together in that once imagined beloved community. We should
focus on what this pandemic is exposing: the inequality prevalent in
this nation because of an insane obsession with the production and
accumulation of the inanimate.
trying to maintain physical distancing and remaining at home, we
should return to reading to relearn how we could devise a cultural
mindset, first of all, that places value on serving humanity and
rejecting capitalism as the event that must come to an end—just
as this pandemic must end. An “educational” agenda
consisting of privatizing schools and disenfranchising teachers is
the same old same old that will seal the fate of more generations of
can imagine ourselves becoming engaged in thinking critically as
citizens, no longer tolerant of the attempt by a few to pay homage to
this long nightmare begun in the conquest of an Indigenous people and
in the enslavement of Africans. We imagine an end and an era of
democratic socialism beginning.
the other side of this pandemic…