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Est. April 5, 2002
Apr 16, 2020 - Issue 814
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The Tragic Pandemic of Greed

"Why 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."

This storm will pass. But the choice we make now

could change our lives for years to come.

Yuval Noah Harari, “The World After Coronavirus,” Financial Times

Yes, this too will pass.

While 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!

Why 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.

Why did human invest in such an irrational sacrifice of human potential?

Now, what’s left is a record of tragic proportion.

I 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.

I persisted with the reading of books.

So 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.

Pass it around! An act of resistance breeding further resistance!

At 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!

Of 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.

No 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 it’s downfall.

For 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, American studies.

Communism! Socialism!

How 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%.

Between 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 students.

To 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.

It’s 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 hearts!

My 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.

However, 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!

It kills teachers and students alike. It kills any potential of living in a world free of this plague and its mutant offspring.

Between 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.


It’s 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 happened.

During 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.

Heavily 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.

It 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.

Climate 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.

Food 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.

There is an event that consumes our collective memories, erases our collective history, generation after generation.

Just 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!

During 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.

While 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 Americans.

We 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.

On the other side of this pandemic… Editorial Board member and Columnist, Lenore Jean Daniels, PhD, has a Doctorate in Modern American Literature/Cultural Theory. Contact Dr. Daniels and BC.
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David A. Love, JD
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