France will reimburse mental health appointments; in Spain a law is being prepared pledging to establish and equip a care system that today offers little more than waiting lists and drugs in the midst of an epidemic causing more than 200 suicide attempts daily and in a context in which 2 million people are on daily anxiolytics. But no law is going to stop the grinder into which living and working conditions have turned. Only collective organization and struggle can achieve that.
In Britain, the shortage of drivers at the wages offered by companies is already affecting 30% of British petrol stations and the government is starting to mobilize military drivers. It is a striking case because of how it reveals the chaos created by this productive system, but it is far from being unique: the entire American and European press complains about an alleged labor shortage. But the British experience and the behavior of the unions throughout this speaks volumes and says a lot about workers, their ethos/morality and the alternatives we face.
After the pandemic confinements and the sharp rise in unemployment throughout 2020, the rebound in U.S. hires was accompanied for workers by inflation above wage hikes and reductions in working hours. Meanwhile, the corporate petty bourgeoisie was reluctant to move back to the office and less than 20% of the corporate bourgeoisie was considering a return to business as usual. Now they are dumping on us a “new” moral discourse on work: they tell us that the former discourse wasn’t so important after all, that the centrality of work was a reactionary illusion.
A statistical study conducted at Princeton University that uses the contents of 14 million books in English, German and Spanish as its source material has just been published. The study spotted verbal patterns typical of each language which indicated “cognitive distortions” associated with depression, anxiety and pathological pessimism. The researchers’ hypothesis is that this degeneration of written language reflects how “entire societies may become more or less depressed over time.” They are not misguided.”
Suddenly, a presumed psychological syndrome, pandemic fatigue, is all over the media. Public TV stations give advice on how to curb it, private ones tell us that 60% of the population is suffering from it. In the newspapers, opinion columns are coming one after another, with varying degrees of wit. The characteristic barrage of all media campaigns never stops, it goes on and on and reaches the fashion magazines and professional newsletters. It’s not innocent and far from helping, it aggravates the situation.
Had we been able to read today’s press only a year ago, we would not have believed it. Are the measures against a pandemic that has taken away tens of thousands of people weighed against the closure of bars and small stores… is this not outrageous? The fact that hoteliers are demonstrating by equating the death of their bars to people’ s deaths?
Even before organizing, educating, discussing or agitating, it is time for something more basic: do not be afraid to go head on against the inconsequential indignation, do not accept the unarticulated complaint or the rage that does not seek understanding; it is not enough to be against the existing conditions, it is not enough to express detachment or courage. All this is also true of suicidal trumpists. None of this stops the breakdown by itself.
In some of the messages we received from our readers from different parts of the world, this second wave seems to be setting a turning point. In places where struggles seem to have receded after the first wave or failed to develop and gain momentum tamed by union control, the spectre of demoralization looms large.
Individualism kills and yet few know how to confront it. Pounded through practically all works of fiction, education and the official historical narrative, the individualistic conception of society and human experience, with different modulations, seems to have always been there. It seems to be… “natural”.
The “Morale of Victory” narrative is not just a discourse on the overall level of morale or stamina. It is a discourse on morality. It is the state separating the good guys -who resist and sacrifice themselves- from the bad guys, a bunch of selfish and defeatist cynics.
Under the grammar of the fear of unemployment and poverty what they call economy -the accumulation of capital- has been revealed as an arithmetic of slaughter. But everything that is presented to us as “superhuman forces”, unbeatable, inexorable… is not.
The antagonism of interests between capital and workers, between accumulation and life, is also a moral antagonism.