Updated: Apr 29, 2020
We all want freedom and peace – peace of mind and heart, in our relationships in our homes and workplaces, in our countries and on our planet. The earth’s abundant, natural beauty sustains and nourishes each of us every single day…in the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink…yet its abundance is extracted and exploited by those who believe they own the earth and can divide and fragment her people.
This is no time for those who look to every moment for dead profit, who have destroyed peace with endless political, economic and military wars…who pollute our air, water, food and bodies…who have created cultures of hate and fear and greed.
This is no time for those who trade in death-games and human destruction hiding as ‘collateral damage’.
This is no time for economies policed by soldiers, police, gangsters, guns, drones, tanks and warships. Bullets and nuclear power will not destroy the Coronavirus.
This is no time for the economic lie that budgets target ‘average citizen x’ and that historical wealth is the result of hard work and merit.
This is the time to see that those whose love, care, creativity and intelligence has kept us alive, from the womb to old age, are most often our mothers, our grandmothers, our daughters, our sisters, ourselves…that the economists ‘average citizen x’ is raced and classed and gendered.
It is time to shift what and whose work global budgets prioritize…including over a trillion US dollars from the world’s war economy.
It is time to create life economies that care for the earth and humanity, ensure safety and security for all, especially those excluded because of class, race, gender, geographic location or other excuses.
It is time to use sources of energy that do not destroy the planet and to ensure universal healthcare, decent employment with living wages and working conditions, a universal basic income grant, free quality public housing, education, food security and sovereignty. This is no time to waste on the media mirage that hides who is standing in plain sight of us all. The vast majority of community health care workers, nurses, doctors, cleaners, farmworkers, teachers, parents and activists who give most of their time and energy are women, many from working class and poor families. For this contribution, women do not ask to be put on pedestals or lauded as goddesses. Women are asking that men share the work of caring in homes, schools, clinics, hospitals, offices, farms, factories and communities. It is time to move beyond narrowly prescribed gendered roles into our full humanity, where we can all enjoy ‘labours of love’, instead of being consumed by life’s drudgery and hearing the brunt of its violence. The work of care takes courage and demands even more from those who have the least . It takes courage…for unrecognized health care workers living in communities with no water, to move from home to home in shanty towns across our world, with little or no protective gear…for cashiers in large food chains whose owners do not value workers enough to provide masks even after the World Health Organization showed that masks save lives…for over 40,000 South African domestic workers who cannot access UIF after being laid off by bosses, ‘because of the lockdown’.
It takes courage to travel in unsafe, packed public trains and taxis to care for others while your nurse’s salary is cut by austerity budgets. It takes courage to cook and feed your starving family and community, while you are not paid a living wage for planting and nurturing vegetable seeds or growing, picking and preparing ‘export-quality’ fruit and ‘world quality’ wine.
People across our world are expressing gratitude for and solidarity with the courage of those in the caring and cleaning professions, even when their work is not recognized or rewarded. The courage that is life-affirming, that nurtures and sustains life is the courage we need now…this is what we have always needed and will always need. It is not the courage of generals and brigadiers with fancy lapels and the latest hi-tech drone warfare.
This is the time for Presidents of countries and corporations to put their money where their mouths are.
When people’s governments take care of people’s health, the people will stand alongside elected representatives against archaic self-appointed, unaccountable ratings agencies. These agencies did nothing to the financial institutions and corporations, whose criminal greed created the last financial crisis. Yet, they downgrade economies of life and well-being.
Those who provide loans from wealth created by the people of our world, including the IMF and the World Bank, cannot slide in unjust structural economic changes by sleight of hand. It is time for wealth to be taxed and to shift country priorities to the health of the people away from obscene profits for a few. The people of the world are scrutinizing you, educating each other, organizing and mobilizing for water, housing, food, income, education, universal healthcare - for all our lives.
This time of illness and death is calling us to be insubordinate to an unjust system that created inequality and poverty - to free ourselves of all the injustices we have internalized that devalue ourselves, each other, the earth and all her creatures. In this time of death and dying we are evoking our courage to care for each other, knowing that someone we love will die. Yet tomorrow the sun will rise and infuse our hearts with its beauty…reminding us that love is the quality of our being and that this is the time of revolution.
(Written on SA’s Freedom Day and published on International Seed Day in the Daily Maverick) Pregs Govender writes this article in her capacity as a Patron of the NGO, Gun Free South Africa. She is the author of Love and Courage, A Story of Insubordination. During SA’s lockdown Pregs, a feminist, has co-facilitated consultations aimed at building consensus on progressive economic policy. A former MP, Pregs initiated SA’s gender budget in the 1994 Budget debate and steered its political impact on the 1998 national budget, while chairing parliament’s committee on women, which ensured 80% of its legislative priorities were enacted. Pregs resigned after being the only MP to oppose SA’s arms deal in the Defence Budget Vote. She served as Commissioner and Deputy Chair of the SAHRC and led a water and sanitation campaign that ensured the Presidency report on the status of these rights and committed to addressing them.