I am troubled by alternative names to the COVID-19 pandemic, names that are racist and xenophobic in origin. I am also increasingly uncomfortable with calling it the invisible enemy upon whom we must wage “war”.
Professor and author Jared Diamond rightly says the United States, along with much of the modern world, was conquered and colonized by three things – guns, germs, and steel.
Let’s remember it was the superior weapons (“gun”) of conquerors that gave “New World” explorers lethal superiority, resulting in the unrepentant genocide of countless indigenous communities.
Make America “Germy” Again?
This is not the first pandemic to reach American soil. Diseases brought by colonizers and conquerors weakened and reduced indigenous populations. The original inhabitants of this land had no immunity, no social distancing strategy, no Wal-Marts to stock up on soap, dry goods, and toilet paper.
Imperialism depends upon the free flow of goods, resources, and when desired labor – even forced labor. The more durable the means of transportation (“steel”), the empire spreads like a virus.
What are some experiments in truth that can show us what a post-colonial, post-capitalist, post-coronavirus society can look like?
We can’t wage war against nature. We can’t erase history, but we can learn from it. What is required today is powerful humility, not political hubris. Otherwise, COVID-19 and capitalism will continue to kill the most vulnerable among us.
Who are our prophets? What are some experiments in truth that can show us what a post-colonial, post-capitalist, post-coronavirus society can look like? I contend the answer is where it is has always been found – not in the halls of power nor in a political party, but amongst the least of these.
For more on Gun, Germs, and Steel, read Diamond’s book or watch the documentary below.