“It’s not Covid-19 that is killing people, it’s under privilege, it’s lack of access, it’s years of living with health conditions that haven’t been properly managed because of the color of your skin, or your ethnicity, or your social group.”--Dr. Mike Ryan.
As I write, the net is beginning to swirl with wishes for a Covid-less and financially viable New Year. But by the implied logic of Dr. Mike Ryan’s statement, the fulfillment of these wishes for marginalized social groups will depend on concrete moves to give them systemic access to housing, jobs, education and health care.
Covid-19 has exposed the truth that systemic inequality lies at the root of the poverty, hunger and disease of under-privileged social groups. Thus, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus concludes, “We cannot and we must not go back to the same exploitative patterns of production and consumption, the same disregard for the planet that sustains all life... the same divisive politics that fueled this pandemic.”
Covid-19 does not discriminate and in fact infects across social groups. But top social groups have a much higher chance of surviving the disease because they have financial access to better health care in state-of-the-art-equipped private hospitals. They could now be accessing the best vaccine in the market while the under-privileged are left with no choice but to wait for whatever vaccine the government can give them.
Because of exclusive privilege and access under “exploitative patterns of production and consumption” and “divisive politics” the wealthy will definitely get their wishes of a healthier and less financially challenging year. For lack of a similar access, the poor’s chances of a healthier and less financially troubled year will be slim or at best dicey, and will remain so until current exploitative and divisive economic and political systems are replaced with something more equitable and unifying.
Religious oligarchs, for their part, will exhort under-privileged social groups not to lose hope but remain steadfast in their faith that God will provide for their needs. But they utter these platitudes from the comfort of well-appointed residences wherein they fail (refuse?) to realize that unless the existing socio-economic bus is rerouted towards equitable access to housing, jobs, healthcare and education, the poor can only hope in vain.
Filipinos can wish and pray all they want. But as long as the ruling oligarchy keeps the country on its present divisive political and exclusive economic course, no prosperous New Year will fall from the sky for those living in the frayed edges of society. Those of us who can must strive to flesh out God’s answer to their wish for a Happy New Year.