The entirety of the US project is deeply rooted in biopower. The genocide of the indigenous nations, the breeding of enslaved Africans. The creation of something called “the white race”: a twisted amalgamation made up of dozens of nationalities, the borders fluid, surnames whitewashed, languages forgotten, cultures and histories and identities melted down and forged into a whole new subsection of humanity to protect and serve the white supremacist, settler project of US capitalism.
When I was in Venezuela in 2018, I remember the people there being very concerned with the state of US education. They were especially fascinated by the wildcat teachers strike taking place in Appalachia. It was shamefully not something I’d stopped to deeply consider before. In an age of uprisings focused on the real US history, the curriculum is no doubt key, but the approach equally so. The Venezuelans seemed convinced that the state of education was key to what was wrong with the United States. Now I understand.
I am concerned. I am concerned about the teachers in this country who have long understood that they would not get veterans benefits if a human tragedy came to their classroom and killed their students and themselves with military grade weapons. They are forced to work for less than they are worth. They comfort their students over the phone or teleconference when their parents die from coronavirus and nobody has come to collect the bodies yet. And now, like some great offering to Moloch they are told to go back to school and teach students in the middle of a pandemic, with no real testing, no real support, and no public health strategy. They were told to accept mass shooter bullets into their bodies; now they are told to take them home and spread them to the bodies of their own families, their communities.
This human sacrifice, including child sacrifice, is necessary. The piles of dead grandmothers, aunts, mentors and elders are no longer sufficient. Because now everyone is being kicked off their supplemental unemployment income, and they will need to go back to work, lest they be evicted or starve. The wage relation at its most honest. They need to send their children to school because no one can take care of them while they are working. These teachers have advanced degrees and have chosen to be educators despite the risk and despite the pay, but now find themselves affirmed by those in power as glorified babysitters.
I laugh when people use the 🐑 emoji to describe someone who is anxious about the coronavirus. The fact that they use the term “muzzle” to describe masks is revealing. But these are not fierce wolves and eagles or whatever they think themselves. They are pink pigs who have never seen the light of day and find themselves shoulder to shoulder on their way to slaughter. Their children ripped away from them at birth. The meta is unknown; they only understand the dynamics of slaughterhouse. Their only drive is to fatten up before they find their purpose. You don’t send a factory farmed pig to school; it’s a waste of money. If the pig is meant for one purpose – to go into massive amounts of debt buying up third world labor as a kind of elaborate money-laundering scheme for the rich – then you just give them the means to do that and nothing more, because civics classes just aren’t profitable. If there are too many of them all of the sudden, as there were at the beginning of the outbreak, or if they cause any kind of trouble, just cull them. Take the loss, find the bright side (read: a way to make lemonade from lemons), and move on. Capital fully intends to do just that.
It would not be enough to assert that the United States has the capacity to stop this. For a country that allegedly landed on the moon to be unable to control a deadly virus while caring for its population boggles the mind. It is a government that passed a bill that gifts $740.5 billion to the war machine next year, passed in a month where at least 25,000 people in the US died from coronavirus — that’s about two 9/11’s per week.
What boggles the mind is that a good number of people in the US have been trained to not seriously take issue with all this, to even doubt the very reality of what is happening. The freedom of religion also seems to enshrine the freedom to disregard material reality. Click out. Block them. Shelter in place with your algorithm-chosen pool of folks on social media. Feedback loop. Fake news. No wonder the Venezuelans were so worried about the state of US education.
The suburbs laughed off the coronavirus because they figured the density of humanity in major cities like New York was what damned us. The virus could not penetrate the carefully crafted bubbles of their racially segregated realities any more than Trayvon Martin could. It would be stopped in its tracks by a population that insists it can believe what it wants, shoot down and lynch and settle and not be held accountable. Ironically, the lack of density meant that their ears are not filled with the endless wail of sirens for weeks on end. They growled when they heard others were getting $600 a week for not working, even though Donald Trump said it was China’s fault. A pig mad at another pig for being six spots ahead in the queue on the way to the trucks.
The pigs-to-slaughter say that the masks are tests. The government, they argue with me as we trot up the ramp together, is trying to see what they can get away with. The wreckage of capitalism piles up and yet (perhaps it’s some trauma response) these beady, sad piggy eyes cannot see it. They are locked to screens, wallowing in atomization and Netflix binge sessions. The machine learns what I want so I don’t need to want anything for myself anymore. I don’t want to live in a world where I’m the dupe, where we’re lacking, where our future doesn’t exist, where my mommy dies alone with a plastic tube down her throat. I’d rather talk about cancel culture, 6ix9ine, Ghislane Maxwell, JFK Jr, looters, whatever. If my eyes glance towards the actual exit, towards unemployment councils, solidarity, direct action, towards building revolution, then I am gently and effortlessly guided from that by another stupid conspiracy, one that my brain has already been hardwired by 21st century biopower to accept. Seems easier.
America is the biggest grift ever concocted. Lie, cheat, enslave and steal your way to success. And yet, Trump eats his steak well done. Zimmerman lives on the run. The top of the food chain exists in a perpetual state of fear and paranoia, without the ability to enjoy sex or really love someone. No one knows inner peace on their way to the slaughterhouse, and anyone who tries to sell you that is just trying to forget that they’re on their way themselves. Florida claims 487,000 active cases of Covid-19 and stares down the first storm of what is said to be a particularly active hurricane season. The rich will run for a while — to the Hamptons, to the mountains, to Wyoming. But they cannot run forever.
Some could say the deux ex machina of 2020 was the virus, but I think the mass, enthusiastic acceptance and embrace of death as an imperialist culture that has always been about ignoring death is what really caught me off guard. The collective shrugging of shoulders about how absolutely fucked everything is. This is not to erase the millions who went to the streets to object. Some of us will always object. The question is what systems were produced and reproduces to make us the minority? What conscious decisions were made fifty years ago to turn us into what we are now? What is keeping us from liberation?
As a child, I went to Disney World with a professor who pointed out how nothing here was supposed to remind me of death. Workers would pop out of secret tunnels to pull wilted flowers off bushes. The Haunted Mansion was lovable, only a little scary. The ill and wounded were carried off property to die. It makes sense, in one regard, that if so many Americans could ignore or justify millions dead in Iraq, they could ignore and justify them in their own communities as well. I suspect that the fury and anger as people bash workers that ask them to please, just wear a mask stems from being told that they can no longer ignore it. It’s got the same mouthfeel as the rancor thrown at protesters, except now the death and destruction is accompanied by an economic collapse of unprecedented magnitude.
Capitalism grinds to a halt and the slaughterhouse is burning down. The rich retreat into their spaceship communities and surround themselves with (at least) millions of crackers ready to take up arms and blow their own brains out if necessary to protect their power, because it is in the fervent belief of Kim Kardashian, Elon Musk, and Donald Trump that these unfortunates find their identity. Better dead than a loser.
Please, just wear a mask and keep your eyes on the exit.