By Ramin Mazaheri for the Saker Blog
In just 24 hours the UK saw nearly a half-million people volunteer to deliver food and medicine to the nation’s 1.5 million elderly and vulnerable people. Nearly 750,000 signed up, so many that they had to turn people away.
In the US the situation is the opposite: there are no shortage of stories such as NPR’s, Coronavirus Drives Away Volunteers Just As They’re Needed Most. But it’s not just the local holy-rolling church and the local food bank – the professional charity services have seemingly turned tail and ran away even though soldiering through a crisis is their job. In an “only in America” type of headline – The Peace Corps isn’t just bringing home 7,300 volunteers because of the coronavirus. It’s firing them.
With 17 million made jobless in 15 days, but with no government aid system to help them permitted to exist under US neoliberalism, food banks are not only increasingly short on food but short on people to hand out what little food they have left. Their malnutrition situation is so very dangerous that The New York Times reported that, “Uniformed (national) guardsmen help ‘take the edge off’ at increasingly tense distributions of (food) boxes,” and without even commenting on what an abnormal “edge” that is to have.
Doesn’t that all seem very American?
But in the UK national solidarity is now off the charts, and it’s not of the fundamentally conservative, nonsensical “Keep calm and carry on” variety from 2008: commentators say that the volunteer wave is healing the divide caused by Brexit, as well as erasing generation gaps because WWII-era Brits are seeing what their youth can and will do in a crisis.
How can we explain this disparity?
I think I should relate that to an Iranian this disparity is especially perplexing.
After all, “Marg bar (down with) England” is always right up there with, “Marg bar the United States”. Those two comprise 40% of the reliably unholy pentagon of your standard “Marg bar …!” chant, along with Israel, the MKO/MEK hypocrites, and those who oppose the guardianship of the Islamic jurist principle.
But look at all those volunteers – has England changed drastically and grown a conscience? Has Iran got it wrong? Are we supposed to stop marg bar-ing them now?
What?! Have you lost your head during this corona crisis?! If anything, we should be adding marg bars, not reducing marg bars! For example: why not “Marg bar Wales”? Don’t you think they feel left out often enough? And why are we leaving Scotland off the hook?
So the very notion of not marg bar-ing England practically makes me want to add a, “Marg bar you!”
But I get carried away easily, so I think it’s time for a marg bar on jokes in this article.
The reason for the difference is quite simple, but very sad
Are all of America’s healthy men and women aged 20-40, who have a statistically infinitesimal chance of dying from coronavirus, too busy to volunteer? Of course not – they’re mostly on lockdown now.
Are they too self-centred to volunteer? Is this more out-of-control Western individualism? Are they too lazy? Have they been scared into submission by an atrocious and irresponsible national media?
I honestly don’t think it’s anything like that: I think it’s that Americans are scared of the health care costs they might incur if they got sick while volunteering. Contrarily, able-bodied, young, patriotic Britishers have the National Health Service.
It’s really that simple: young Americans want to help their elder class, but they can’t go (even deeper) into debt to do so.
And that is really a sad, sad commentary on “Capitalism with American characteristics”, isn’t it?
I’m sure we can all immediately perceive how so very many negative, anti-social, self-defeating, wasteful and truly lamentable cycles of all sorts are kept in constant motion by the atrocious neoliberal principles which have been foisted on the US populace since 1980.
(Similarly, the US food bank charity is a recent development that exploded beginning in the Reagan era.)
Think of all the helplessness, hopelessness, anomie, anger, bitterness and (that old American standby) rage which could have been alleviated in America by both the act of volunteering and the benefits volunteering would bring, but which cannot even be attempted due to the incredibly difficulty of mere self-preservation in the US?
In their article To Fight Coronavirus, U.K. Asked for Some Volunteers. It Got an Army The New York Times does not mention this obvious explanation for the difference between these two across-the-Atlantic brothers. They either cannot put two and two together, or they refuse to broach the simple fact that the UK can marshal such a force because their youth class has no reason to fear indebtedness due to volunteering.
This disparity – and the explanation is hardly complex, although the ramifications are embarrassing for the US to honestly discuss – is precisely the kind of issue which fake-leftist media similar to The New York Times are steadfastly not discussing in favor of obsessive Trump-bashing and corona “deathboard-watching”.
Because fake-leftists in the US are so prone to turning their rage into false righteousness – this is not a problem caused by Trump: Obama made huge cuts to food stamps for a million households in 2014, which increased the number of people forced to rely on food bank charity, and his health care reform was a pathetic capitulation to the health care corporations and their medical lobbyists. The problem is not Republicans – Democrats are just as rabidly anti-socialist and pro-neoliberalism.
But in a pandemic any nation is necessarily going to live and die on the strength of its existing health care system. The US has to go on lockdown (they say) because their terrible health care system cannot bear even a moderate strain; the same rationale also silently explains why the average American cannot dare to attempt to humanely alleviate the ramifications of such a drastic, anti-lower-class measure.
I’m sure that many American readers are no doubt feeling quite mixed feelings about how such a simple thing – a promise of merely decent health care – could have made such a huge cultural difference during this time of huge cultural upheaval. America has just as many cultural divides to heal as Britain… but they are forced to remain alone, helpless, scared, hungry, untreated and debt-fearful.
One often has to laugh to keep from crying, so permit me one last marg bar – for those who are obsessively making every waking moment and every tiny thing about one subject and one subject only: marg bar
religious corona fundamentalism.
The corona fundamentalists in the US could instead spare some time to wonder why it’s too expensive to volunteer for charity work.
Corona contrarianism? How about some corona common sense? Here is my list of articles published regarding the corona crisis, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!
A day’s diary from a US CEO during the Corona crisis (satire) March 23, 2020
If Germany rejects Corona bonds they must quit the Eurozone – March 30, 2020
Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.