Bread, Education, Liberty and Health!
Yesterday was one more anniversary, the 48th, of the November 17th, 1973 Athens Polytechnic students' uprising against the military Junta of 1967-1974. The key demands of the students back then were the triptych "Bread, Education, Liberty". 47 years later Athenians again, rightly or wrongly, defied an official ban, this time imposed for pandemic-related reasons according to the authorities, to hold the traditional commemoration, essentially a march from the old, downtown, building of the Athens Polytechnic, to the US Embassy. A big and unanswered question of History, related to that historic event as well as the current situation, is whether we (as in we, humans) can have free and quality Health, Education, Housing and Work for all but without a state that deprives us, soviet-style, of our Freedom. And vice versa, how is our Freedom defined when we do not currently have free access to the above key necessities. Because Freedom does not really involve holding one or two jobs and still not be able to cover rent (not to mention your extra needs if you get sick) and to be able to vote every 4 years for politicians who no longer even promise you anything - they will not commit because you are to "blame" you are not "competitive" or "responsible" enough and other neoliberal nonsense (the only good thing about Covid is that it can finally bury Neoliberalism with a heavy gravestone on top). But can we share everything fairly with others - and with other peoples in fact - to work only as much as necessary, for the common good, without special reward, without police, armies, etc. or do we always need a stick and a carrot, sanctions and incentives? What if we were able to change completely as individuals and learned to live ecologically in the deepest sense, to enjoy life, to live fully but always simply and effectively? If the machines did most of the work and we were mainly philosophising? Even without mishaps, it would take a long time, a time we do not know if we have. Does the current system prevent us from trying something similar on an individual level? Yes and no. Yes, if we do not have money, not if we do. But how many will give up their excess money, sharing it with others in times of uncertainty, when the middle class is rapidly disappearing? The unpaid taxes in Greece are already Euros 20 billion, while the private banks, bailed-out with public money, are taking peoples' homes. Is the "universal basic income", a solution often heard lately, a cunning bypass? Perhaps, but for the benefit of which side? Imagine, if at the time of slavery it was decided to pay slaves $5 a month, slaves' livelihoods would have improved somewhat, but that could also mean that instead of rebelling, they would have remained slaves. On the contrary, if we all were to receive a serious rather than "basic" or "minimum" amount, eg 2,000 Euros a month without conditions, without changing anything else in the system (especially to our detriment, for example, with new health and education charges against the new income) how high would inflation increase even for basic goods? Would not the value of the Euro also depreciate against other currencies? So we need planet-wide agreements, something which seems extremely difficult in conditions of a new Cold War and growing regional conflicts. But something must be done because in 3-4 years, when we get rid of Covid, we risk being trapped in a perpetual 1930-1950 style cycle of economic crisis, violence and wars with the addition of climate collapse. The necessarily quiet period of the Lockdown is suitable for rethinking, to dare to think again, not just what a better Tourism but what a really better future for all would look like. We should not trust any messiah, demagogue, narcissist, offspring, dictator of the proletariat or of the market to deliver this future to us, We can only do it alone but all together!