Spread across our globalised world, we’ve already seen the death of Manu Dibango, Cameroonian trialblazer in what was the World Music explosion of the late 80s/ early 90’s. For me, he’s likely, sadly, to be the first of many musicians to fall to the virus’ rush through humanity, either now, or on it’s widely predicted second coming later in the year. Yes, of course we’ll mourn the loss of the lives, talent, and art. But we all need to look outside these losses, tragic though they are, and see a wider picture of despair, poverty and starvation, and likely deaths cascading through lives dependent on West, (Northern) nations supply chains, and suffering awfully from protection, slowdowns, and sudden poverty.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s the “low” skilled, “low” cost, “low” value businesses that are at the sharp end of the coming recession. One area I know many of us are all too happy to benefit from, cheap fashion. Clothing from Morocco, Jordan, Bangladesh, Vietnam, Indonesia, cheap, and disposable as a used crisp packet here, are the source of income, food and education in those nations, but that dependency is coming home to roost with a bitter vengeance.
Clothing retailers in the Europe and North America, many carping about racked stock being out of fashion, are cancelling orders, looking for reductions, moving production, with deleterious effect on millions of families members, and hundreds of communities. It’s partly, our, Northern Hemisphere’s demand for up to the minute cheap clothing, probably air freighted in, worn a few times and binned, that’s created this world. There have been benefits for the nations and especially well paid jobs, that underpin family incomes, (wives in the clothing, shoe factories, husbands building the leisure and sporting monuments in the searing, brutal heat of the Gulf Construction boom). That world is ending almost as rapidly, but far more brutally and disastrously for family’s than here in the welfared UK, and Europe in general.
These Nations, outsourced, out of sight, outside enforced labour and welfare standards, at the sharp end of the Northern Lockdown, are starting to suffer the consequences. No ‘furloughing’ for them, no state sponsored minimum wage, just a rise in poverty, hunger and starvation. Even those fortunate enough to have their job retained, will face little help from employer sponsored health schemes, face the virus with little protection or safety net. State medicine will be overwhelmed, and death may rise on a scale we’re unable to imagine beyond horror for peoples and nations.
Gordon Brown former UK premier, credited by many respectable commentators as one principle architect of the 2008 recession recovery plan, has commented on the need for a similarly global response, noting a virus knows no boundaries. In 2008 the world was fragmented, but mutual self-interest drove a fragile unity and common purpose. Today with ‘America First’, the grudging, curmudgeonly Northern European response to it’s poor, virus stricken, southern brothers and sisters in Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal, does not bode well for the future.
We are seeing travel restrictions between nations, talk of immunity certificates, and travel bans, a disaster for the world’s poorer, would be tourist hotspot, nations. So they are copping it both ways, no work, no visitors, with hope draining like water into sand. For these people ‘lockdown’ is a wholly alien concept, the struggle for food is more than moans about the wrong sort of pasta, or no fresh fish, it’s. . . . do they eat today, or tomorrow. In South Americ,a reports of health services being overwhelmed are growing, as are reports of hunger and desperation. BBC World has reported dead bodies being left on the streets in Ecuador.
Lets not forget we in the North, constructed, funded, and benefited from this globalised world, cheap clothes, cheap out of season food, cheap consumer goods. They used to say “The USA catches sneezes and the rest of the world catches a cold”, well looks like the “Northern half, of the Northern Hemisphere coughs, and the emerging world expires...”
International cooperation there is, vaccine research has perhaps never been more cooperative. Let’s hope that both the vaccine and anti-virus tests are available to all, including those in Africa, and the emerging nations. My fear, a battening down hatches, and locking out of overseas faces from our world, and that’s a disaster for people today and in the future. Will we in the rich north share this, fund the vaccine, move some basic equipment to our “supply chain”?, that’s for each of us to conclude. But this is worldwide… Historic accounts across Europe suggest local villages isolating, was no defence against bubonic plague. So we really are in this together.
On a lighter note, if that’s the right word, news web sites around the world are reporting the return of nature and the wild to our streets... The Goats of Llandudno, or Puma’s, stalking Santiago de Chile’s Barrio’s empty, silent, stilled streets. You go goats.