As has been analyzed in blog after blog and media opinion piece after media opinion piece, the global pandemic in which we find ourselves has, along with many hardships and horrifying numbers of deaths, shone a badly needed light on many social justice issues that have been festering in all our countries for a very long time. Most were already known and just not dealt with; a few were a bit of a surprise to many. All these issues, now exposed for all to see, need to be addressed as countries slowly but surely emerge from lockdowns and set their individual courses for the future. We have an unprecedented opportunity to move from the status quo and plan for societies that work for all citizens – and for our planet. These opportunities don’t come along often in history. It’s an opportunity that the population must fight for. We shouldn’t let excuses or the easy way out get in the way. The status quo cannot stand.
I decided that I can’t keep ranting about these issues in every post or I’ll wear out my readers, so instead I’m going to try writing one post a week on one of the many lessons we’ve learned and what changes might make a difference going forward.
In coming up with a name for my new series, of course I had to choose something that started with “S” to go with Saturday! I thought of “Society improvement” Saturday and a few other possibilities and then settled on Social Justice Saturday. It fits the bill for most of the topics I have in mind.
For the record, according to Wikipedia and other sources, social justice is a concept of fair and just relations between the individual and society. It’s measured by opportunities for personal activity and social privileges, and by how wealth is distributed in society. The concept of social justice has often included the process of ensuring that individuals fulfill their societal roles and receive what was their due from society (possibly such as paying your taxes and accessing universal healthcare). In the current global grassroots movements for social justice, of which we are seeing renewed strength, the emphasis has been on breaking barriers for social mobility, the creation of safety nets, and economic justice. In other words, addressing racism and income inequality, and ensuring a fair society.
So here we go. Some of the many social justice issues that have been highlighted by the unfolding of the COVID pandemic include:
- The need to completely overhaul how long term care homes for seniors and others with disabilities or chronic illness are managed. The horrifying rates of deaths in these homes, with Canada shamefully leading the pack, made clear the need for enormous improvements in levels of care and staffing (and their compensation), and accountability.
- Political leadership has to be reminded at the ballot box that in accepting a political position they are accepting serious responsibilities for their citizenry. Responsibilities for the greater good. Being a politician must be more about serving the public responsibly and competently than pandering to votes and lobbyists.
- In any society, if its people do not believe that they have a responsibility to the greater good, the society will not stand. It is devoid of humanity and is an unstable structure.
- Not all essential services have been what we might have expected. Truck drivers and janitors probably wouldn’t have been on most of our lists prior to the pandemic; out of sight, out of mind. So many invisible working-class jobs turned out to be what saved the bacon for everyone else. These are the people who commute long distances in overcrowded public transit, live in overcrowded accommodations, and make inadequate salaries. Yet we depend on them for our food, our other supplies, for clean buildings and hospitals, and so on. These are the people who kept our lives going through the worst times and then caught the virus because of their living conditions. How do our societies address these unacceptable inequities?
- Income inequality in general (and income inequality across races) has shown to have an inordinate impact on the spread of disease. How can that be mitigated in the future? There have been some interesting suggestions put forward.
- We have been reminded in spades that our school systems provide far more than just the readin’ and writin’. Aside from providing learning and personal growth to students, they provide lessons in socialization, equalization and inclusion, food for those in need, child care for working parents, and preparation for the job market. Do we value this critical resource to the extent we should?
- It turns out that the real root of an increase in pandemics (and we have had several in the recent past, just not as globally devastating as this one) is the result of human activity that has destroyed the habitat of wild animals around the world, bringing them in close contact with humans. Close contact means passing on new viruses, it’s tit for tat. How do we address all the damage we have done to our planet, which ironically is now coming back to haunt us through both severe and rapid climate change and the uncharted territory of new pandemics?
There are more topics, obviously, but this seems like a reasonable starting point. Next Saturday I’ll choose one of these topics and get started!