Get mad, but don’t let them divide us

Image: Mr Punch and Prof Ratbaggy (Emeritus) @cuts-webcomic.blogspot.com

Over the past few weeks, politicians and the media have been blaming ordinary working people for the spread of the coronavirus. This is a calculated move to divide us and quell rising anger about their own inadequate response to stopping the spread of COVID-19.

The coverage of young people at Bondi Beach over March 21–22 is a case in point. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has since asserted that “too many Australians are not taking these issues seriously enough”.

But, just a day before, the New South Wales Coalition government let the Ruby Princess cruise ship dock in Darling Harbour and all passengers disembarked without undergoing any checks. This is despite authorities knowing some passengers had flu-like symptoms. At least 26 people have since tested positive for COVID-19 and one passenger has died.

This happened after it had become common knowledge that cruise ships can be breeding grounds for the virus.

Morrison also delayed enacting social distancing rules to allow a Hillsong conference, with international guests, to proceed.

This should be no surprise from a government that has consistently sought to blame people attempting to seek asylum via a boat for society's ills.

Clearly, now it needs new targets —  and the corporate media is happy to oblige. It is hell-bent on promoting the ridiculous idea that unruly mobs are to blame for shortages of toilet paper.

Home affairs minister Peter Dutton, newly recovered from COVID-19, has vowed to take on a handful of small-time profiteers selling essentials on Ebay. Unsurprisingly, he is not fussed about a number of corporate tax dodgers and others hoarding most of Australia’s wealth.

Dutton’s shaming is no surprise. But what is surprising is how many people are buying into this blame game and jumping in to threaten, including with violence, those who have posted Gumtree adverts selling toilet paper and hand sanitiser.

Only two months ago, communities were left stranded and alone facing a bushfire emergency. Can you really blame people for stockpiling? It’s like describing someone who competed in the Hunger Games as a cold-hearted murderer when they were thrown into it against their will and forced to kill to survive.

People are very stressed, worrying about how they will pay their rent or mortgage, and they don’t believe the system will support them.

We should be directing our rage at the game masters, the big profiteers, chief among which are the pharmaceutical corporations. While global stocks have fallen, those of pharmaceutical corporations working on COVID-19 treatments have gone up: any vaccine will be patented and sold for unimaginable amounts.

We should rage against Adani continuing to build its controversial Carmichael coal mine, with workers being exempted from state travel restrictions and putting local communities at risk.

We should rage against the massive bailouts being given to airline companies and banks rather than the workers who have been stood down.

We should rage at the government that has still not made mass testing possible.

It is working to divide us so it can continue with a policy of banning social interaction while enabling economic interaction to continue.

It does not want to follow the lead of countries that are implementing mass testing and imposing a freeze on rents and mortgage payments.

As long we are forced to engage economically by going to school, work, Centrelink and shopping, the virus will keep spreading.

We need to force the government to take this crisis seriously. It needs to implement measures to allow people to stay at home. We need rent and mortgage freezes, job security, food drop-offs and better access to health care and Centrelink.

We must reject their attempts at dividing us. It is time to focus our anger at the corporate profiteers and their government accomplices.

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