Crises don’t break societies, they reveal what’s already broken, and the global pandemic that has resulted from the COVID-19 virus is a once-in-a-century kind of crisis.
As of writing this, hundreds of thousands of workers have been stood down or sacked across Australia, forcing unprecedented numbers of people to experience the indignity of our welfare system.
Entire industries are grinding to a halt, with corporate conglomerates that have assiduously avoided paying taxes crying out for publicly-funded bailouts.
The dynamics between the government and the governed has changed overnight, with millions being forced to rely on public institutions and infrastructures for information, assurance and economic security. Privileged apathy has been replaced by anxious dependence, and enemies of collective action are finally realising that we are indeed all in this together.
COVID-19 demonstrates that resources can be rapidly mobilised to respond to emergencies and existing paradigms can be transformed just as swiftly, with the Morrison administration’s complete (albeit “temporary”) repudiation of neoliberal orthodoxy being just one potent example. Shocked at the speed at which the virus has spread overseas in places like Italy and New York– crippling health infrastructures and leaving hospitals in a state where they literally have no room to store the bodies of the deceased – the Coalition-led Federal government has shuttered large swathes of the economy whilst greenlighting the biggest government spending package since World War II, consisting of a $130 billion wage subsidy scheme, a doubling of unemployment benefits and free childcare, amongst other measures.