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The Future is Up for Grabs

When it comes to cashing in on Covid-19, the race has just begun. Whether you’re talking about education or contact tracing or medicine or mind control, an anti-democratic, dystopian future is being charted while we the people are locked down, locked up and locked out.

Naomi Klein’s latest piece, “Screen New Deal” in the Intercept, describes in chilling detail the way that a no-touch, no accountability pandemic economy has been being divvied up among corporate kingpins since Covid Shock hit in March.

Google is grabbing our data, Microsoft is coming for our classrooms and Amazon wants to be our one-stop, only shop.

Pandemic panic is making possible fast what the hurdle of popular consent made slow. As Klein reminds us, until recently, public pushback against companies like Amazon, Google and Microsoft was surging.

“Presidential candidates were openly discussing breaking up big tech. Amazon was forced to pull its plans for a New York headquarters because of fierce local opposition. Google’s Sidewalk Labs project was in perennial crisis, and Google’s own workers were refusing to build surveillance tech with military applications,” writes Klein.

Now, the very same companies that the public chased out the front door are walking in the back, repackaged no longer as a threat, but as the solution to our personal and national woes.

The future could certainly be bleak, but as Naomi acknowledges, we’re not there yet. It’s also important to remember that the present as we know it was not always thus.

In 1994, for example, India had a different set of patent laws, which positioned it to become the global supplier of affordable AIDS drugs. It was only the birth of the World Trade Organization and Trade-Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) that held them back. In the years that followed, an Indian drug maker and international activists used Indian law to force Big Pharma to cave. A cheap generic drug was able to save millions of lives.

It’s not inevitable that our future is dystopic. History is made, not decreed, which is why, today, May 11, activists from dozens of different countries, including Klein, are launching Progressive International, a global initiative with a mission to unite, organize and mobilize progressive forces. The Laura Flanders Show has joined as a media member.

The future is up for grabs. Let’s not let the kingpins be the only ones reaching for it.

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Laura Flanders interviews forward-thinking people about the key questions of our time on The Laura Flanders Show, a nationally syndicated radio and television program also available as a podcast. A contributing writer to The Nation, Flanders is also the author of six books, including The New York Times best-seller, BUSHWOMEN: Tales of a Cynical Species.  She is the recipient of a 2019 Izzy Award for excellence in independent journalism, the Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award for advancing women’s and girls’ visibility in media and a 2020 Lannan Cultural Freedom Fellowship for her reporting and advocacy for public media. lauraflanders.org

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