[Note: The conversations have been edited for clarity, length, and grammatical mistakes. They have also been edited thematically, however the dates of these utterances are noted above each section.]
16 April 2020
Varda: Does anyone have any views on what Premier Legault said about buying Quebec products? On one hand, it is a good idea because we need to start thinking local and shrink down global corporate culture but on the other hand it's also a way to perpetuate the rhetoric of nationalism.
Kanwal: Don’t you think nationalism is always a standard reaction to a crisis? It’s a different form of nationalism. It’s either religious nationalism, or capitalistic nationalism.
Nima: The idea of nationalism is emerging in different and stricter ways, like closing borders and the economy. What are the limits of nationalism? When I think about history and the movements that were inspired by nationalists, I think about anti-colonial movements since the 1950s and 1960s, when forces like anti-colonial elites were standing outside the imperial matrix of power. And I understand that in terms of politics and economy there are exceptions. When you think about history and when you think about what is happening now. For example, Cuba is among those harshly sanctioned by the US while helping other countries in crisis. These are inspiring exceptions also in terms of how these forms of governance who resisted the capitalist order or have been left out of the global market are responding to the COVID-19 situation, and so when we think about history, these are the examples we can think about.
The way Cuba organized their health care system is exceptional in terms of how we understand health care in the US or elsewhere. Or how no one is responding to those who are left in migration facilities, not even the Prime Minister … there is no mention at all. There are few people who are objecting to the policies. These margins of the borders and the margins of life are where we can rethink what our future would look like. These limits are pushing back. For instance, in the UK Boris Johnson was sending thank you messages to two of the medical staff who were not from the UK (immigrants); even the far right is realizing that how their values have been shaken to the ground.
Varda: On that point, before Boris Johnson got infected he was actually boasting about shaking hands with everyone and now that he is thanking them [NHS/medical staff workers], there is no discussion or commentary about how his careless rhetoric underplayed Covid-19. Who is going to take the responsibility for these kinds of things? There is a certain level of emergency, and in that urgency, we might end up not holding these authority figures accountable ... we are just going to move forward because that is what we are being pushed to do... just move forward with the crisis and do the best that you can and for obvious reasons we are also focused on our jobs and employments… our next paycheck ... paying rent and food … we are so distracted that we are not going to hold these people accountable and that is going to be an important parallel of this pandemic.
The Graduate Teach-in Group, 2020