Sunday, November 19, 2023

Compassion as the Antidote for Capitalism

A Taylor Swift fan took the brave position of calling out the beloved superstar, and everyone else involved, for the death of Ana Clara and many in need of medical attention at her concert Friday night in Rio:

"First of all, Taylor made sure fans had water during the show. She took a pause a few times and even adjusted her performance in "All Too Well", the 10 minutes version, to include a heads-up to her crew about water supply. There are people blaming the heat wave for Ana Clara's passing, but let's be clear—it's not a "natural disaster." The venue intentionally shut the air vents to block the view from outside. Reports say the heat index hit 120F or 62°C. Despite the scorching conditions felt by everyone, Taylor included, the staff refused to tweak the script. Adding to the discomfort, stage flames blazed on, and local news reports reveal a staggering 1,000 people required medical support. Despite efforts from Taylor's team to provide water consistently, there are reports indicating that the supply eventually ran out, leaving certain areas without water. 

Lastly, Taylor issued a statement claiming Ana Clara passed away before the concert. However, local news reports Ana Clara fainted during the song "Cruel Summer," was revived on-site, and later succumbed to her condition in the hospital. In her statement, Taylor fails to recognize that this incident unfolded under her and the promoting company's responsibility. Moreover, they have yet to ensure that a similar situation won't occur tonight and tomorrow, because the heatwave didn't end. 

Multiple reports from different users indicate that the medical staff administered Rivotril sublingual tablets to concertgoers. It's worth noting that this is a controlled drug and should not be prescribed or administered so easily. Ahead of tonight's concert, reports indicate that the venue is expelling street vendors and prohibiting them from selling water, blankets, Gatorade, umbrellas, Coca-Cola, etc. Additional reports are surfacing about the venue closing its vents. One concertgoer attempted to leave due to the heat but faced difficulty finding an exit, as several emergency exits were blocked to prevent people from outside seeing the show. The stadium grass was covered with a metallic surface, making the intense heat even worse. As the original tweet points out, these were deliberate choices, not accidents. This incident occurred due to negligence on the part of all involved parties. This includes not only TS staff, but also the venue, the promoters, and the local government for failed inspection. The thread illustrates how each party contributed to this unfortunate outcome.

To conclude: As the world undergoes changes and heatwaves become more frequent, we need to be vocal. That's why I made this thread. The accessibility of water is a human need, and profiting from it is inhumane. And we need to learn from this negligence so it doesn't happen again. . . . Tonight’s Taylor concert was postponed…and the crowd CELEBRATED when they heard about it. They all know it’s still not safe to have a concert. 

Ana Clara’s mother was hospitalized after hearing about the passing of her daughter. Ana crossed the country, it was her first flight ever, and her family was proud because she could finally afford her dream to meet Taylor. . . . 

Upon entering the postponed concert, a girl fell onto the hot metallic sheets covering the stadium grass, resulting in burns to her legs. She reported Taylor's security expressing concern as more people experienced burns. She alleges medical staff refused to provide assistance." 

The burns from the metal were after they postponed the concert in order, one would assume, to make necessary changes to make the venue safer.

The part that stands out most to me in this is this line: "The staff refused to tweak the script." This is what's happening everywhere with climate and covid. People know their role and the list of tasks to be done and nobody's thinking about whether or not any of it should be done like this. We like to think we're anti-authoritarian, but we generally like to show our bosses that we're really good at following instructions. 

And we all know who else was really good at following instructions to the detriment of many. 

I've been to many concerts in which I had to throw out the giant bottle of water I had in my hand, and empty out any water bottles. That people can't bring their own water in because it could be vodka or a bomb or, more nefariously, they want you to buy their water is the epitome of this version of capitalism we're all tolerating. 

Steinbeck explained it back in the 1930s (Grapes of Wrath, ch. 25),

"There is a crime here that goes beyond denunciation. There is a sorrow here that weeping cannot symbolize. There is a failure here that topples all our success. The fertile earth, the straight tree rows, the sturdy trunks, and the ripe fruit. And children dying of pellagra must die because a profit cannot be taken from an orange. And coroners must fill in the certificates—died of malnutrition—because the food must rot, must be forced to rot. The people come with nets to fish for potatoes in the river, and the guards hold them back; they come in rattling cars to get the dumped oranges, but the kerosene is sprayed. And they stand still and watch the potatoes float by, listen to the screaming pigs being killed in a ditch and covered with quicklime, watch the mountains of oranges slop down to a putrefying ooze; and in the eyes of the people there is failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage."

It's for profits that you have to buy water at concerts, and for profits that the vents are closed so nobody could peek through and see anything for free! 

Last month Pope Francis released Laudate Deum in which he makes clear, 

"Despite all attempts to deny, conceal, gloss over or relativize the issue, the signs of climate change are here and increasingly evident. No one can ignore the fact that in recent years we've witnessed extreme weather phenomena. . . . The greater problem is . . . the obsession to increase human power beyond anything imaginable, before which nonhuman reality is a mere resource at its disposal. Everything that exists ceases to be a gift for which we should be thankful and instead becomes a slave, prey to any whim of the human mind and its capacities. . . . The ethical decadence of real power is disguised thanks to marketing and false information, useful tools in the hands of those with greater resources to employ them to shape public opinion. . . . We must move beyond the mentality of appearing to be concerned but not having the courage needed to produce substantial changes. . . . To the powerful, I can only repeat this question: 'What would induce anyone, at this stage, to hold on to power, only to be remembered for their inability to take action when it was urgent and necessary to do so?"

Taylor, herself is prey to the whims of the various organizations she has to work with when touring, definitely. But I imagine she has a measure of influence she could use to ensure the vents remain open and the place is safe for everyone under threat of refusing to perform. She'd also save thousands of people if instead of giving out glow-in-the-dark wristbands, she gave out N95s that everyone would wear everywhere. Remember what Uncle Ben said: "With great power comes great responsibility," and she might just be more popular than Jesus right now. 

Some celebrities wear masks in public, which models life-saving behaviour even if that's not their intention, but nobody has the sway that Taylor Swift has right this minute. Signature N95s would be easy and profitable. Climate change is trickier. And continuing to tour where people are suffering from heat waves is a hard call. It's a hard choice for any industry to agree to lower profits for the benefit of others, but it's possible.  

ETA: We hit 2°C over baseline today!

No comments: