Decolonial Dialogues: People’s Alternatives to the Pandemic

María Laura Cano

Throughout the pandemic, researchers and members of native movements continue the debate on the current situation and present alternatives based on the popular experiences of our region.

Abel Perez Wilke: “World System and Civilizational Crisis”

On Tuesday 19 May, through the “Redalbatv” youtube channel, a virtual training proposal entitled “Decolonial Dialogues” was broadcast with a presentation entitled “World System and Civilizational Crisis” by the Venezuelan professor and researcher, Abel Pérez Wilke.

Wilke, in his presentation, described the moments before, during and after the Covid-19 pandemic in Venezuela and the world. “There is a serious threat posed by the Covid 19 pandemic, in terms of the number of infections and thousands of deaths, where we see governments with resources that have not taken timely action and have not prepared,” he said.

To understand the global crisis, he envisioned two categorical approaches. “The identity-difference logic, with a criterion of truth based on modern-colonial thought, in which what is different has no place”. From this perspective, many governments are addressing the pandemic, creating a contradiction between morality and ethics. “We have a clash between life and the economy, between morality and ethics,” he reiterated. However, there is also the “logic of similarity/distinction, and in the loving encounter a dialogue of the common space is forged, as a ‘common unity'” he said.

Based on the logic of similarity/distinction, he stressed that “Venezuela, unlike countries that prefer to save the economy to the detriment of life, is seeing a different panorama and has assumed the ethics of life with a voluntary quarantine that has been creatively endorsed by the people through solidarity and community experiences,” said Pérez Wilke.

Furthermore, with a view to overcoming the economic crisis, this Venezuelan professor said that, although there is an oil culture in Venezuela, it is necessary to activate all the different productive engines in the country.

“We need to think about what role oil will play after the pandemic. We have an ethical obligation to activate all the productive engines for the survival of the Venezuelan people, in the midst of the siege, maintaining experiences that point to a new spirituality,” proposed Perez Wilke.

“The world system is going through a crisis and part of overcoming this civilizational crisis is the creation of a model based on a different logic from the current system, and it is there where the people grow and the spirit of struggle is forged”, said Wilke.

Roberto Hernández: “Pandemic and Dehumanization”

On Thursday, May 21, also within the framework of the Decolonial Dialogues, researcher and activist Roberto Hernández opened the discussion with his paper “Pandemic and Dehumanization”.

He began by emphasizing how the Chicano people resist and evade modern and colonial approaches, which in a pandemic are reinforced by some nation-states. “That’s why we say, we are a people without borders. We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us,” added Roberto Hernández.

Likewise, Hernández, who is a professor at the University of San Diego (USA), comes from the Chicano people, an original identity settled in the American territories that previously belonged to Mexico. “We as Chicano people, even living in the entrails of the beast, began to organize ourselves,” said researcher Roberto Hernández.

He also stressed that “the current world system, modern and colonial, assumes the supremacy of the new over the old, everything new is necessarily superior. It is a logic that has an internal “anti-people” structure”.

In response to this logic, Hernandez said that the people, specifically the native communities, continue to organize in the pandemic. “Even on the decolonial left, we need to take more seriously that another world already exists and that is the original peoples,” he said.

On the economic and social challenges left by the epidemic, he said that the increase in production does not imply an increase in the life of the people. “It is not a question of increasing production, but of increasing life. And life is Mother Earth, it is not a resource, it is part of life,” said Hernández.

Thus, with different approaches to explain and provide answers to the current crisis of the capitalist system, the “Decolonial Dialogues” began, a process that will continue until June 26th through the Redalbatv channel.