The Capitalists Will Let You Drown
Flooding, Care, and Finding another way
New York City is flooding, again. Homes, schools, and subway lines have all been hit by a massive flash flood. Viral videos of water on busses and spouting out of sewers and swamping our streets are circulating online. And this isn’t the first time. As Bill McKibben wrote today, “New York's old rainfall record stood for 150 years until 2021, and has now been broken three times.” Three massive flash floods. Just like we keep saying again and again, once-in-a-lifetime weather events are coming year after year.
And it’s not just New York, we’ve seen this worldwide over the past year. Spain, Nigeria, large swaths of the United States, and countless other places around the world. These floods, much like the fires in Hawai’i, Greece, Canada and elsewhere are clearly linked to the climate crisis.
But what is so infuriating isn’t just climate change, and it’s not even the refusal to systemically address the climate crisis — which is now very much a present, not future, emergency. It’s that instead of expending resources to strengthen our infrastructure, build sustainability, and better our lives we’ve been spending endlessly on violence. The federal government spends a trillion dollars on war every year. Cities spend a third of their budgets on policing. And working class people are left to face the consequences.
We are the ones left to face the floods and the fires, while billionaires escape to compounds and jet to second homes, then make charity appeals where they ask us to fundraise for the victims of these disasters. Almost exactly two years ago, 13 New Yorkers died in basement apartments, when New York City was hit by flooding from Hurricane Ida. Many of the city’s basement apartments are not up to code, with landlords failing to provide basic protections, like allowing tenants easy access to higher ground. This is the reality of the climate crisis for the working class.
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In this city the vast majority of us also rely on the subway to get to work. My brother is stuck in Manhattan as I write this, unsure how he’ll get home after his shift at the school where he works. He’s stuck because our subways are flooded and many aren’t running right now. This problem has been known for years and years, and came into focus over a decade ago during Hurricane Sandy, when entire lines were flooded. And yet little has been done. Today, the subway is flooded again, stranding workers and children as the streets above also fill with water.
Meanwhile, the NYPD budget has increased by well over a billion dollars since 2012. Mayor Eric Adams recently posed with a big absurd robocop, and the force has also trotted out a robot dog, a new addition to the department. The mayor has also worked to cut funding to schools, libraries, housing, and more since the minute he got into office. New York is in many ways a microcosm of the greater problem that can be seen across this country and across the world, that of our politicians funding violence but not care, police but not our basic needs. And there are multiple reasons for these priorities, but the uniting factor is that if our necessities were really taken care of, the capitalist class would be obsolete. Another way to say this is that if we had guaranteed housing, if we had access to good healthcare and food and education, if these basic needs of our lives were free to all, we probably wouldn’t be so willing to sell our labor so that a handful of wealthy people could profit off it.
The super-rich are intent on funding police, but not housing, because that is how they maintain the existing order of society. They are intent on funding the military industrial complex, but not sustainability because they care about profits more than a livable planet. They’d rather see robocops in the streets than unhoused people in homes because their biggest fear is us creating a society where those who get rich on our backs are redundant, and unnecessary. And, oddly enough, in doing so they point us in the right direction. They help us see how we should proceed.
We should build this society regardless of the wants of the super-rich, we should build it despite them. We need a world where our homes and streets aren’t flooded so that a few people can have third homes and private jets. We need a world where our basic needs are met, not discarded because the fear of homelessness and joblessness keeps us working for low pay and crappy benefits. We need a world where human lives are valued over profit, and care is funded over systemic violence. And we can have this world, this society. It’ll take breaking the yolk that the capitalists have on us, it’ll take radical change, but it’ll be worth it to not have water bursting through the subway walls, and to know that my brother can get home safe. So let’s organize and build this beautiful, sustainble, and truly free world together.
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