Indigenous Peoples in the Midst of COVID-19: Populism and Nationalism as Impediments to Global Solidarity

Indigenous Peoples in the Midst of COVID-19: Populism and Nationalism as Impediments to Global Solidarity

Christopher Ryan Maboloc (Ateneo de Davao University, Philippines)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7480-5.ch003
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Indigenous peoples are on the receiving end of an unjust global order that favors the affluent and powerful. As the coronavirus pandemic was raging in early 2020, the global economy came to a halt. Extreme poverty is expected to increase due to the pandemic. Right now, developing countries such as the Philippines struggle to get the vaccines due to supply problems. The coronavirus crisis is exacerbated by two issues – populism and nationalism. Populism is an ideology in which some politicians paint a picture of poor people being dominated by society's elite. On the other hand, nationalism is the protectionist tendency of some countries to preserve their citizens' interests. Both threaten the hope of a return to normalcy after the pandemic, especially for indigenous peoples. This chapter will examine populism and nationalism, in contrast to the concept of solidarity, when it comes to the effort to overcome the COVID-19 global health crisis.
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When it comes to the Covid-19 global health crisis, Indigenous Peoples are often left out in the discussions. This is the case because a hegemonic order controls the world. In the history of human civilization, the lives of indigenous peoples are often muted in the margins. This is the situation in countries such as the Philippines in which they are victims of “corporate intrusion” and “exploitation,” according to Gaspar (2020, p.112). Their own unique stories of survival are labelled as myths, and the traditions of ethnic communities are seen as anti-modern or outmoded. Gaspar (2021, p.358) laments that “the way of life of indigenous peoples in the Philippines has been affected by colonialism.” In the modern world, capitalist culture glorifies the pure materialist conception of life. The meaning of such life is rooted in consumption. The world is reduced into a material resource that must satisfy the human ego and the concern for profit. It is necessary to examine how the world arrived in this present situation. Even with the investments in health care facilities and the advances in medical science, the civilized world is struggling as it attempts to overcome the deadly coronavirus pandemic.

The inevitable consequences of this Covid-19 pandemic include a radical diminution in wealth, although tech corporations have continued to amass huge profits in the billions of dollars (Oxfam 2020b). Globalization “caused the spread of the coronavirus” (Maboloc 2020a, p.77). The interconnectedness of the global economy from North to South provided the “right kind of infrastructure to transmit the deadly SAR2COV pathogen” (Mansueto 2020, p.173). Despite the potential return to normal for the global economy, there are sectors in society that will continue to bear the consequences of human greed and avarice. The poorest of the poor cannot expect change. With the vaccinations against Covid-19, what is being addressed is only the biological aspect of the problem but not the economic consequences haunting so many vulnerable populations, including those marginal groups in urban centres and outlier communities.

Pandemics have very serious implications for regional and global stability (Qiu et al. 2020, p.3). But while what Covid-19 has proven is that no single government is that powerful to contain the pandemic on its own accord, what is manifest now is that the global hegemonic order seems to be in charge when it comes to Covid-19 vaccine distribution. Indeed, wealthy states like the US and Great Britain, including the European Union, are way ahead since they have invested a lot to produce and manufacture the vaccines. Meanwhile, the lockdowns still imposed in Third World countries mean continuous hardships for millions of people. People’s difficult situation has an immense effect in the various aspects of human life, “including mental health” (Toquero 2020, p.5). But indigenous communities in Mindanao continue to manage independently following government-imposed basic health protocols (Bayod, 2020).

Key Terms in this Chapter

New Normal: Refers to new measures, policies or protocols that have an effect on the attitude and behavior of people in the field of public health after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Resilience: Refers to the ability to overcome or recover from difficult situations such as a natural or a man-made calamity.

Biopower: Refers to the way states and governments manage entire populations on the basis of health protocols, rules and policies that are meant to control the behavior of people.

Herd Immunity: Is a situation in which a large part of a population have become resistant to a particular disease.

Solidarity: The unity of individuals or countries to achieve a common interest that is meant for the good of every person.

Pandemic: Refers to an epidemic or disease that has spread from country to country affecting a large number of the population. In Greek, “pan” means “all” while “demos” means “people.”

Vaccine Nationalism: It occurs when governments sign deals with pharmaceutical companies for the supply of vaccines for their own citizens and prioritizing the same before that of other countries.

Indigenous Peoples: Refers to ethnic groups or cultural minorities who have retained their unique culture or identity and a way of life that is distinct from mainstream society.

Populism: In politics, a strategy that appeals to the masses by projecting that their situation is a result of the domination by the elite class.

Covax Facility: The pooled purchase of Covid-19 vaccines to ensure the access of developing countries and maximize their ability to achieve herd immunity.

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