Bernardo Pérez Andreo. Blood is a symbol of life in every culture, since it is the life-giving liquid that runs through our bodies, and without which the existence of most living beings on our planet would not be possible. Its composition gives it this marvellous ability to transport oxygen to our cells and remove CO2 from them, passing it into our lungs to be expelled. This sanguine interchange occurs because of the chemical composition of iron, which exhibits two valence states, which allows it to take on oxygen and deposit it, thus explaining how blood can transport oxygen, why it has its colour, and why it is always linked with life.
In the same way that blood is a vital liquid, it is also vital to the cultural structure of every people. Blood is used in an infinity of rituals, as much as for healing as for purification, which amounts to the same thing. This is why certain cultures used the blood of the innocent in order to purify places and people, through an often-gory ritual which was supposed to transfer the power in the blood of the innocent to a group or an individual. These rituals, which were very common in ancient times, are today fortunately no longer in use. Nevertheless, other ‘modern rituals’ exist, which have gone back to putting blood at the centre of global health structures.
For some decades, the advances in healthcare in developed countries have brought about developments allowing people to be cured from illnesses, which would in the past have been incurable. However, these modern treatments need something fundamental in a field where even science has not yet learned how to imitate nature: blood. Blood is an essential element today in a great number of treatments, such as in operations and all types of transfusions. In most countries, blood is obtained through voluntary donations, following public awareness campaigns. This is the case in Spain, where many people donate blood in a systematised or regular way through the year, and which allows health services to meet a significant part of their requirements. Meanwhile, when there are blood shortages, and particularly when there are shortages of blood plasma, blood needs to be bought in from the United States. This country has become the supplier of 70% of blood plasma worldwide. The export of this product makes up 2% of all its exports, which gives us an idea of the importance of this type of business.
The reason why the U.S.A. has become the global supplier of blood plasma is because blood can be sold there. The statistics don’t lie: 25% of the population occasionally or regularly sells their blood. Companies which are involved in this business have premises in the most favourable places for the sale of blood, which generally means in the poorest areas. 90% of the ‘donors’ are unemployed, have low incomes or financial problems of some type. The rest are students who through this practice can help to finance their studies. A person who becomes a permanent donor must go twice weekly to give blood, with an average donation of half a litre of blood at a time. This leaves many people in a precarious situation, because they often do it in order to earn their $240 monthly payment, which would not be enough to buy them the food necessary to restore the proteins and iron lost, which can lead to anaemia, and the case where they are no longer able to ‘donate’ their blood; thus they become no longer useful.
Therefore, we are faced with what seems to be a clear vampirization of a sector of American society. One third of the population has no health insurance to cover their healthcare needs. Half do not have any pension plan. One quarter of the population does not have employment to meet their needs. All these people represent the reserve that is supporting a system of blood donation which is in turn supporting only those people who can afford to avail of it. If everyone in the U.S.A. had medical cover and an old aged pension, it would be very difficult for the numbers of those selling their blood to meet the needs of those who were able to avail of it. This is why we have this new ritual, a ‘modern ritual’, which is allowed to take the vital liquid of the ‘innocent’ so that one particular group of people can enjoy its benefits. We are seeing the application of market logic to the most private aspect of human life, in order to satisfy the needs of a social group that is becoming increasingly reduced.
Capitalism in its terminal stages appears more and more like a type of feudalism: one social class imposes its needs on the rest of society, and forces them to serve them with everything that is available to them, whether it be work, goods or their own bodies. Neoliberalism has imposed a culture of the privatisation of life which has led to the extremes we see in the U.S.A. and which will continue to worsen over the next few decades, up to the point where breathing clean air will be a privilege of the few. This systematic process will not stop, and the only thing we can do is to offer resistance through social and political community structures which obstruct market logic, and challenge the privatisation of common goods and the dehumanisation of social relationships. The blood of the innocent, as the Book of Genesis states, will cry out, but only those who are being attentive will hear their cry for help.