CORONA HAS BURST OUR BUBBLE OF FALSE COMFORT

Corona WeeksIt seems almost a moot point to write about anything other than the pandemic that has caused over a quarter of all people on earth to be placed under government lock down. Corona has proven that many of the things in our lives are unnecessary. Things such as the gym, shopping malls, cinemas, sports events, and restaurants, have all gone for a toss as we learn to live without them:

Every sport has been cancelled, so men have to just live with themselves. I called my friend up and I was like “What you been up to?” He’s like “I’m just working on me.” I was like “Whoa! That’s great.” He’s like “I realize I’ve got a lot of daddy issues, there’s a lot of jealousy in my life.” Pause for another second. “I just want to tell you I love you, man. I don’t say it enough.” And I was like “Man, this is a great virus. This is a good virus. We all need this.” – Ethan Simmons-Patterson

It has indeed been quite a week, quite a month, quite a year, quite an endless, blurry lump of time in quarantine. Despite this, for the first time in history we can all save humanity, we can all save ourselves, by just staying at home and doing absolutely nothing. Please, for the love of all that is good, let us not mess this up (although somehow I feel we will).

Like most things in our globalised capitalist society, the current epicentre of the virus has moved from China to America. I know Americans are obsessed with being number one, but surely they do not want to the accolade of being the country with the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases (113,000 at the time of writing). Go Team America!

This virus has also proven to be somewhat of an existential challenge. We all find ourselves asking soul searching questions. How many of us are to die before this too shall pass? Who knows what the ripple effects and the knock on effects of this pandemic will be? Who knows how long this virus will last, or for how long we will be dealing with the aftermath? Who knows how life will change (surely it must)?

Such is the impact of COVID-19 that the Guardian news website, of which I have been a visitor for well over 15 years, has only had one news topic dominating their Most Viewed list of top 10 news stories, for at least 3 weeks now. It is almost as though no other news story matters, and I guess no other news story does.

Speaking of news websites, I know much has already been written about this situation, but I would just like to draw your besieged attention to the following articles and quotes. We start with three humorous tweets that somehow capture the sheer madness and confusion of these crazy times we find ourselves in. The next two quotes are from a drug dealer and a Jesuit sister (I kid you not), telling us about how this pandemic has affected them and their ‘clients’. What follows on from that are various quotes that, I hope, provide a different perspective on the current global situation. As best as one can, enjoy!

Corona Everything

If you want an indication of how much of a hellscape this is going to be, last night a mate told our friendship group he couldn’t do a virtual dinner on Friday because he had “other digital commitments.” – Alan White, 24 Mar 2020

I’m stocking up on photos of empty supermarket shelves. The media are going to run out of them pretty soon, and I’ll make a fortune. – Paul Bassett Davies, 06 Mar 2020

At this point, asking me “What are you doing tomorrow?” is hate speech. – Sydnee Washington, 25 Mar 2020

I sell cannabis and cocaine to suppliers in the north of England. I have around 20 guys on the street, with approximately 200 regular customers. We have two main concerns now: sourcing drugs and getting enough money. We expect no more cocaine shipments from abroad for the next six weeks, so prices have shot up. I’m maintaining the same prices I’ve always charged but I’m concerned that, when stock begins to run low, people higher up the chain will charge more or cut the cocaine and decrease its quality. People are panicking – the amounts of cannabis they’re buying is ridiculous – so we are just dealing to regulars now. I’ve told my workers to be strict with what they sell and who to, but they aren’t changing their behaviour much, other than offering to post through letterboxes and accept bank transfers from trusted customers. People running out of money is a big concern, but we’ll always have the regular cokeheads who buy most days. I’ve been doing this for 12 years and don’t have any dependants – other than sometimes helping my parents out with bits of cash – so I’m not financially worried. My biggest concern is handling money. I’ve been wearing gloves. – a drug dealer, 28 Mar 2020, in an interview with theguardian.com

Normally we have Mass daily; not now, but we’re praying more. Faith is important to people in times such as this. For all of us, the crisis is triggering questions about what is important. Having a pope like Francis is wonderful; he sent out a beautiful message: “Tonight before falling asleep, think about when we will return to the street, hug again…We will go back to laughing together. Strength and courage. See you soon!” It will be interesting to see what happens in the longer term – whether some people turn to faith. Faith is about finding meaning, and everyone is now trying to do that. People are living a stripped-back life and that means they’ve been given time for reflection. This crisis has shown us that vulnerability has something to teach us; suddenly, we’re all vulnerable. The temptation is to retreat, to look inwards. But once this is over, do we stay behind borders or will we have learned things? We might have opened our hearts in ways we hadn’t thought about before. – a Jesuit sister, 28 Mar 2020, in an interview with theguardian.com

We have been living in a bubble, a bubble of false comfort and denial. In the rich nations, we have begun to believe we have transcended the material world. The wealth we’ve accumulated – often at the expense of others – has shielded us from reality. Living behind screens, passing between capsules – our houses, cars, offices and shopping malls – we persuaded ourselves that contingency had retreated, that we had reached the point all civilisations seek: insulation from natural hazards. Now the membrane has ruptured, and we find ourselves naked and outraged, as the biology we appeared to have banished storms through our lives. The temptation, when this pandemic has passed, will be to find another bubble. We cannot afford to succumb to it. From now on, we should expose our minds to the painful realities we have denied for too long…Never again should we listen to the liars and the deniers. Never again should we allow a comforting falsehood to trounce a painful truth. No longer can we afford to be dominated by those who put money ahead of life. This coronavirus reminds us that we belong to the material world. – George Monbiot, 25 Mar 2020, from the theguardian.com article Covid-19 Is Nature’s Wake-Up Call To Complacent Civilisation

Celebrities have always been the symmetrical, smiling face of wealth inequality. Their role in modern life is as paradoxical as trickle-down economics: to be preternaturally charming and attractive, but also relatable and attainably aspirational. We speak of “liking” one celebrity and “disliking” another on the basis of the professionally calibrated personas they beam out to us as sincerity. We enjoy their work – their acting, their singing, their athleticism – and we cheer on their successes. They are purveyors of a great American myth: that there is such a thing as “well-earned” luxury, or a “deserving” millionaire. And in America, fame doesn’t just make you rich: it makes you a role model…Watching yet another celebrity announce that they have been tested (often while asymptomatic) feels like watching a medical drama that takes place on another planet. Meanwhile, the rest of us wait: not just for tests, but for the after-effects that a lack of testing will bring upon our communities, and upon the communities of those we love…The wealthy and the powerful are counting on us not paying attention. They’re looking out for their own while we are left on a sinking ship: the hedge funders, the landlords, the pharmaceutical billionaires. They’re counting on our attention being elsewhere – not Uncle Idris! Not Forrest Gump! – and they’re counting on our anger losing steam by the time this international nightmare ends. They’re counting on us taking it – as President Trump tells it – as “the story of life”. – Jennifer Schaffer, 21 Mar 2020, from the theguardian.com article Why Are The Rich And Famous Getting Coronavirus Tests While We Aren’t?

Corona Terror

It may have started with a bat in a cave, but human activity set it loose…So when you’re done worrying about this outbreak, worry about the next one. Or do something about the current circumstances…Current circumstances also include 7.6 billion hungry humans: some of them impoverished and desperate for protein; some affluent and wasteful and empowered to travel every which way by airplane. These factors are unprecedented on planet Earth: We know from the fossil record, by absence of evidence, that no large-bodied animal has ever been nearly so abundant as humans are now, let alone so effective at arrogating resources. And one consequence of that abundance, that power, and the consequent ecological disturbances is increasing viral exchanges — first from animal to human, then from human to human, sometimes on a pandemic scale. We invade tropical forests and other wild landscapes, which harbor so many species of animals and plants — and within those creatures, so many unknown viruses. We cut the trees; we kill the animals or cage them and send them to markets. We disrupt ecosystems, and we shake viruses loose from their natural hosts. When that happens, they need a new host. Often, we are it. – David Quammen, 28 Jan 2020, from the nytimes.com article We Made The Coronavirus Epidemic

Online misinformation about Covid-19 appears to be spreading faster than the virus itself. Certain claims made about the origins and transmission of the virus may be true, but many aren’t, and these falsehoods are fuelling conspiracy theories that serve only to spread fear on a global scale. The World Health Organisation has labelled the overabundance of information an “infodemic”, arguing it “makes it hard for people to find trustworthy sources and reliable guidance when they need it”…Twitter, Facebook and Google’s filters and algorithms may be a good starting point in tackling misinformation about coronavirus and allow people to easily find relevant and authoritative updates. However, penetrating the social media echo chambers fuelled by distrust in experts and news outlets will be the real challenge. – Sabrina Weiss, Feb 2020, from the newstatesman.com article Inside The Infodemic: Coronavirus In The Age Of Wellness

Almost every day the BBC’s One-minute World News provides the latest death tally from coronavirus. The short news wrap-up typically covers about three news items only, meaning that for the BBC, the virus has been among the top three most important issues for the world, daily for the last two months. All the other mainstream media outlets are likewise reporting on every single angle to this story they can, including regular updates of the global tally and a country-by-country breakdown. The impact of such intense coverage of the virus is widespread fear, even though pedestrians are still 13 times more likely to be killed by a car than by this virus…Then there are the epidemics that aren’t even documented or counted…There is no one categorizing the overproduction of useless shit, though we do know that there are around 50 million tons of electronic waste produced each year. There is no daily news on the virulent erasure of histories, voices, people’s organization, cultures, and languages. The mainstream media are not concerned in the same way by the epidemic of corrupt politicians bought off by big business or by the public money lost to corporate tax avoidance (estimated at $500 billion per year). And the mainstream media will not talk much about these things. That isn’t just because rich people can’t catch poverty, it’s because the mainstream media is capitalist and it does not recognize systemic issues, and certainly not the causes and solutions to them. The media pretends not to, but it does have an agenda, and that agenda is in fact counter to the one that us serious journalists commit to – to revealing the bruises of the world and the screaming injustices and holding those in power accountable. Panic and fomenting fear are well-tried methods of control, distraction, and of shifting popular support towards the rightwing. On the other hand, raising awareness of the sickening global inequality and the daily pain so many are subject to develops critical thought, and would be empowering and disrupting, and so the mainstream media does not do that. – Tamara Pearson, 06 Mar 2020, from the counterpunch.org article All The Devastating Epidemics That Coronavirus Is Distracting Us From

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