Saturday 27th June 2020
Today is the last day of the blog, after these 100 days of solitude. Lockdown has eased itself out into less and less restriction, and ceased to function for a while now, without us having noticed too drastically. Life is not back to normal, but there is quite a semblance of it outside, traffic jams, shoppers, foodies, drinkers -the only obvious difference being the masks and the queues before the shops. Deaths are down to the single digits while we await a second wave, possibly a second lockdown too if things get bad again. But for the time being, that semblance of normality is with us again, enough to take stock and hope it continues.
At its worst C-19 was killing over 1,000 a day in the country. It’s still yet to peak abroad, notably the US, Latin America and now India. The strong sense of doom in the dark days of February contrasting with the sunny shores of late June now, having never reached full blown societal breakdown, and the burning horizons envisaged -though in the US it came close at times with the riots. To date, the virus has killed over half a million worldwide and infected ten million more, and multiple times more undetected. Some countries have managed to control the outbreak, including many we deemed in the West too poor to have done so -Vietnam, Senegal, Ghana, Venezuela, Greece. While the illusion of superiority has come crashing down from badly coordinated responses and deadly politicking, in richer states such as the US, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria and here in the UK. Those in the scopes have changed with time, but generally the old and sick remain the most at risk, while those younger are the ones who most spread it. The responsibility is with everyone, and individually.
This year has marked a racial reckoning across much of the West, the coming of age of generations too suffering of the sins of their fathers. The world needed to change, and it did. The rot embodied by cold-blooded murder so in danger of becoming an accepted norm -were it not caught on film and amplified by social media -that something had to be done, or we would never have been able to justify our cultures again. Thousands of protests around the world, and billions of voices have shown the might of people power, and made the corporations, governments and institutions rethink their long exclusionary policies. The spotlight on history revealing the hypocrisy of our modern day hidden in plain sight -in glorifying statues and dismissed atrocities, in open bias long peddled by the media, to the fact our hierarchies, for all their touted sophistication, rely not on merit but looks and connections. The anti-Asian surge during the pandemic, the state-posturing, the sabre-rattling and populism had already formed a backdrop, common to pandemics through time, and now followed up with the authority atrocities. George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, remember their names. Igniting the presidential picking of sides, the street battles, the tearing down of icons, and the record for history to come. As Noah Yuval Harari points out, we have an undiagnosed crux: culturalism -not just racism on race, but prejudice based on culture; this ‘clash of civilisations’ invariably pits both sides as thinking themselves the only civilised ones. And how it has come to pass.
Trump has been the name of the day, and the tyrant at the helm taking down the bad ship the USS United States. It is not so much the world laughing at the country any more but worse -pitying it. The US is no longer pax americana that the Hollywood propaganda machine has so long promoted, rather the opposite -a warmonger that gives the democracy a bad name, insofar as it can even be called one. Vote a sociopath into power and you’ll see the gaudy, unabashed fireworks singe the gathered throngs, the huddled masses. Seeing the world so affected by every move from above, translating directly into your everyday has empowered people to take a stance, but also one in which partisanship saturates every call to arms and tears societies apart. The oneupmanship between nations, burning their bridges as they battled over PPE, or declared trade wars, exacerbated by opportunistic brinkmanship, from Hong Kong to the Himalayas, Venezuela to the Vietnam coast. Trump and Xi have both been major players, but within many countries a degradation of democracy to create overarching power has also manifested itself, notably Hungary, Brazil, Ethiopia, Turkey. We have seen two sides of the same coin -in ugly scenes of people defending their right to infect others, and governments readily rescinding constitutions in acts unconnected to protection. Politics is eating itself from the inside out.
Personally, it’s been tough as well as easy, up and down. The anxieties of costs, future, health and those of loved ones too all balanced with a huge amount of free time and no more rigmarole of commuting, weerking and hell being other people -plus the guilt that comes attached. I applied to maybe 15 jobs in the time, with naught a reply, and a promise to change my name. My family out of work next month, but on a magnitude that applies beyond just those we know. A coming recession looks inevitable, that for this country alone will be the worst in 300 years, not just crippled by the pandemic but already hobbled by Brexit (with a look to mask that loss of face with the miasma of biological lawlessness, that something only as epic as a pandemic will excuse). The horizons seem darkened, though somewhat distant in the sun. What awaits the global economy for the decade to come, and the destabilisation of societies remains to be seen, but it doesn’t fare well -it almost cannot.
Will return to work this coming week in a bittersweet homecoming of sorts -a semblance of normality but entering an uncertain future, an outlook that applies to the entire economy beyond firsthand experience. How much can be clawed back, and how much needs to be rewired, and endured? How much support will we need, and how much can we give?
Well one cannot deny the rollercoaster of mind and body. No more exercising, no more waking to panicking alarms, no more structure to many a day. Worry and freedom in a perpetual chase of emotions, dependent on how much one loses themselves in the present, or past. There’s been argument, division, reconciliation, laughter, so much love. A realisation of what is important in life. At times working for 18 hour days, but mostly not working at all, where time drifts between periods of sleeping. And always, the need for money, the abandonment of family to an uncertain fate, abstracted over some far horizon and haunting one’s dreams. I never did get the infection.
One day we will look back on this with tales to tell. What position we come to feels like the flotsam on some wave, with perhaps a promise of land to beach on. That promise can never die, even if it never transpires. Society has changed, and it is up to us to make it anew, to sculpt that form we wish it to take. There’s never been a better time, and neither has it been so precious; I thank you for giving it.
All the best and stay safe.
PS a pic of kittens
2 thoughts on “A Journal of the Plague Year Day 100”
My heart shook at some of the things you said in this article, and your beautiful attempt to expose as much of the truth of reality as you did. The child’s play and immaturity expressed in politics has caused an insurmountable amount of suffering, division, and confusion for those who don’t have such or similar-level positions of power; it is why I am fully opposed to the very concept of politics.
You are right; there isn’t a better time to shape society into what we want it to be. The rate of global change is accelerating—perhaps quicker than any other time in human history. Collectively, we have the tools, the knowledge, the experience, the wisdom to reshape the planet into a space of acceptance for everyone, other organisms alike. But, especially as epitomized by this pandemic, the change that is happening is quite unstable and hard to keep a grasp on. And there is no variable that drives this instability more than climate change and related environmentally destructive activities. It is slowly (but at an increasing rate) displacing entire groups of people, turning more parts of the planet into uninhabitable areas, and driving the systems of the world, and the people in power that run them—which/who hold the lives of the entire population at stake, responsible for our quality of life, our individual beliefs, and even the everyday decisions we make—to their tipping points. And for that sole reason, I fear it is already too late to reshape the world into a manifestation of the change we all want.
Why are we still holding on to ~6,500-year-old principles such as looking down at people/other animals/other living things/objects that are different from us? Treating everything from our environment to some of us as lifeless objects we can use to advance our selfish goals and pleasures? And to those in certain positions…why are you more important than the very medium that allows you to exist? Even if you don’t believe so, your actions and decisions likely express otherwise.
Why are we so desperate to return to a sense of “normalcy”? As hard as it was just to survive in that world of “normalcy”? Why aren’t we embracing a world of change? We may not want to, because the state of the world is changing into something worse than it has been. But at the very least, we still have the power to alter the direction of the acceleration of change. So no matter how hard the challenge will be and how many thousands of years might take, let’s race towards living in the kind of environment we want to live in: a world full of peace, love, equality, acceptance; with a full reconnection to nature and spirituality. (But wait, we only have a few decades at most! Well, let’s shoot for it anyway.)
A human. (Yes, my age, race, gender, or any concept that can be used to categorize me into something is 100% irrelevant.)
Thank you Astrowizkid, indeed humanity would do better to connect to nature and not itself, in which it’s always mired, navel-gazing into economic performance and one’s self importance. We might actually learn something.
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