A Journal of the Plague Year Day 23

Thursday 9th April 2020

 

 

Emily Maitliss opened Newsnight yesterday, following 938 new UK deaths, with one of the most prescient statements in a long time:

“The language around Covid-19 has sometimes felt trite and misleading. You do not survive the disease through fortitude and strength of character, whatever the Prime Ministers’ colleagues will tell us. And the disease is not a great leveller, the consequences of which everyone – rich or poor – suffers the same.

This is a myth which needs debunking. Those on the front line right now – bus drivers and shelf stackers, nurses, care home workers, hospital staff and shop keepers – are disproportionately the lowest paid members of our workforce. They are more likely to catch the disease because they are more exposed.

Those who live in tower blocks and small flats will find the lockdown a lot tougher. Those who work in manual jobs will be unable to work from home.

Her opener made headlines on every broadsheet.

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As mentioned recently the US infections -currently the epicentre of the pandemic -has seen an unfair slanting in Black and African American victims of the disease, Chicago reporting 70% of their cases despite the city only one third Black, with similar skewing in Louisiana, NYC and Detroit, places where race and income level strongly correlate. The BBC today has also turned the lens to our own country:

 

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Once again it appears more of the same. This seems mainly due to London being the epicentre, where 40% of residents are non-White. It also does have that correlation with class to some extent -for example 30% of Bangladeshi and 15% of Black households are classed as overcrowded compared to 2% for the national average, where it’s thus less likely to pass on. As Maitliss mentioned, minorities are also much more likely to be key workers, from the NHS (where one quarter of nurses and almost half of doctors are non-White), to transport staff and supermarket workers.

 

Yesterday’s film was also about exposing social injustice, writ into a daily life thriller. The showing was Bombshell, starring Charlize Theron (with prosthetics, playing news anchor Megan Kelly), Margot Robbie (Kayla, a new intern) and Nicole Kidman (fellow anchor, Gretchen Carlson) as the women embroiled in the sexism and sex-for-promotion scandal that overtook the Fox News network in 2016. Terse, edge-of-the-seat stuff, though lacking the fun and humour of the recent Apple offering, The Morning Show (Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon) that seems based on it. The film does miss out on what could have been some delicious exposées on toxic news avenger Bill O’Reilly, who gets a bit part, but concentrates on the fall from grace of Jabba-like media tycoon and former Nixon-courting politician, Roger Ailes.

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Apparently, the writers and producers from the start had the challenge of making the audience like the victims, or at least identify with them -stalwarts of a right wing, populist and propagandic news empire. They did this using Fleabag-like monologues, confiding with the camera while interacting the entire time still with daily life, a voice in the audience’s head despite it being evil altruistically alternative. Constant reminders of their family lives intersperse the film, complete with blonde, gurning children happily vulnerable to hate mail and reporters, then glossing over the rest, such as Kelly’s open racism or Carlson’s anti-gay rhetoric. A lowdown on what constitutes a Fox News story helps, as relayed by a secret Democrat working as a writer there. It starts off the trailer:

“You have to adopt the mentality of an Irish street cuff. The world is a bad place, people are lazy morons, minorities are criminals, sex is sick but interesting. Ask yourself what would scare my grandmother or piss off my grandfather.”

This is of course the opener near the start, that winks at the viewer to say, yes we know they’re morally corrupted, please play along. From there it introduces the two entirely fictional characters -the secret Hillary-supporting, lesbian staff writer and her one-time fling, Kayla -the generic Bimbo-dressed victim, who help to paint Fox staffers into a softer, more human and inclusive place. The fact they had to make them up entirely speaks volumes (perhaps unable to find anyone that wasn’t into animal sacrifice or KKK weekenders). The film makes for criminally good viewing, though there is no dramatic flourish at the end, or bible-thumping comeuppance to savour -true to life: Fox ended up paying $50 million to the dozens of victims, and $65 million severance to the three men accused.

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Also true to life, an icon for the film trailer on Youtube shows Charlize Theron, mouth open, about to ingest a side-on pizza slice – a screengrab deemed enticing enough to target another demographic it appears, even if it is a tale for the #metoo generation. Not unlike Aisle’s use of short skirts, excessive angles and transparent news desks to draw in the punters. Art mirrors life. And life goes on. Badly.

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This morning A got an allergic reaction. Going bright red, itchy and bumpy, hard to look at. Poor thing. But it is as always, a passing fad -within the hour it was gone, as he is strangely adverse to all sickness ever. Though when he does get sick (once every couple of years) it is very.

Went for a bike ride, the sun winking through foliage and air crisp and cool. People were dressed for summer, admiring the heritage poking above the trees, and placid waters mirroring the strolling, enough to add an atmosphere of convivial relaxation. There are only a few places I’ve been where every direction is beauty -usually in natural format, though humanity does raise a built landscape every now and then. Lauterbrunnen Valley, Symi, Lazise, Ko Phi Phi Leh, May in Virginia Water. The Ringstrasse, Burano, dusk in the Gardens by the Bay.

Well, for a few choice moments Battersea Park yesterday was that coffee table cover, something you spend years looking for. Just the right amount of people not to bespoil it, the perfect weather (cool yet sunny), and the optimal clarity at this time of year. For an everywhere that was crisp, gentle and swaying in the light.

This is the imagery strong enough to obscure the beyond, and deliver that long fought-for moment of peace.

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But of course I can’t really sing of anything nice without subsequently having to stylus-scratch it back into reality, with the looming elephant out of shot. This is the running theme so far, for this blog, for life and how we interpret it.

-We were one of the only few wearing facemasks, it’s still not a thing apparently among the youthful and healthy, who exclusively populated most of the paths. Strange summer.

This weekend will be geared towards heading off the holiday crowds. I like to think on one hand we are enjoying the view from the lifeboats -life’s great promise. On another, we need to remember not to push under the drowning.

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Yesterday

Tomorrow

 

 

A Journal of the Plague Year Day 17

Friday 3rd April 2020

Today has drifted by once again, with myself unsure of what happened. As if just woken, recounting what transpired in the dream.

Yes, I did that zoom meeting this morning (washed, changed, did my hair, repainted the walls). Then at some stage nipped out to do some shopping, after lunch.

Then it was a sit-down, and Lion King (‘live’ action version). A phonecall midway through. Then boom, here I am at half eleven at night.

Seriously, wtf have I done? Perhaps this is what slow time is meant to be like. I imagine stuff rural folk still do. Hovis ads with golden light streaming through glass, fields of wheat, smoking cottages and flatcaps. Aye m’lad, you get up, go get tha loaf down t’Ma in them flowers field, then be ‘ome fer supper. Day dun. Good pig.

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Though I’m sure in reality it involves busy dates with threshing machines, stone breaking, seed counting and bestiality. I’ve had none of these today (okay maybe the one) and this throws up the anxiety of not having had a productive day, while neither having that timely satisfaction of a simple task accomplished. But what exactly is the worst that can happen?

There is a time after a gluttonous, glutinous day off when the laziness has set to a level that cannot plateau further, crystallised into a bed. To me, it feels a bit like a headache or lancing of all energy, a sense of a decayed day. And that’s the worst, fossilised into a fabric embrace and smelling of sweat and youtube. While failing in life, having that Pulitzer prizewinner sitting still unwritten under the ticking of clocks.

My hair is currently manky. I put gel in it and it started smelling as it’s the cheap variety, normally a pleasant essence but I think at some stage it got heated by some alien x-ray and now smells like l’eau d’augebrèthe. Also a crow’s nest mess, and I’m savouring the idea of running it under a waterfall with hummingbirds and orchids, scented candles, pachelbel playing.

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In other news facemasks have suddenly become gold, generating a global game of PPE Pokemon. A general consensus is, with the World Health Organisation as usual a step behind, that a barrier to/ against your breath would actually be effective if the fucker’s airborne. Which China has been saying it is for quite some time, and why the whole 2 billion peeps in East Asia are masked to the max.

Last week Slovakia ‘appropriated’ a whole Chinese shipment of them destined for Italy (along with ICUs), then France did the same intercepting those on the way south. Turkey just took 160 ICU’s meant for Spain also, who can’t find a break right now. Meanwhile the US is appropriating all coming from American factories, or outbidding those on runways, taking supplies destined for France, attempting to rob SE Asia’s and now grabbing Germany’s and Canada’s too (the governor of Quebec threatening to cut off electricity to over the border). A smouldering Justin Trudeau has come on to plead remind the Great Orange Dolphin that trade treaties need to be complied with, while a call is on to stop the ‘modern day piracy’. The vast ongoings have been likened to a treasure hunt, although it more resembles hungry hippos, whereby the loser gets asphyxiated.

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689 more people died today, though the figure’s hard to spot, and willingly so it appears, coming up only as a bullet point among the live BBC news feed. Intended to stop the malaise of doom and gloom, but perhaps needed now that a sunny weekend is coming. The authorities are gearing up for a nationwide game of British bulldog with people ‘out for a walk’ (while transporting their picnic baskets, blankets, dogs, balls, deckchairs, sun loungers, parasols and volleyball nets). There’s definitely a spirit of gamesmanship in the air, filtered or not.

A Nottingham landlady is also under fire for her lockdown lock-in at a pub she runs, or as she described it: some well-wishers privately popping in to leave greetings for her husband. Meanwhile, I’ll be off to practice a bit of armed roleplay, plus a speedy check of cash handling procedures in my local HSBC.

Argentina has been forced to reopen its banks for face-to-face service as many in the nation are no longer able to access their cash or paychecks, leading to the central streets of the cities suddenly flooded, a carnival atmosphere among the thronging queues. Any excuse really, we are after all, humans. The same species that’s decimated the planet, with untold millions from history murdered beneath our feet, and whose governments are increasingly revealing themselves to be the robber barons they’ve always been beneath the veneer of labels and politesse, liable to steal from one another as to lie, point fingers and poison.

This pandemic will very, very much need a period of yoga matting after all this, and some pro-navel gazing on how such a horrid, horrid, silly thing ever happened. The stealing of medical supplies, the racism, the use of sanctions, the use of the crisis for more political and geopolitical leverage. The calls for war, or at least a rallying cry for one when it’s all over, like a dessert laden afterparty we can all look forward to.

Ah yes, that spirit of human unity and dignity in crisis, hands held out to infect our neighbours and clapping on our balconies to wish it all away.

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In my vid chat to friends last night, one of whom is a civil servant (possibly a spy) I heard crime’s fallen dramatically on all fronts but two – domestic/ child abuse has skyrocketed as people wall themselves in with the enemy, and cybercrime is stratospheric, what with all the main syndicates suddenly finding no punters to wheedle. From online grooming to blackmail porn, money holding scams to the usual alerts that your nonexistent PayPal accounts are being imminently closed for suspicious activity, and couldja please ring this number in Brazil to verify all bank and card deets, passwords, addresses and DNA samples

I’ve also gotten a furtive missive from er, 100 Pennsylvania Avenue to see if I’m interested in ‘informational activity’, as it’s been noted I am an outstanding persona of interest. Whaaat? Do I get to become cool, wear designer shades and work alongside Charlize Theron types? Dodging bullets, swapping briefcases, aiming sights on evil businessmen and secretly meeting rivals in places where no invested zoom could possibly train, such as benches on the Washington Mall.  Oh the possibilities! The one night stands in 5* Euro-accommodation, the parkour training and martial arts madness, the cocktails, the tuxedos, the gala balls and casinos! I’ll start doing my hair now. I suppose it’s better than last time, when Kofi Annan and his briefcase of African cash stood me up outside the UN.

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I seriously think there is a vast and pliant population online that needs to be addressed, a social issue. Old people, like really old. Who’ve just worked out how to use a mouse from 1996, and now ply through cyberspace like a barge of kittens in an Orca enclosure, clicking on flashing pop-ups, endearing them to come round the corner for nookie, or to put This One Crazy Trick (snail faced, pebble eating, butter smearing, pee absorbing) to virulent use. That lithe sportswoman (sometimes a pre-teen gymnast), legs askew, Who Had No Idea Why Everyone Was Laughing, or that handsome fella born between 1900 and 2030 who is inline To Make Thousands Back From PPI, or claim Free Solar Panels Off The Council. Oh and Gary Lineker’s dead.

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In all seriousness there’s an entire multi-billion $ industry now catering to this army of the befuddled -clickbait or Nigerian prince scams being just some of them. On a more sinister, world-changing note, algorithms are identifying these as the people to call when you need a bit of light canvassing for your presidential campaign, interest lobbying, geostrategic spywork or commercial investments. These people can change the world. In the US there is no limit on free speech, unlike say Europe, where hate speech is arrestable. Americans like to think hate speech is self-policing, that people soapboxing their diatribes on say how Black slavery was validated and needs to be brought back, that childbirth hurts as it’s God’s punishment to women, or we need to assassinate a 15 year old Swedish schoolgirl for her climate change activism, will only mean they’ll get their comeuppance from being outcast as crazies, and their jobs subsquently lost.

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However, switch that to the echo chamber of Cyberspace, with lonesome retirees who have nothing to lose and you’ll receive a free propaganda dept and labour force, who’ll spend 10 hrs a day sharing Breitbart articles and Rupert Murdoch news across social media, chat forums, radio shows, podcasts and blogs while adding, liking and thumbing down millions of related comments. Generally leading to things such as the Tea Party movement (teabaggers), Trumpism and the Gulf War. Instead of crazies with a subsequent sacking, you get a blizzard of likes and a ‘discussion’ on the table that allows it to actually gain credence, then a vote.

Next time you look at little old neighbour Ruth, clutching her handbag, her pitifully light shopping, smelling of wee and trying to remember her house number, keep in mind she may well be Putin’s premier ground agent, a denizen of international intrigue via her WhatsApp handle, Killblade4U.

Hopefully, there are more discerning voices out there. Those who aren’t inside, out of work, stuck all day, lacking a life, writing politics and ingesting newsfeeds, then starting blogs to parrot their political leanings. Erm, yep.

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Though seriously, in all truth if ever I started a war it would be against kittens (versus pandas) and they’d only work out territorial claims using kisschase.

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Oh and Ukippers, they’ve got to go. Fucking scum.

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