To Never Forget
As the harsher voices of what has been and has happened in the last two years begin to fade and withdraw, I think it is important to try to keep a clear memory of it all. Personally, perhaps as a consequence of living in a civilized country (UK) where you can spend whole days without talking about COVID, vaccines and even seeing a mask, a certain ghost re-emerges, sometimes in dreams, sometimes in front of you, physical and heavy. It is the ghost of the pandemic.
This ghost is made up of all the frustrations and horrors we have endured, not knowing how to do otherwise. The fear that caught up quite everyone, two years ago, was in fact as contagious as the invisible enemy.
No one knew what has happening – and this is perhaps why most of it has been tolerated – and why it will be by most forgiven: yet, at the verge of two years, the lies and malaise about to emerge might strike as a tsunami against all of us. Perhaps we deserve it. After all, we’ve again seem to have lost track of the environmental horrors – too concentrated on the intensive care wards we undermine the intensive cattle and markets that brought the pandemic in the first place: the industrial livestock, industrial agriculture, a tabula rasa of asphalt, cement and oil – deforestation and melting of the poles. This infamous Sars-Cov-2 ’spill-over’, preceded by so many ‘milder’ zoonoses, seems to have just cried out the desperate suffering of animals and nature. That horrific reality of human abuse to the core of natural life: it seems, as many did think, only a natural and just response to wipe us all out. But it did not: again, Nature has been clement. But we, again, have not been so.
When two years ago I heard on the radio the request for everyone to ‘stay at home’ – it seemed to me a reasonable solution. Only later I realized a conceptual fallacy with what was going on. Staying ‘at’ home, as noted by the Wu Ming collective, does not mean staying ‘in’ a home. Staying at home means not going to work, not going on trips, postponing the wedding party: huge sacrifices in a pre-pandemic Jurassic era. Today it is ‘normality’. It is because even staying ‘at’ home turned out to be a lie – like it or not – and no one seemed to be particularly concerned. We locked ourselves up inside our homes, sacrificing friendships, social events, leaving politicians to decide the means of our next two years, pharmaceutical companies to experiment with what drug place in the market, virologies to pick which media channel to ravage their ‘theories’, multi-billionares see their exploits and speculations grow beyond their wildest dream. And all we were left to do, was stare outside windows and into mediated screens – while hoping not to die. Yet, this is what later has been implied, what we’ve been sold, and what we now endure.
I personally cannot forget a number of things, and I can only shake at the thought of what the younger ones carry within themselves: the apocalyptic alarms launched in the deserted streets by the loudspeakers of the civil defence cars. That horrifying tone that was mechanically repeated as an apocalyptic mantra to remain us isolated: a voice and a coldness unheard of before. And the fear in the eyes of the elderly in supermarkets – the phrases I heard, the looks I received – all, absolutely, undeserved – cannot be left behind. All the pathetic allusions, verbal abuse, vile comments, broken hopes, pointing fingers, undeserved guilt – and more, national lies, illogical accusations, priceless sacrifices – an avalanche of things that we all are bound to carry around like scars of war: they will re-emerge, and we must stand firm, truly firm so that they do not fill us with suffering and frustration, just as all wars frustrate their soldiers – at least the most sensitive – while brainwashing everyone else. It is the return home that breaks the soldier who survived the bullets, the gas and the bombs – the return to the hoped-for normality, but to which we have now changed too much. We too, that survived the virus, must brace ourselves – evermore.
However, as mentioned above, it is not that the ‘before’ was far off a better place – and it was very far from being ‘normal’. We do not need another Zygmund Bauman to remind us how the horrors of mass migration and mass tourism, the hypocritical ‘flexibility’ of work, the total destruction of the sense of community ‘, the accentuated instability of the family, the ‘pleasant’ extremization of relationships virtual, – all resulting in the apex of globalized consumerism, the idealization of individualism, choice, spontaneity. The pandemic has made clear to everyone the hypocrisy of this way of life: it has made neighbours look up to each other, care of communal gardens, appreciate surroundings, local shops. Perhaps, staying at home does indeed prove some vantage: return a sense of meaning to the neo-liberal madness that now, perhaps fed up with planet Earth, is aiming to poison other planets. While doing so – and it is interesting to note how Virgin CEO flew in space (consolidating his childish dream) while most of the world was isolating for the ‘delta’ variant of Sars-Cov-2; in these years we have experienced what it actually means to breathe clean air from constant 12 hours of traffic. It demonstrated what it means to see the blue, truly blue sky above the city. All this has happened, and it too, should not be forgotten.
Copyright (C) 2022: Lapo Maria Zati