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  • Writer's pictureTuur Verheyde

My Final Corona Rant

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

We are on the verge of March. The vaccination process is crawling forward. It is slow, confused and seems almost improvised. Every day there’s another hiccup (or cock-up to be more precise). The Coronavirus infection rate is rising after continuously plateauing when it should be falling. The news is a spectacle of absurdism. Daily stories of people breaking the lockdown rules have become almost ubiquitous. People are meeting friends in secret. Parties are being held. People are travelling around the place. Meanwhile, the calls for immediate lockdown relaxations are becoming ever more deafening.

Then a few sunny Spring days drag us from the wintry cold, evoking the sights and sounds of happier, more hopeful seasons and almost immediately thousands of people are flocking to the coast, to the high-streets, to public parks, squares and other large spaces to spend their time trundling through the plentiful masses. Here and there group meetings congeal into large crowds and mini-festivals. Thousands of people are choosing to huddle together like unprotected sardines. ‘We’re sick of it,’ they say. We are all sick of it. We are all tired, defeated, eager to start living again. Some of us haven’t seen each other in months or almost a year. Some of us have had their livelihoods destroyed. Some of us have been locked up inside because catching the virus means death, some of us got the virus and are suffering lasting consequences and some of us are dead.

The infection rate is rising, Spring hasn’t even properly started yet and we are going out in droves. People expect the measures to be lifted when everywhere they are rushing to break them? Are you for real? The government has failed, but we have failed too. I am honestly ashamed and I have no doubt that unexpected flare-ups will continue to happen. Right up until the end of the pandemic and perhaps even after. And every time we play fast and loose with the rules, we ensure this whole thing will drag on even longer.

This behaviour has made one thing maddeningly clear to me: once this cynical farce we call ‘normality’ starts back up again, everything will be as miserable as ever for many people. Economists and political scientists around the world (Ann Pettifor, Rutger Bregman, Yanis Varoufakis, Grace Blakeley, Mariana Mazzucato, to name just a few) have stressed that this could be a golden opportunity to extend the possibilities of social democracy and use COVID-related relief and stimulus packages to speed up a green transition, lay down a solid pandemic prevention plan and bring in serious protections for the workforce. Some of them are practically begging governments not to be afraid to loan (it’s the cheapest it has been in decades) and invest in the economy instead of worrying about deficits. This pandemic is proof that the Friedmanites were wrong. This could be our chance to abandon the privatisation and deregulation dogma of Thatcherite neoliberalism and strengthen our economy by strengthening our people & institutions. However, looking at the reckless eagerness to return to the old untenable normal, I bet you nothing will come of it. Austerity will once again be the solution and people will be forced into destitution and despair because our politicians and our media just can’t let go of the old ways, the corporations & their millionaire leadership aren’t willing to compromise and we are too passive to force them.

I consider myself to be a socialist leaning towards anarchism. My politics are based on empathy. I believe the means of production should be owned by the people. I believe mutual aid & solidarity should supplant profit and economic growth as the guiding principles of our society. I believe all unjust hierarchies should be overthrown unless they can justify themselves as necessary. These times are utterly depressing for someone like me. Capitalism has utterly devoured the soul of solidarity. The luxuries of the Western middle-class lifestyle have become the Golden Calf in whose honour we are willing to sacrifice our dignity, our compassion and the lives and livelihoods of our fellow human beings. It doesn’t bode well for future pandemics and the ongoing climate crisis; The environment and the future of our society seem to matter little to most people. We’re all looking towards technocrat billionaires and their politician lackeys to save us so we don’t have to let go of the constant holidays abroad, the one car per family, the wasteful trinkets with which we are so entranced. ‘Fuck you, got mine’ has become the universal principle of human conduct. Ayn Rand would be proud. In this void of universal nihilism, what else is left to us?

What do we do? There is no ethical consumption under capitalism. There is no relief from wage labour. There is no end to the sociopathy of the super-rich and the apathy of the masses. Revolution seems as unlikely as Jeff Bezos using his fortune to end homelessness or poverty. What do people who care about the state of things do? Do we continue to believe in solidarity and compassion when the rest of society clearly doesn’t? Do we hold on to these beliefs not because it might achieve a better tomorrow or alleviate even the slightest of suffering—this idealism might prove to be detrimental to our sanity given the bleakness of everything—but because it makes us feel like better people? Or do we dump these instincts like so many conservatives have? Do we forgo investment in universal wellbeing, smother compassion and hunker down to tend solely to our own comfort and success because 'Il faut cultiver notre jardin,' as Voltaire put it in Candide? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I am goddamn tired. What fun it will be, once this pandemic is over, to learn who among us partook in the rush to normality regardless of consequences and who among us (if anyone) is still willing or able to ‘cast the first stone.’ What fun indeed. Either way, I doubt any of it will make the slightest difference for when the next preventable pandemic or crisis comes along. Save yourselves, people, save yourselves. I guess that’s all we have been reduced to.

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