Notes from the lockdown II, May 2021

About a year ago, I wrote a blog-post* in the midst of the development of the Covid-19 pandemic. The lockdown had just started in the Czech Republic and the general atmosphere was one of slight paranoia. At that point, there was no way of knowing what directions this will take. If we were to have known that a year later we would still live under restrictions and that the danger caused by the virus would be far from over, this knowledge would have been overwhelming.

Some things have been revealed for me during this year. Some things have shown themselves under a new light.

Lessons learned and questions raised:

1. A crisis makes visible the societal structures that we constantly rely upon. I read stories about healthcare workers who comfort patients who cannot breathe by themselves and need to be put into ventilators, some of them whom will die alone, unable to meet their friends and relatives, due to restrictions. I read that the most infected profession are postal workers, construction workers, cleaners and taxi drivers. I understand that a national food production is of essence, farmers and food producers are essential workers. When something goes wrong, I suddenly start to discern the efforts of people. I am able to see the institutions and structures in society that uphold my standard of life and my wellbeing, under a new light. They become visible to me, most clearly in crisis. Were they invisible for me before the crisis? Do not cleaners clean, nurses nurse, farmers farm, all the time? Yes they do, so why do we perceive their efforts saliently only in crisis?

2. One narrative that has been a constant companion to the reporting on the pandemic is that of “the economy”. The virus demands that we restrict our dealings with each other and that we change our behavioral patterns in order to keep each other safe. Whereas “the economy” demands that we keep behaving as before. What kind of conflict is this? There is a discrepancy here in that the virus does not have human intentions, it does not heed to what we want or what we care about. The virus does not care, but if we do not understand its intentionality, its workings and its behavior, which is not human, and adapt our life to this, then it will afflict us even more. Whereas “the economy” is structured by our human intentions and behavior. It is peculiar how “the economy” is often described as an external agent, demanding this and that from us.

3. To paraphrase Slavoj Zizek: we can imagine a global lockdown, restrictions in our behavior, redefinitions of how we interact and meet, how we touch and look at each other, but we cannot imagine a lifting of the patent laws that would make the distribution of the vaccine effective and democratic, due to the loss of profit for big pharma.

Antony Fredriksson