I am learning to see the intricate movement and colours of plants. I sometimes wish I had learned photography, but sometimes the impressionistic approach I take, must do instead. I think of their root communities and networks, their beauty and seductiveness, the scent and shape of petals and leaves. Pandemic life must be one that tries to find moments of joy or peace from the cruelty of a world that puts people below profit.
We are living in the age of human sacrifice to capital. The stock market, always oiled by blood, sucks the life out of humanity. Yet the earth continues its ceaseless spin and our days get longer, climate change brings droughts, heat waves, tornadoes, cyclones. But the plants have been enjoying the recent heat waves. Even the storms recharge them and gift them a shiny contented green. Raspberries and zucchinis show us the beauty of edible plants and mint has filled the corner , exhaling her cooling freshness. We are not yet in the dog days of summer, but sometimes it ‘s good to just look down and around to see, with our human imperfect eyes, not through the capture of the perfect machine.
More drawings of my time in self -isolation. After nearly 2 months, it’s been a time of many moods, thoughts, hopes and fears. Some pictures show the despair and anxiety of loneliness– as the essence of our default humanity is to run towards each other. Those who manage COVID 19 have demanded we give that up, the first step in dehumanizing us as their neo-feudal subjects. Yet, we long to be held and comforted. No, not back to exploitative and oppressive normalcy, but back to our own better, happier, more generous selves.
And yet to be human is to be restless, to want, to dream, to hope, and to communicate. I have attended some online seminars, heard some special music, re-read books from childhood, with their scenarios, characters and plots, wholly unlike our times. I learned that children are drawn to codes and secret languages because language still has secrets for them. This, perhaps, they share with poets.
Both the ability to escape, and the need to be present, have been part of my survival. I have meditated and prayed, cleaned and cooked. I have depended on people like never before, yet been utterly alone. It’s been surreal at times.
I have gone for walks and both longed for, and been scared by, human interaction. The message of physical distancing must not steer us toward psychological distancing. We have to fight ourselves, sometimes, to get out of the pit of despair that seems like this pandemic’s social engineering. But going for walks whose purposes are simply to move, to breathe, to act, to exist, to see, are different than walking with friends or partners, to grab a coffee, run an errand, or buy something. If there is something I’ve learned, it is that living with minimum consumption feels alien, when our previous conviviality in the neighbourhood meant going into the small stores and cafes, living an existence of consumption that was outside the big box.
These drawings are for all of you, who may have felt both so alone and so accompanied during the days of self isolation. They are drawings of the heart!
While the Coronavirus, Covid 19, lays bare all our inequities and fears, spring is still springing in the Northern hemisphere. Bit by bit, crocuses and bulbs are beginning their annual preening, though this year, it seems they have less admiring audiences as the streets are more empty than I’ve ever seen them. Ever so gradually, the tiniest of brown and green fuzz sprouting on tree branches and bushes will uncurl to show the little green of newly born leaves.
Like the poet Adrienne Rich exhorted us so many years ago, we must “dream of a common language” in the face of this pandemic. A pandemic whose elite narratives exclude and disregard the vast plight of world humanity. Our common language must include compassion, humanity, mercy, and kindness for the most vulnerable during these terrible times. Unemployment, food insecurity, lack of housing, the loss of loved ones, lack of access to widespread testing, the uncertainty of various social messages about how to best protect ourselves; these are truly sad and sometimes, enraging, times.
And yet, in spite of all that naked greed has done to devastate our surroundings, the earth is still here, beneath my feet when I go for my solitary walk. Birds and urban mammals are rejoicing. Bird song is louder than it’s been in the city! This is a visual piece, a homage to our planet, whose beauty can give us something to strive for, when the social order seems senseless…
The other day, a friend asked me if I had been writing. The truth of the matter is, being solitary sometimes makes me unable to concentrate. I think it’s ironic, that I have not watched Netflix once, since the start of official self isolation for elders and those with pre-existing conditions. Part of this has also to do with a psychological reaction— it seems wrong to be “entertained” and actually, I couldn’t care less for more than ninety percent of their offerings.
More importantly, I have returned to reading, where I feel my imagination and thinking comes more into play. There’s definitely a distinction between those people who relate to the screen more than the page!
This is a time of reflection and fear. Of hope and possible futures, possible only if we confront our reality— and it is a reality— head on, and at the very least, plan our societies.
Social planning has been an anathema to neo-liberal politicians and their allies for at least 35 years. Yet social planning and the emergence of public health and post WWII social welfare schemes, are what helped industrial and colonizing nations manage their own domestic class discontent. And the ideas and implementation of state-funded socialized medicine are to be hugely applauded, especially if the logic of planning is people, and not profit, centred.
Much of the crisis in the world during the current pandemic is due to profit being the guiding light through this disaster. Some politicians may pay lip service to helping their fellow citizens. But it is not what they say, but what they do, that counts. Canada is floating in a sea of perfect murkiness when it comes to support for quarantine and self-isolation measures. Online groups speak to heart breaking terror in real time and life. Families are suffering in all concievable ways. Refugees and prisoners are being abandoned to their fates. We did this.
A week ago I told someone that the coronavirus had killed postmodernism. There are no competing versions in the marketplace of truth as we can see so clearly today. Something invisible has made everything visible.
And like all important “things”, truth comes at a high price. Currently, much of this crisis could be avoided- psychological, physical, financial, travel-wise, if we as a world chose early and total testing and planning for both the decrease of contagion and the support of those who are infected and affected by COVID19.
This takes into account our real material interconnectedness, shows us that most people migrate only out of absolute necessity, whether from rural areas to urban within domestic/national borders (India, China, U.S, Mexico) or internationally. Those countries that are doing better to control the crisis include, Germany and Viet Nam. Because they are testing early and often and coming up with a plan for those test results! Testing without planning is meaningless. Late testing is responsible for critical illness and fatality spikes. Rationing tests when community transmission has already taken hold is the first step to genocide.
Epidemiologists have criticized Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and other laissez-faire neoliberals for their scoffing approach to the virus and their erections when propping up the stock market and promoting various forms of fascism. Strangely, the WHO is all about praising India, deluded into thinking that the India of the BJP’s Modi is the same as the India of the era of Polio eradication campaigns. All those Phds— and really?
Back in the day when I was a political science undergrad, corporatism was a type of fascism that we studied, with the fascist body led by its God-given head. This fascism, bred in Europe has roots in the feudal conflation of church and state and civil society.
We saw it in Italy and Spain, in Greece under the Generals, in Portugal and Salazar, and in Latin America, whose post Independence legacies of ruling and constitutionalism have been so clearly derived from their European colonizers. And to some extent in India, where labour, students and activists have traditionally organized on institutional— that is, party camps. But today, corporatism has fallen by the way side, replaced by religious bigotry, ethnic cleansing, white supremacy, and upper-middle class libertarianism and consumption.
Today’s leaders are demonstrating they don’t care— about people who cannot be exploited (the elderly and the non-employed disabled).
They don’t care about people who do not have the money to pay for everything that needs to be paid for (from necessities like utilities, water, rent, food, transportation, and even internet and its related technology, to luxury goods).
They don’t care for people not lured into constant complusive consumption. Looks at the vitriol and violence unleashed by countless adult men on Greta Thunberg!
Commodity fetishism in the Xanaxocene is what we’re dealing with. Trillions are being diverted away from human survival and potential, into industries run by fossil fools, commodities traders and bankers. These are the people who determine what is health, who is disposable, and what is worth saving. These are the people that dictate our moral compass.
But they can’t take over our personal consciences. In the absence of human-centred health care, I’ll be staying home— out of both self-interest as a member of a hgh-risk group, and out of love, for all those I do not know, whose imperfect bodies make us all, human.
I am ending today’s piece with two pieces of art: a poem that speaks to our global terror, recited by the author, Dylan Thomas. It’s direct counterpoint to the idea that “grandparents should sacrifice themsleves for the DOW” .
Do not go gentle into that good night
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
For those of us with disabilities and compromised immunity, the coronavirus contagion is loaded with particular fear. Like the elderly, our bodies are already dealing with underlying issues, some of which are already being treated for, and some for which there is no reliable big pharma treatment but sometimes symptomatic help. Over the last six weeks, being a news junkie, I have read both fact and fiction, been inundated with both hope and fear.
But today, I realized again my place in the world. As the prime minister of the country I live in, pleaded for social distancing and self-isolation, he never mentioned people like us, with disabilities that already make accessing healthcare a massive issue. He spoke of grandparents and health care workers, but those of us who were not wanted before this pandemic must be careful, because we are not even on the social radar.
This is why so many people are blithely going about their day as usual, not realizing that being possibly asymptomatic, can affect those next to you, whose health histories and disabilities you know nothing about. Clearly the problems we face in places like Canada are quite different than in the former “3rd world”.
But not really. Consider that more than eighty First Nations Reservations are without running water and potable water, at a time when all public health experts agree we cannot wash our hands and bodies too much. Consider the price of fresh food— greens and fruits, eggs, meat, milk and water in our Northern Communities. Communities where money can always be found to exploit, but never to help.
Consider that in a country with land and wealth and climate extremes, we have thousands of homeless people. Just two blocks from where I am isolated, hundreds of women have come to use social services for poor and homeless women and trans-women. These women are already suffering poverty, inadequate housing, and nutrition, and are absolutely on their own when in comes to mental health, as poor people seem to be these days.
Consider that for 2 weeks I went to 14 inner city big box and other stores and was able to come home with a carton of eggs, 1 litre of milk and a box of tea. Friends have had to help me gather supplies for the lockdown, as the combination of illnesses i suffer from made it impossble for me to continue going on my Sisyphean quest for food and hygiene products for more than two weeks. Now more than ever we must echo Marx’s observation that “Man (sic) is a social animal”. Without the solidarity and kindness of other humans, I would not have coped alone.
Capitalism is coming apart at the seams. Rent, taxes, consumption, travel, transportation, medical systems, everything is in flux. We are held hostage by a few billionaires that would rather see us die, than provide basic medical equipment and supplies without profit. The buying and selling of stocks and commodities is still continuing apace, bailed out by those governments with the most to lose when it all comes crashing down.
Anxiety is a factor in this pandemic, precisely because everything is so nebulous and uncertain. Mental health workers who actually care for their patients are arranging for phone and Skype check-ins. This too is so important for many of us. I was advised to order some medications in a bigger supply, but already hypertension medications are experiencing supply chain issues as those with insurance have been able to get 6 month supplies.
Finally, friends have come through with phone calls, and FB chats, singalongs and virtual socializing. Love is also in the air.
But let us not lose sight of those of us, who have added susceptibility and dismiss them/ourselves as paranoics or hypochondriacs. The very absence of statements about our value to our country— to all countries , shows me that people should take this seriously, because we persons with disabilities too, would love to live and thrive in a post- COVID 19 world, rather than be victims of social ethos in which eugenicist culls by virus are going to be “the final solution”.