Weeks after our initial incarceration we are finally being released, little by little. Released, we say, because very few stayed indoors of their own accord. Of course some did, but most had no choice. Media hysteria censured of any alternative, fines, police intimidation and beatings are enough to keep even the most rebellious souls locked up. The monster came out of the mist only to retreat again, no one knowing when it might return to rear its ugly head.
Yet, here in southern Europe, we were not abandoned during quarantine. Not forgotten like the dead. Carrefour kept its shelves stocked. If one persisted toilet paper could be found and hoarded. Amazon never let us down, but at $10,000 a second that’s hardly surprising. Orange supplied in times of need, but with society’s upsurge in demand on telecommunications an upgrade from this archaic 4G is essential. In a period of hibernation, as they have chosen to label it, big industry enjoyed a midnight feast while the others were forced to sleep. It would appear that Holzmann’s ‘creative destruction’ is exactly what we’re witnessing: a good old deep clean, forcing the clutter into the corners to make space for the elegant new furniture.
The scientific bombardment shows little sign of slowing up. The facts, figures, graphs, lofty titles and even heftier wallets continue to force upon us a story that must be accepted. Our ideas, experiences and lives are nothing but fake news in a New Normality where the only trustworthy sources are the party-pledges of our favorite periodicals. Everyone’s got an opinion yet to refuse the transcribed plot is to be in support of murder. Numbers skyrocketed, then relaxed, but death continues to rain down, yet all we see on the bleak walk to the shop and back are the faces we once smiled at, averting our gaze.
The life we are now living was drawn from a model that transitioned us from fascism, says the cop, gun pressed gently into the lower back. We’re lucky to have had this time together, says the husband, brushing his wife’s hair across the bruise beneath her eye. Many countries won’t have had the privileges granted to us, announces the director of an NGO, looking out of his window over the Madrid skyline.
When this ghost leaves Europe life will continue in its memory. The APPs downloaded to protect from contagion will continue to track; embedded ‘contact tracing’ becoming a pseudonym for socialising. Facial recognition software, perfected in its detection of those wearing masks, will become standard practice. Unsolicited gatherings of more than two are a threat to public health and the society of a metre’s distance just got bigger. By now, if there’s a scrap of truth in what they say, the virus will be ravaging Africa, but there are other ways to deal with that.
If we’re all in this together, whatever ‘this’ is, and it’s our duty to protect the vulnerable then now is not the time to take the blue pill, lie back and enjoy the Matrix. Generations are going to grow understanding this normality to be new in reference to a pandemic they don’t remember. Human contact is going to be a maneuver of biological terrorism and contesting science is to be regarded as lunacy. The activity timetables drawn up for us will clearly prescribe the boundaries of human exertion as dinner arrives in a paper bag on the doorstep of an Uber account, delivered by a neighbour you’ll never know from number 23. No need to meet. Just take a photo and leave it on the porch.
Contrary to what’s been said, capitalism is not the virus. Capitalism is a social relationship based upon an economic system that methodically exploits the excluded. The record isn’t fixed and it certainly hasn’t changed. The enemies are who they always have been: capital, being invested assets and resources; its lover of a lifetime, the state; their manipulators, advocates and beneficiaries, the rich and ruling class; and its defence, the police, military and affiliated security institutions. Even religion is losing its significance as this great leveling is firmly heralding science as God and non-compliance the Devil. What capitalism is doing, as the interplay of fluctuating relationships between these elements, is that which it always does: adapting to provide for its vested interests. The beauty of a flexible market economy is that it can bend and adjust itself according to supply and demand, but in bending demand supply can operate with greater efficiency. Just as capitalism requires the homogenisation of language to streamline its transactions, aiming minority tongues and dialects into irrelevance, the standardisation of consumer requirements and necessitisation of certain technologies pave a path to power less cluttered.
Much has been said about the assaults on the working class. Dismissals and contract suspensions are the talk of the town, and the black labour market the unheard scream, yet this has all been clear since time began. Capitalist power has been brutally exploiting since its inception, only now it is forcing desperation down choking throats. With a deliciously liquid property market as the lumps are whisked away, allowing more established capital to extend its reach by lapping up the lower labour costs, those that have been struggling for weeks – months – will take anything. The glorious flexibility of the ‘gig economy’ replaces any assumption that one needs a stable living wage as electronic interfaces improve an efficiency that humans held back. All the cultural pastimes that are so missed have been forced into irrelevance as capital’s grasp on ‘our neighbourhood’ is fully clenched. Every claim that “x is not for sale” has been fucked into the sidelines by the now evident reply that “yes, my dear, it is. You are.”
Let’s remember that the people imposing these measures are the same people that spill blood day in, day out, in global wars of political motive. The same people that rip the earth to pieces and poison it to the core, for the most important resources to extract are profit and power. Let’s not forget that those demanding our conformity are exactly those who, time and time again, force us down the path of crisis in an economy that we never even asked for anyway. The same intentions that raise rents and lower wages. The same hands that beat migrants without a glimmer of remorse. The same guns that killed Carlo Giuliani in Genoa in 2001, Alexandros Grigoropoulos in Athens in 2008 and Mark Duggan in London in 2011.
Whatever virus exists has not been defeated, controlled or sent packing. The ingredients have been balanced and the recipe perfected. While we’re waiting for the next course, slowly getting fat on the crumbs that fall from the masters’ table and remembering how easy it is to forget, the next great catastrophe is being rested before service. In the face of one of the greatest economic and social transformations of the current age, one must remember that those in whom many now look to for a solution, even supposed revolutionaries, are nothing but monsters: creators of a New Brutality that we are queuing up to endure.