Treatment for a Covid-19 story

By Simon Gleave

 

As I write, Korina is pacing back and forth in the apartment unfolding and refolding clothes, unpacking then organising then dusting then repacking corners, moving chairs to make space then cleaning her hands and telling me to clean my hands and then cleaning her hands again. She is still in her dressing gown.

Her mind is agitating her and this is agitating her to change the space around her. She was in tears listening to the lyrics of the Greek anthem this morning. She misses her mum and dad and is slightly regretting coming to a country that has not taken the virus as seriously as her own, where the risk of general infection would cause such massive damage that everyone has responded directly in communal action. She says she is struggling to adapt. Last night we watched The Shining and I hope isolation won’t do to her what it did to Jack. Maybe tonight we will watch Shrek.

David and I were in discussion last week about how ideas are like viruses that infect the minds and nervous systems of those they inhabit and that art is one of the most powerful tools in transmitting the virus of an idea to a group of people. And that the main idea of art is humanity. I was going to try to avoid trite generalities about humanity needing to adapt to new circumstances imposed on it by nature and that one of the oldest themes of humanity is metamorphosis, but fuck it. Maybe this is all about adaptation and metamorphosis. Some of us are dying, some of us are losing our livelihoods, some of us are missing our families, trying to build new realities out of the mess and some of us are fighting the war of ideas. Maybe we are actually all in this together. Maybe this is all just China’s fault.

But…

..the waters of Venice’s canals are clearing and there is a return of dolphins and swans to the waters; there is a depletion of megatons of carbon in the Chinese air; the aviation industry is collapsing before our eyes; huge corporations are haemorrhaging money and status; governments are speaking or trying to speak to the poorest and most vulnerable with compassion and assurance; socialism is being revealed as the necessary system of crisis and humanity.

In the Hollywood film of this pandemic, once Dwayne the Rock Johnson has defeated Covid-19 (and been reunited with his long lost child) he discovers that in order to survive, humanity has to change who we are… we have to leave the waters clear and the skies empty… he reflects in a final monologue on radio-waves to co-mercenaries that we are just an expanded tributary of tribes and are as such interdependent… that we should not allow people to drown at the expense of those who can fly… co-mercenaries, machine guns in hand, learn something profound about how we interact with nature, how we rely on her, how “if we fuck with her she will fuck us back harder”… in a final sub-plot resolution, Dwayne the Rock grapples twentieth century myopic egocentricity to the floor finding himself on a conference call with Naomi the Sky Klein who explains to him the inherent contradiction between capitalism and climate sustainability… in a click moment he and Jason Statham skydive into a new paradigm… world governments unleash billions in welfare, vegan substitutes and the seeds for reforestation of the Amazon Rainforest…

But.

Back in reality – of a Mike Leigh variety – the moment a vaccine for Covid-19 is found the fake dolphins are chased out of Venetian waters by clouds of petrol, the smog re-descends over Wuhan and metropolitan transport systems reopen to workers heading back to their desks and warehouse floors as Iain Duncan-Smith and Clown BlowJob Johnson champion a post-Brexit economy’s return to productivity…

What is happening?

What will happen?

The stories we have been telling ourselves are shit, folks. The ones we will tell ourselves must be better. If ideas are like viruses, then viruses are like ideas and perhaps the idea this virus brings to us is the one of our failed narrative. Dwayne the Rock Johnson can eat his pay check and move aside. Maybe we need a different hero.

And maybe it’s Korina… shuffling about trying to configure the best balance of furniture and files in our house… worrying about home and family… trying to make sense of the lyrics of her national story… lost… sending me articles about Venetian dolphins… lost…

 

 

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