Cw: domestic abuse, end of the world discussion.
I must apologise for the tone and topic of this. But, of course, things are not normal. Right now, I am struggling to focus on writing about media even though now, more than ever, I should be consuming it – being a non-medical person, with no skill to aid anyone, except to remain isolated and avoid contact.
You might have noticed the apocalypse rolling out around you. The world grinding to a halt and ending, not with any bangs, only whimpers and coughs. Cities emptied, with nothing to show but packets and papers blowing. Roads silent, the ceaseless drone dimmed by quarantine. The only life around being wild, feral or feathered.
COVID-19 has spread throughout the world, causing a worldwide pandemic on a scale we’ve not seen since basically 1968. People are suffering, some dying. All are scared.
We are pulled between fear and emptiness. Some struggling more than others to be alone, silence a blanket of fear. Others are left drowning in the toxicity of their fellow bunkmates: parents or maybe alleged lovers, whose poison could be ameliorated by a distance now denied. The system meant to protect such targets from the wolves has had to put them in the same cage instead. The invisible menace of the virus prioritised over the constant menace of abuse.
Legal practitioners – my field – have taken it on themselves to remain open and accessible, where possible. This isn’t, of course, enough. It will never be.
In South Africa, my country, we live in the most unequal society in the world. The levels of poverty are astronomical, lives ruined by the ghosts of colonial and apartheid pasts that have permanently scarred this land. In response to the pandemic, the government has shut us down. “Lockdown” they call it, for 21 days, wherein we remain indoors – venturing out only if we are privileged enough to have gardens or balconies. No dogs will be walked, no jogs will be jogged, no work will be done unless it is deemed by the regulations as “essential”. They cut off the alcohol and cigarette runs, much to the consternation of many – not even those who consume such substances but those worried about sudden withdrawals and the ramifications for individual lives and those around them.
There is too much to consider, by too few, with too little time. Every step forward comes with a hammer to the toe. A consideration forgotten or left out, either to be quickly reconsidered or simply shrugged off because we have to solve this big crisis now. There’s no running from it.
Others will point to how this outbreak and this reaction has brought into sharp relief the divided economic lines – but those lines were always there. Some of us just chose never to colour them in.
Some are lucky enough to be in a situation where we can work from our homes, have books and entertainment to occupy us in our dwelling. And yet with that must come guilt: Since there are many who have no such luck, who cannot even distance themselves from others due to the nature of their home life.
Isolation only works when you can actually isolate.
We will emerge from this. But we cannot forget who had homes to go to, who had safety, who had silence, who had media and games and water. We should not be adding to our anxiety, since, right now, we must care for ourselves. But there’s a difference between ignoring the world and prioritising oneself right now, in this extraordinary situation, before finding the voice and skills to act when it is safe to do so. If you have money, donate to charities; if you can, foster a pet; if you’re able, assist those with disabilities or who are elderly. We need hope and charity, kindness and strength in these dark times.
We will get through this. Until then, play some zombie games, read some books, and, for Cthluhu’s sake, do not go outside.