ISSN 1989-4163

NUMERO 111 - MARZO 2020


Splendid Isolation

Coos Palmboom

Get ready for the local economy. The worldwide economy is being destroyed right before our bewildered eyes. The meltdown corona virus madness engulfing the planet is leaving little doubt about our near-future destiny. It may not necessarily happen in the end, but there's already a wide-spread feeling it could all go wrong for our way of life. In such circumstances, please allow me to offer some words of comfort.


When dealing with a pandemic, it is important to think pandemically. And what we have seen pandemically so far is nothing to get all pandemic about. Yes, the disease is spreading fast, but no, not many people are dying from it. It's worse than the ordinary flu but not that much worse. It's a bit like the appearance of the tiger mosquito or the flying cockroach. Bigger and nastier than you were used to, but not that different in the end. Sod off, is your first reaction, but you already know you will have to learn to live with it soon. So you start getting on the look out for signals virus has its weak sides, and you understand there are none, apart from its fatality. Covid-19 is on a winning streak and staying uninfected unfortunately has become impossible. Virus has been walking around town and anybody can carry it. So the next best thing is living healthily, to shrug off infection like you would an ordinary flu. Too tough to be bothered, too busy also. Poor souls who get the lung infection, often the weak it seems, they will have no option but to seek hospitalian help. The rest of you lot stay cool. You're not going to escape contagion, so don't bother obstructing the health service with your non-problem. Think of it this way: getting infected early on and taking that 2% death rate on the chin may work out better than chancing on the virus not getting more virulent with passing time.


At the stage we are in by late February, one would be excused to believe we are experiencing a dry run for a real global killer disease. We are certainly not all going to die from covid-19, yet the illness is treated by health and other officials as if we were. Extreme panic, nicknamed necessary precautions, has set in and people are quarantined for up to two weeks even when they do not show any signs of being infected. Yet, nothing has been done to stop the disease from spreading, in fact a lot is done to help it spread. I am sure halting the dissemination of a corona virus is mostly impossible, but why are people allowed to continue travelling around the world, only to be locked up once they are back home? If isolation can help contain the advance of the virus, as is clearly taken for granted, then why wasn't the Wuhan region shut off more effectively? And if covid-19 can't be stopped after all, then what is the point of those quarantines? The way it looks like through the eyes of a seasoned conspiracy thinker is that the powers that be are interested in knowing how well local authorities are capable of locking up their populations and how willing people are to be incarcerated under mostly false pretences. Soon enough it will become clear the problem is not so much the infection as rather the possibility to shut off vast expanses of highly developed land.


What we are seeing is how covid-19 is happily hopping from one place to the next, riding the waves of our globally interconnected society. Interestingly, this gives us an idea of how different places around the world are linked and which places are tighter connected than others. Restricting ourselves to Spain here, is it any wonder that the first cases of contagion are to be found on the Mediterranean coast? Is Madrid already announcing fake infections? And how hubby is in fact that famous economic hub Netherland where covid-19 so far has refused to enter? Update: they're both on the map. And why isn't the United States reporting more cases when it is supposedly the centre of the universe? Are ulterior motives causing these places to stay out of the picture? Considering the impact covid-19 is having on the inflated stock markets (the main source of growing wealth for the already wealthy) a little white lie would serve many well.


A variety of conspiracy theories can be extracted from the way this disease is spreading around the world and how it is dealt with, but one thing is clear: if we continue shutting down communities, the global economy will grind to a halt and stop functioning. We will soon run out of a wide range of supplies, from oil and clothes to medicine and food staples. Thus far, many people have voluntarily readied themselves for quarantine in the idea they were helping contain the problem. But what happens when shops are empty and cars no longer work? How complacent will people be then? Will we see the military in the streets to keep us locked inside?


Most countries keep strategic supplies to be employed in case of emergencies, so I presume many places will be able to weather a short storm. But what happens to all those companies that are dependent on just in time delivery systems to keep their operations economically viable, which have left themselves through the pressure of capitalist logic unprotected from the whims of chance? One can imagine that a tightly run country like China should be able to freeze its reality for a while – all we really need is food, water and electricity – and start up again once the plague is behind it, but countries where the dogma of free market enterprise has rendered authorities powerless may have a much harder time preventing their economies from tanking. In fact, such countries would do best to pretend there is no contagion taking place within their borders and accept a few extra deaths over the destruction of large sections of their societies.


For a long time I have contemplated the possibilities of wilfully terminating consumer society. Not by me, don't worry, I don't have such power. I have merely written about it, most notably in my novel Jungle Town, published in 2017. The stories are different, but the results are the same. We are suddenly getting a lot closer to where we don't want to be. What Jungle Town wanted to convey is that we powerless people who have no role in how reality is playing out will have to find ways of collaborating to prepare for harsh times ahead and this will not always be easy. Yet there seems to be no alternative. Let's resist the idea the police should take over society because we are supposedly only capable of violence. Be cool and work together and see where that gets you, is what I say. It's your only hope. Come to think of it, our only hope is standing strong and not asking for help. These are revolutionary times.





Pérez Galdós 



@ 2020