I've been struggling with how to conceptualise the events of the last few weeks and I'm still not there. It is all quite surreal still, as if history jumped a track somewhere and gone down a terrifying path straight out of the cinema.
One moment the world was "normal" albeit filled with the usual deplorable nonsense of a post-Brexit world and a corrupt US Election cycle- the usual top-down, contemptuous machinations of the leveraged elite versus the interests of the generally put-upon lower classes. A slow, frustrating slide into yet another set of years where the protests of the young are roundly dismissed by the old and the planet slowly continues to burn.
Hopes for gradual change. For some kind of changing the guard before it's too late.
Then - COVID-19 - the Coronavirus.
Coronavirus. Lame puns about beers aside, the word itself seems to conjure a sinister spectre. And yes, while properly it describes a whole class of viruses, of which COVID-19 is but the newest to be discovered, it has become a convenient, if menacing shorthand for a plague which has literally overtaken the globe.
Irreligious as I am, even I have had thoughts of how akin to a Biblical Plague it seems. One day the normalcy of the world is upended, and the principal victims of most concern - the elderly (most of whom control, dominate and manipulate the levers of political power) are suddenly under a very real existential threat - and moreover, being forced to contemplate a level of societal largess that until now their greed had prevented them from ever considering.
Suddenly, the lower tiers of society - looked down upon, dismissed as "low-skill" and unworthy of assistance, care, or fair wages, have suddenly become visible as the essential lynchpin (as they always were) of a societal machine suddenly drawn into full domicillary retreat.
Just as with the Black Plague so many centuries ago, the seat of true power is revealed in a stroke of the Scythe. All the wealth that had been hoarded at the top off the backs of workers' labour, all the resources stripped from them, now, in order to prevent the very real collapse of society, looks to be very grudgingly set for redistribution back to them in as minimal form as the State can tolerate.
It's interesting, and terrifying. Interesting because the very "socialism" decried by so many as "handouts" or "communism" (when it was, in fact, nothing of the kind) is now being seen by many as the only way forward in the short term.
The Universal Basic Income is gaining paradigmatic ground as a solution to a society where work cannot continue as normal for much of the populace. And this "foot in the door" which conservative forces have sought to avoid- because, correctly, once you give something to someone it is much harder to take it away - now threatens to actually create a real, lasting change in balances of power and societal structure.
If we can survive to see it through.
And that's where the lapsed academic in me, the tired yet somehow excited revolutionary in me, gets stuck. Because this is scary. Because there's a very real chance I , or others I know, might not make it through this alive, relative youth aside.
What if the centre does not hold? What if, thanks to the incompetence of the two-non-brained-blondes on each side of the Atlantic the machine falls apart, supply chains break and we are unable to weather the storm without falling into a mob-like chaos? What if civilisation crumbles?
I try to comfort myself by reminding myself that historically humanity has come out the other side of things such as this before - but I also am reminded of the fact that proportionally, our planet was never this heavily populated and as densely connected as before. The fall might be harder and more severe than ever.
I am annoyed by the fact that just as I have decided to actually try and enjoy life a bit, something like this comes along and threatens to destroy everything. I managed to overcome my own dark night of the soul and determined to carry on in this world only to find it's suddenly becoming something out of World War Z sans zombies.
(It's quite selfish, I know, but I think that at some level, life is an inherently "Self"-ish thing, in that we are all selves living it, and of course we will have concerns with ourselves as the locus first and then externalities second.)
My hope is that when this all shakes out, we don't lose as many as we did in the 1918 pandemic, and that there is a realignment of social priorities. It's become clear as glass that the existing system, propped up by greed and hoarding and a sort of urban excess that gave primacy to the requirement that people "commute" to office work even when technology has superseded the need, polluting the planet as well as taking away hours of our lives, can be, for a lot of positions, discarded. It's become clear (hopefully?) to the Americans that their precious insurer-backed Health Care "System" is nothing of the kind, and that there need to be real changes with how public health is handed.
It's also become clear how much we need each other. "Social Distancing" serves as a strong reminder of how tightly our lives are connected to those of strangers - the service workers who get us our meals or stock supermarket shelves, and the people on the street who just pass us by.
I hope that when this is all done and dusted and "the war against the virus" (as it's being called in some quarters) is over, we come out of it with a better, more civil society that prioritises looking after its own, young and old and rich and poor.
Because that's the only way this nightmare will have been worth it.
Having successfully invaded both America and Canada from her home base in Windsor, Paisley has become horribly corrupted by the world. She hates active voice and wishes to god Twitter had an edit button. Dedicated to "creating the greatest 'Ship of them all", she ponders horribly terrible, idiotic things for your amusement.