COVID Capers

I should have set a feature image as a jar of capers in my pantry stash. This is not part of the Day xxx of Social Isolation, which is a very First World thing to write. I started taking physical isolation seriously about 3 weeks ago. I was also forced into social isolation for most of last year due to recurrent bronchitis, so this is same same but different because I am not sick, and I am very socially connected. Mostly due to class and racial privilege.

This is not a coherent or complete post because I am finding the current Corona Virus Pandemic has reduced my ability to write. Or to form thoughts. 

Like many people I am blindsided: reduced to emergency functioning. Fortunately for me this involves a rash of online social organising, regular exercise and healthy meals. 

I am surprised by my wordless instinct for self preservation.

Also inwardly resigned to accepting that it is quite likely that I will lose my family and possibly my own life (high risk, asthmatic). Also procrastinating getting my will updated. (ostrich behaviour which is understandable)

And outwardly proactive and inventive: early adopter: contacting friends via zoom, teaching aged P how to contact me by video chat, holding zoom parties, setting up online drawing groups, working out how to re-orient my project management to online platforms, teaching via zoom, and strategising, rethinking, innovating, and wearing stylish pyjamas. Dressing up parts of the house for online video conferencing, dressing up myself for video conferencing. Posting pictures of roses and nature and cats and everything life affirming I can think of…

I am also outwardly despairing at the implications for the economy and what I have enjoyed about the dominant social system to date. I am also trying to exercise restraint at this despair. I am writing this post to voice some of this terror and despair. So if you don’t want to read more doom and gloom, then pause here.

People have already disputed the fatuous Eco-Fascism of posts proclaiming that the COVID Pandemic is “mother nature teaching us a lesson”. I wish these people would find some kind of online fetish community so they could sub to some big scary Pacha Mama domme figure because that kind of projection is as absurd as the images of Dolphins swimming in the Venice Canals. 

I am almost as nauseated by “left wing” proclamations that the Covid Pandemic will herald the end of Capitalism. As much as I wish they were true, I really have my doubts. I will explain more below, in the hope that I am completely wrong.

I do agree with Naomi Klein’s view that what we will see is the herald of Corona Capitalism: which is (based on her Shock Doctrine book) Capitalism literally adapting and thriving under the new chaos. I missed this zoom session on Friday morning (because I was working), but I have heard that apparently it skipped talking about Indigenous peoples. WTAF? and so I sigh with despair.

Firstly: what I think will happen with the Virus and it’s spread? There have been lots of models and graphs and updates since this article at the start of March. I was astonished that friends (including one with a Masters in Public Health) were thinking it would all be over in 3 months. I would be more astonished if it only lasted 6 months.  

Australia will have a nasty peak in a few weeks when social contagion kicks in. Easter will suck. 

I am hoping it won’t such as much as it will in Italy, the UK or the USA. But it will definitely suck less than New Zealand or South Korea.

Unlike the Northern Hemisphere Australia is heading into winter. So our flu season will coincide with the spread of a microbe that thrives between 5-11 degrees celsius. So our winter will really suck a hell of. a lot. 

I am greatly relieved to see the return of some form a social welfare safety net. This means that the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their jobs or who are about to lose their jobs will still be able to self isolate. It also hopefully means that city hospitals will be less overwhelmed than otherwise. But they will be overwhelmed.

If we are lucky enough for social and political pressure to work, private hospitals will be forced to stay open to contain the overflow of the public health system, instead of receiving payouts while they shut down in protest. Given that the Commonwealth Parliament has just been replaced by a hand picked committee of corporate mates, I am very fearful that most decisions will favour directing more resources to the private sector and less to public minded responses. But hopefully I am wrong.

If we are lucky enough for political pressure and lobbying to work, then the 1.5 million people in Australia on temporary visas will also have access to some form of social welfare, so they are able to self isolate, and reduce the spread of the virus.

Right now, temporary visa holders include all of the backpackers who have been gathering on beaches (until they closed) and in their hostels, getting munted and sharing the disease. Some of these people will swap their hospo jobs for fruit and vegetable harvesting in regional areas where they will spread the disease. Temporary Visa holders include a few hundred thousand  international  students who are keeping people like me employed in teaching them online, and surviving in really shitty share accommodation, doing dodgy jobs in hospitality or retail that are about to dry up. They also include the 35,000 asylum seekers with limited access to medicare, and no access to any Centrelink payments and also reliant on dodgy jobs in hospitality or retail that are about to dry up. The latter two groups form the bulk of workers in warehouses, aged care facilities, and deliver services which are all essential industries. However, if large parts of their communities are destitute and unable to access health care or welfare, then corona virus will spread to these two groups who will spread it further.

Right now, COVID is hitting the affluent suburbs of metropolitan centres. My nasty “eat the rich” heart says “hooray! Darwinianism at work!” much like I cheered when I heard that the Fuhrer in Chief had also been diagnosed. 

Right now, remote Aboriginal communities are being sent more body bags than medical supplies. 

This is because the primary impact of the virus will be on the “medically underserved” communities. Many Aboriginal people live in cities, but the regional and remote areas have the highest proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities. This graph below from this page shows the numbers.

. Rich people can afford to self isolate. Middle class people can work from home, we have good internet, and can order deliveries from home. We live in suburbs and towns with social support networks, bulk billing doctors and good public hospitals.

Remote communities without running water will not be helped by hand sanitizer, or be able to wash their hands for 20 seconds.

Aboriginal communities where 30% of their family members end up in gaol for crimes of poverty or as subjects of overpolicing like in WA and the Northern Territory will be the first rural communities to be infected by covid as family members come home from gaol, and their families weeping at relief that they weren’t killed by the screws or the cops this time will hug them, and hug each other. 

Aboriginal communities with chronic disease levels of 40% will not have a great capacity to resist or survive infection by Corona virus. They will develop symptoms earlier, and be more dependent on life support machines – which… in case anyone hadn’t noticed, aren’t really a thing in regional Australia. This page of articles from AIHW has lots of information. I remember my panic when Mum was gravely ill in a regional hospital, and relief when she could be brought to a Melbourne hospital. While the latter now has corona Virus infections; it is also well resourced, well organised and full of highly skilled dedicated staff. 

So I am scared and sad and worried about communities who ran out of drinking water over the summer, who have chronic levels of disease and malnutrition. I am scared and sad and worried about all the people on country who have been fighting to stop mining and fracking and destruction of their lands, and I am wondering how many of them will still be alive in 6 months time.

I am also wondering if we have an unelected COVID commission of Mining industry magnates running the country if it is at all possible to imagine that indigenous communities that are standing in the way of further mining and fracking and environmental destruction will receive any help whatsoever, or COVID-19 is a modern take of smallpox blankets of the 19th century. 

Melbourne’s weather is beautiful in Autumn; lots of sun, but not too hot, roses blooming, gardens growing, tomatoes ripening, basil everwhere… the clouds haven’t come in yet. I am bracing myself for 6 months of cloud and terrible sadness and worry. My own class privilege is feeling starkly apparent: I have a home and a job and the internet and flatmates and friends. Assuming I don’t get sick I am ok for 12 months. This is much better than 12 months ago when I only had a home, flatmates and friends.

However I am not looking forward to how things will be in 12 months time. 

I imagine that many people will have died, and many people will be absolutely ruined by grief. I can’t bear to even imagine what things will be like for communities that were burnt out by the fires over the summer.

Many people will die of disease and murder, and many women and children will be trapped in their homes, isolated with abusive and murderous men. Some men will also be trapped in their homes with abusive and murderous men. Many animals will be neglected and abused.

I don’t know what will happen to the 1.5 million “aliens” on shore: if they will be deported offshore or be able to leave in 3 months to a warmer northern hemisphere. I fear that that the xenophobia will turn feral against asylum seekers, who will be even further abused than already: possibly rounded back up into detention (death) camps, or forcibly deported.

Bare life will become more bare; more lethal, and much shorter and nastier.

Aside from the underclass of the homo sacer who will become speculative fodder for the body disposal industries, the current precariat will intensify into a disposable and mobile workforce of essential low paid workers: doing the delivery, cleaning, supplying, manufacturing.

The service industries will split into those who can undertake administration, sales, coding and communication online. My fields of art and education will survive where we can market ourselves to middle class people working from home, but there will definitely be less of us able to survive doing what we love. We will all become homeworkers, isolated from each other and the workplace as a site for a polis.

Women will do a lot more work at home in isolation. If we are lucky, we will be supported by an expanding industry of food deliverers and automated cleaning services. If we are unlucky we will work so very much harder and be so much more miserable.

Political mobilisation will become almost impossible, because we now have laws prohibiting gathering in public space. Political activity will become more clandestine and a bit crazier, such as wildcat actions disrupting communication networks. 

There will also be political mobilisation of crazy gun toting fascists – particularly in the USA. vigilante squads, racist attacks, crazy looting stampedes.

And the fossil industry will intensify their destruction of the remaining natural resources while they can. 

so in 18 months time we will have a globalised economy that has split and segmented in new ways. Work will be isolated for the service industries, and manufacturing will become even nastier in third world countries; drawing on pools of precarious and mobile labour. 

Speculative capitalism will support innovation in health equipment, computer and personal security, online entertainment and communication, delivery and defence. There will be more smaller conflicts within and between nations. 

While air BnB and the tourism industries have fallen, I don’t see an end to the speculative housing market. The social demand for isolation and security will push it in new ways. I don’t know if I will be able to afford to rent where I am in 12 months time, and so must millions of other people.

I am glad the tourism industry is collapsing. I always found it discomforting, but I am wondering what will take its place.

This is speculation, and I will edit this post as I think more and read more. 

But I don’t think I will see and end to capitalism; just an intensification of its genocidal tendencies.



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