Some days register like no other. It is difficult – no, screw it, it is impossible – to think of any other time in the past that may have registered in our collective psyche in a way even resembling what is happening right now. How long has it been? Is it days, weeks, or months? It certainly feels like years. More, even: it feels like we have been immersed into our COVID-19 moment over such a long period that making any reference back to the old days of ‘normality’ is like pointing to a misty and wholly irrelevant past. “A deadly pandemic, run for cover!”, yell the experts. The experts of medicine, the experts of information, and of course, the experts of politics: the High Priests who decide, in other words, what is deemed acceptable, normal and healthy.
In these days, the spread of the disease and the death and havoc it leaves behind is worrisome, just like any and every single death will always be. But what is also worrisome is to witness the unequivocal, uncritical and rushed response of near-virtually everybody: from the (predictably) scaremongering voices in mainstream media all the way to voices striking much closer to home, coming as they are from within the self-declared ‘critical’, ‘antagonist’, ‘radical’ movement or milieu; whatever one chooses to call it (and the words here matter less than ever) I am talking about the global movement that has risen and fought against capitalist sovereignty in all its shape and form say, in the past two decades – starting with the ‘anti-globalisation’ protests at the turn of the century, which nearly coincided with the anti-terrorist hysteria that followed 9/11.
In these days, amidst our collective COVID-19 frenzy, any criticism even from within these otherwise critical voices is muted in the name of a ‘collective good’ (as if this could ever be singular or uniform). Even a certain philosopher, now in his seventy-seventh year of age and living in the heart of the pandemic, in Italy, has been vilified for pointing out the glaringly obvious: that a virus making its way around the world has now been used to deploy measures that would have been, up to a few weeks ago, unheard of – even in our Western societies, which are by now numbed by decades of anti-‘terrorist’ measures. The state of exception is entering a higher, entirely unprecedented and therefore unpredictable level. And right at this moment, sadly, the global antagonist movement has been unable to utter much other than, say, an anarchist way of protecting ourselves against the threat posed by the virus.
In these brief and dense days, our movement seems to be clumsily mixing vigilance, care for the sick and respect for the dead with full surrender to the jaw-dropping display of authoritarianism rapidly playing out in every single country, city and street corner around us. No, the lock-down of cities and countries is not done for your own good. No, your Prime Minister or President (up until a weeks ago, a right-wing thug – remember that?) does not have the good of yourself, or the good of your elderly parents, or anyone from your community in mind, when they bark these orders. Yes, the COVID-19 is serious and deadly. But so is our largely uncritical surrender to the powers-that-be, the same powers that are using this crisis to deploy new technologies of surveillance and control, the same powers that are using this to restructure the global economy, a restructuring that will be painful – and again, deadly – for the many in ways that we can only begin to imagine, let alone grasp.
Some days, history hits the accelerator and throws us into dizzying speeds. In these days, keeping a cool head is more difficult than usual – but it is also when it matters the most.