Fewer people are dying in France, Spain, and Italy from the coronavirus epidemic. The numbers are finally starting to show a turn for the better. Confinement is working to slow the spread of the disease.
While the case numbers are still uncertain, at least the deaths tend to be counted accurately. It is therefore the clearest measure that we have to how bad the situation is. The deaths also lag behind infections by a week or two so as the number of cases keeps rising the deaths are still some way off. A dip in death numbers is a very good indication that the worst might (and I emphasize might) be behind us.
This is not the case yet for the hardest hit country in the world: the US. Nor has Britain arrived at this stage. The developing world is starting to see rises in cases too. The severity of which has yet to be seen but where the conditions for healthcare spell a bleak immediate future. The piecemeal efforts to control the virus vary between different states reveals one of the paradoxes of the pandemic: the countries where populist waves have brought nationalists to power who criticize globalization are suffering the most from this global disease. As of this writing Boris Johnson is in the hospital with covid-19 (publicly for “testing” purposes but that smacks of propaganda).
The anti-globalization forces will have no choice but to take a backseat if we want to beat this disease. Sure we can manufacture some more stuff from our own countries and limit visas and things like that but globalization has already happened and it is irreversible. Populations are global. An outbreak anywhere could mean an outbreak everywhere. Sure places like South Korea and Denmark can take care of themselves, but Haiti? Mozambique? They will need global assistance. We need to provide that assistance not just for their sake but for our own.
Another paradox of the coronavirus pandemic is that we are all facing a common enemy. In theory this is the greatest political unifier that exists. The entirety of humanity can focus all of its hate towards the RNA strand that is destroying lives and livelihoods in every county in the world. We have never had a chance to bring the world together like this before. Despite all of our differences, we all want this to be over.
Yet we have to isolate and socially distance. Walk down the street to the store and people cross over to not share the narrow sidewalk. I could be breathing out coronavirus. Any individual could be contagious. The threat from the enemy comes from each of us, and it is invisible. We have something to bring us all together but we have to be separated. The masks don’t help. It’s strange to see people out and about on such a beautiful spring day with their faces covered. Wondering if homemade masks are effective. Wondering where that guy got that medical mask.
Like any societal paradox, it plays out on social media too. Social media has provided an invaluable means for dealing with the pandemic. We already spent so much time scrolling our feeds that to do the same thing at home made a lot of this bearable. We can share, commiserate, and laugh. In a time when we need human connection more than ever, social media has been there for us.
And social validation in the forms of likes and interactions can help people adapt to their new realities. Posting photos of home cooked meals when you don’t really enjoy cooking and getting comments back that what you made looks really good can provide much needed encouragement.
But at the same time it has never been more unbearable to look at social media. I’ve unfollowed swathes of people who willingly post fake or unverified information about the pandemic. All of the annoying messages urging people to stay home. Of course we need to stay home, adding a hashtag to your Facebook post does not make you a social crusader. People will respect the law or they won’t, but a hashtag isn’t going to change their mind. Social preaching has reached new heights.
Plus there is a bevy of witticisms from people trapped at home all day. Insights into the tiniest aspects of our lives that now look absurd in the current context. It’s like a never-ending episode of Seinfeld, for me the most unenjoyable show of all time.
I am fully aware that I also have been sharing daily on social media, often with a bevy of witticisms and commentary that many would find annoying. Another paradox is that I am chronicling my life and personal coronavirus experience, using social media to share with sympathetic souls, while there are people out there who probably think that what I write is empty venting. Am I just preaching and complaining? Are my jokes just as bad and useless as Seinfeld?
The other major paradox is the fact that the masses of workers that society relies upon to continue to function and to keep people alive, putting themselves in the most precarious situations – the essentials – are also the worst paid. Nurses, delivery workers, drivers, supermarket cashiers, all of these people make little more than minimum wage and yet must risk their lives so that we can get through the pandemic. In many cases they were already living paycheck to paycheck before coronavirus. Now they are putting their life on the line.
Amazon, who will come out of this even stronger than they were before, is sacking people who speak out against warehouse conditions. There will be no reward for the workers who risked their lives while we sat at home getting our comfortable paychecks. And what’s worse is that we continue to order from Amazon because they continue to deliver. Add another pandemic paradox to the list.
The people providing our essential services are not paid like they are essential. That should change.