Throwing It Back

This is an article I wrote for the first edition of the Polyca Magazine, edited by a friend of mine, almost exactly a year ago. This is one of the first times that I’ve reread something and I laughed when I did, because obviously, in March 2020, I misinterpreted the situation entirely and I promise to refrain from making predictions from now on, you’ll see what I mean. Anyway, enjoy reading.

The Downfall

An act of futility? A drop in the ocean? Our attitude in the post-corona world will supersede the importance of the present containment measures in the future of our species. It’s time we became conscious.

Luxembourg, March 19th 2020. Enter: State of Emergency. Enter: National Lockdown

42 days later, we’re still waiting for good news, for numbers to drop, for a step back to normal. And we will go back to normal, no doubt about it. Some researchers claim it will affect life until 2022 at least. But I’ll take every bet that 12 months from now, Corona will again be associated with beer, not a pandemic.

Don’t get me wrong, people won’t forget about it, they won’t forget that they were quarantined for a few weeks – of course not. People never forget when they’re treated unfairly. They’ll probably even remember the number of days they spent in their houses without seeing friends and family and will gladly tell the story about how they met online to have drinks with friends before 4:00 PM (Can you imagine that! How silly!)

And they’ll remember cursing this invisible monstrosity that had pressed pause on their lives during one of the sunniest Aprils Luxembourg had ever seen. Thank you very much, climate change. We know you’re there. You don’t have to rub it in our faces when we’re not even allowed to enjoy destroying our planet.

They’ll remember the man who, presumably, ate a bat and brought about this virus. And where they had been when they heard the news of the lockdown. Such a sudden and unforeseeable measure.

Except it wasn’t. And that’s the point – it was not sudden at all. And if you think it was, you’re at least as responsible for the magnitude of the lockdown as the man who ate a bat. The government of Wuhan imposed a lockdown on January 23rd of this year – it took Europe almost two months to recognise that this virus does not care about borders.

We are now in a process of deconfinement, taking baby steps back to normal life, and yes, that is due to ours reacting accordingly. The problem was analysed and measures were taken. This, however, does not mean that we acted comme il faut.

Had we not turned our back to problem that was visible in other countries, had we not refused to ponder the possibility of being influenced by a virus transmitted through respiratory droplets (as we already knew weeks before the first case was reported in Luxembourg), maybe the consequences would have been milder. Who knows. But that was far, far away, therefore it couldn’t reach us, therefore not our problem. That is the mindset that brought us here. Not an unprecedented attitude either: When did we start caring about ISIS? When it started to affect Europe, no sooner. Same difference.

Maybe, just maybe, that is something we need to think about. As a species, that is. The future will hold many more problems, some of which are already affecting life on Earth for other species. Not so much for humans; the malefactor walks free for now. Ever heard of the Pinta Island Tortoise? The first species to go extinct because of the results of climate change in 1989. Many more would follow. What about the Australian bushfire season earlier this year, which destroyed an area of 186.000 square kilometers, burning roughly 1/5 of the continent’s forested area and killing an estimate of a billion animals? You don’t think that we might have contributed to its severity? Issues like these won’t be controlled by staying home, and they’ll not restrict themselves to the ‘vulnerable groups’.

Might that be the downfall of mankind? Will we kill ourselves by restricting our thoughts to the imminent future? By ignoring problems until they can’t be ignored any longer. By looking the other way, by closing doors and windows until the problem forces away in, having had time to become strong enough to become undefeatable. By being complacent and by hoping that the problems disappear if we turn a blind eye for long enough.

Or else, will we regard the circumstances as what they are? A warning to reconsider how we’re treating our home. A warning to remind ourselves how vulnerable and dependent we are. It might just have been the last one.

Disclaimer: I disagree with what I said about being as responsible as the guy who ate a bat if you think that the arrival of the virus and the measures taken to limit it were ‘sudden and unforeseeable’. I now believe that is the government’s fault, pandemics are not exactly unprecedented and people paid to serve their country ought to deal with that accordingly: act rather than react.