The Near Aftermath

The coronavirus gave me the worst illness I have ever experienced. I’ve had chills and fever that were so severe that I couldn’t shift out of bed. I was still shivering even with the electric blanket on the highest setting. The virus does its evil work by bogging down the immune system, forcing the body to devote all its resources to fighting it, this manifests itself in high fevers and extreme fatigue. The body may need food but it has little capacity for consuming it: I have lost 5 kilos in the space of a week. Though I’m better than I was, even now, doing simple things like emptying the dishwasher or hanging laundry out on the line, exhaust me. I have a chair positioned next to a fireplace where I gather my thoughts after I’ve done something. I sit there for twenty, thirty minutes at a time. After this, I pull myself together and carry on.

I am lucky. The worst, it would seem, is over. Each day the struggles are a little less difficult. Coffee and food have started to taste better; the odd metallic taste they previously possessed is fading. I was able to cook for myself, which seems like an achievement. I am definitely on the path to recovery.

Given how awful this illness has been, I become horrified and angry when I see people who aren’t taking the virus seriously. There are British vacationers in Benidorm who seem to think that their holiday matters more than preventing the virus spreading. Via social media, I’ve seen college students on Spring Break in Florida acting as if the disease can not touch them; thank goodness the Governor of that state recently shut down the beaches and the marinas. My parents in America informed me that until the Governor of New York clamped down on the operation of clubs, bars, and restaurants, people were still going out as per normal in Manhattan. I’d warn all of those who are being so nonchalant, if you had this, you would trade every day in the sun, every fancy dinner, every midnight stroll on the beach you ever had to get rid of it.

Anyone with a weak immune system can easily break under the pressure of this disease: hence, I believe, we are seeing the spike up in deaths in Italy and Spain, and the preponderance of casualties among the old. In the United States and the United Kingdom, it’s highly likely the worst is yet to come.

Yet, the measures just announced by the UK government indicate that asking people to be good citizens and stay at home simply hasn’t been enough. There is still this odd perception that it is like the flu; we’ve all had the flu, it’s treatable, so what, get on with life. It does make one wonder how much serious it has to get for the message to land. Yet, fools create social media memes about licking public toilet seats. Other miscreants keep their pub chains open, making clear profits matter more than their customers. I have said to my parents: please just stay home, as it takes only one idiot, getting too close, only once for them to catch this illness. Normally sociable and active people, they have listened to me. They’re staying at home.

When the here and now is so awful, it seems almost unbearable to think about what tomorrow may bring. As the fevers die away and my strength returns, I am starting to look at that future; it is bleak. We are going to have to fundamentally rethink the economy.

An economy runs on the premise that people have needs and wants. One person sells, another buys, based on those requirements. The consumer society has been predicated on the notion that wants are just as important as needs. Blue jeans are just as easy to get as food or water. This has created a level of employment that wouldn’t otherwise exist: people have work making and selling blue jeans, when strictly speaking, that activity isn’t necessary to human survival.

The coronavirus has forced us to cut back to bare necessities. The “wants” part of the economy, from books, to blue jeans, to berry flavoured lip balm has fallen away. Indeed, all but the most basic of shops are now closed. How this is going to work? How will employment be maintained? I don’t believe there is a good answer to this question. Furthermore, much of the economy is social: going to restaurants, cinemas, on holiday and so on. What happens when you can no longer be social, or at least, have to severely restrict it? What if we have to wait until 2021 for a vaccine or treatment which will unshackle us from this virus? Will there be much of an economy left by that time?

Furthermore, what will be the long term effects on people’s behaviour? I have little doubt that when an effective vaccine is released around the world, the event will be celebrated with fireworks and music. It will be recalled as a moment of liberation from fear. Nevertheless, habits will likely have changed by then. What will be the permanent effects?

I have never experienced an event like this in my lifetime. The closest was September 11th, when I was in the United Kingdom and my mother was in New York; neither my father and I could reach her for several hours. A global event had hit me personally; behaviour and societal norms changed too. The impact and import of the coronavirus has been even more profound. I’ve been sick; I’m still not well, though I have been able to stand in the sun for a little while. I will go to sleep tonight in reasonable certainty that tomorrow morning will come for me and I will feel more healed then than I do now. Thousands all over the globe are not nearly as fortunate as I am; families are mourning, there will still be many more who will grieve before we turn the corner. After much pain and many oceans of tears, we will get up from this, but what will we have learned?

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