Pandemical Discourses 5: Is the earth round, or oblate?

1st May 2020
Traveller crime – or a crime to Travellers? by Candace G. Thomas
9th May 2020

The news that the toll of victims in UK is proportionally the worst in Europe may not have surprised many given the British government’s original silly nationalist and exceptionalist stance while the virus proliferated in the population. One that has continued daily with WWII Blitz-spirit distractionist bullshit. This has only foregrounded stats in a horrible way, and the need to dig deep into that info to understand what is happening and why.

Many uncomfortable facts are being exposed, but it’s essential we know how to read these statistics properly, so says an article in the Argonaut Argonaut Online – Comparing Countries

Amongst these uncomfortable facts is the UK stat that 70% of health professionals who have died from Covid-19 came from BAME background. But it’s not just a UK tragedy, the Financial Times compares figures in other countries and finds a similar story in USA, Norway. Unfortunately because of their specific conception of citizenship the country which would perhaps be most comparable to Britain in terms of multicultural demography –France – prohibits gathering statistics based on ethnicity. The FT looks into the situation and the background here Financial Times -Virus Hits Ethnic Minorities Hard

And if we turn from international to local perspectives there’s even less prospect of hiding from the grim truth of our social inequalities and their effects. In the Dundee Courier, the greater risk to the poor of all communities of dying from Covid-19 is exposed, and we know that this is not just an isolated geographical phenomenon Dundee Courier – Fifers in Poverty at Greater Risk

It’s in this context of social dysfunction and inequality –and the desperate and cynical government fig-leaf of WWII triumphalism – that the news that the British government is using the pandemic as an opportunity to transfer NHS duties to private sector is particularly sickening. The bypassing tendering processes and centralising control way from the regions is exposed in The Guardian The Guardian – Transferring NHS duties

While that neo liberal scheming and manoeuvring for positions of control in the aftermath of the pandemic is no less than we should expect from Johnson and his Tory chums, in a beautiful humane piece in the New York Review of Books medic Jamieson Webster manages at once to expose the craziness of a hospital in pandemic, and remind us why we are fighting the virus. Almost as an un-American activity, Webster draws on Lacan to meditate on ‘freedom’ –what is its value, its reality in the USA and elsewhere and how that reality is exposed in the pandemical era. She shows us that we need palliative care for our spirit as well as our bodies…This is the sort of ground that might be needed in the aftermath to stand up against the cynics… New York Review of Books -Palliative Care

And what opponent could be worse than those cynics? Quite a few, but either way, the push to return to normal will be a strong one, especially where there’s a price tag attached. Best perhaps, to consider what cannot return to normal. Take cities, for example. What can we expect words like urbane to mean in the future? More pointedly, should we look for it to ape the high density, critical mass of what will surely be known as the pre-Corona era city, or does it need to shift – however subtly – its focus? Edinburgh University professor Richard J Williams takes to the New York Times to consider such radical shifts in the urban fabric. New York Times- Will you want to go straight back into the crowd?

Meanwhile, and perhaps a little late to the whole affair, we might also wonder about theology – once a redoubt classically trained cynics – of both an evangelical and aetheistic bent. Peter Conrad pulls together two books Christian John Lennox and – who else? – Slavoj Zizek for a hot take on Coronavirus, ink scarcely dry on all those death certificates. Almost certain to fall hostage to fortune, these books nevertheless chart these intellectual territories, falling down the crevasses so you don’t have to. Guardian – Pandemic/Where is God in a Coronavirus world?

Another straggling question that is becoming Impossible to ignore is perhaps the biggest of all; what of globalisation? Seasoned economist and critic of globalisation Dani Rodrik gets a pre-emptive strike against any notion of a return to the globe as it was last Christmas. It will still be round, but it will not be the same. Prospect – Dani Rodrik

Such is the nature of critique of course – nomenclature may not outwardly change, but the shape fundamentally differs. And not all critique is especially good. Take David Selbourne’s recent contribution to the new statesman. Intellectually Lazy, mistaking plebiscites for moral authority and indulging every tendency for British exceptionalism, you might wonder why mention a piece like this at all? The answer of course, is there are hundreds of articles like this, seeking to retrofit these tired old tropes onto COVId-19 – this is probably the least offensive of them, and claims to come from a left wing, non-aligned event using moral force as its bludgeoning tool. Because like it or not, exactly the same arguments will be used to retrofit austerity mark II in as indecent amount of time as possible, and is probably why the cynics will ultimately win. Because isn’t the earth really a oblate spheroid, and ergo in a state of chassis? New Statesman – The Coronavirus is the moment to end it UK’s economic and moral free for all

Let’s end by cleansing our palates, and the type of criticism that can only come from the head of nib or sweep of a brush – shapes that wear their subjectivity in every line. Locked down in New York, reportage illustrator Molly Crabapple is in an ideal spot to document the life of workers at the front lines. She does so with the style and aplomb we’ve come to expect from her stints in Syria and Guantanamo Bay. The Nation – The Faces of Our Crisis