Una Mullally: 'Corona Correction' cannot be unseen or unfelt

Capitalism is burning out and the pandemic is nothing if not a great, discombobulating leveller

The brand of capitalism governments have been shovelling fuel into the furnace of is broken. It doesn’t work. Photograph: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP

The brand of capitalism governments have been shovelling fuel into the furnace of is broken. It doesn’t work. Photograph: Kazuhiro Nogi/AFP

 

 Imagine for a moment there was no virus. However, families are exercising in the parks. People are checking on their elderly neighbours. The fast fashion shops are closing. Food for health workers is crowdfunded. The needless air travel has halted. The fish have returned to Venetian canals. People are at home, reading books, calling their friends, doing jigsaw puzzles together, yoga, writing that diary they always meant to start. The main daily activity is going for a walk.

Elderly people are given priority in the supermarkets in the mornings. There are holistic conversations on current affairs programmes about managing stress. Our political leaders are calling for togetherness above all else. People are volunteering for the health service. People are thinking of other people. We are truly understanding the vocational power of medicine, nursing, elderly care, teaching. Thank God for the binmen, people are thinking. Work becomes something about completing tasks, not putting in the hours, and people are maybe wondering why they even have all those meetings or even go into that building in the first place.

 And now, remember that there is a virus. That this is happening, that it’s horrible and scary, and this duality allows us to understand that we are encountering beauty and brutality simultaneously, because the comprehension of one cannot exist without the other. As Alan Watts said, existence is relationship.

Many more will not be able to unsee this moment and unfeel this change. Late-stage capitalism has jolted towards final-stage capitalism

Last Monday I walked into Dublin city centre to collect Covid-19 pandemic unemployment payment forms to deliver to friends (they were printed out by the Gay Community News to offer to people in the city who didn’t have printers at home). I strolled into a small park I have passed countless times but have never entered. It’s at the junction of Christchurch Cathedral, in the shadow of apartments and a hotel block. I read the plaque and realised that this small park was a Flanders Fields Memorial, commemorating the thousands of Irish men who died defending Belgian freedom. I had never walked into the park because I had never been bothered. I never had the time, apparently. The white crocuses were in full bloom.

Discombobulating leveller

When I got to my friend’s house, ringing the doorbell and then stepping out on to the street so we could speak with a healthy distance between us, we fell into the surrealism of the situation. She’s an artist, an excellent one. “Welcome to my world!” she exclaimed, “now everyone is f***ed!” The artists were the first to fall, the gigs drying up, tours cancelled, festivals pulled, plays postponed, cultural venues closed. The pandemic is nothing if not a great, discombobulating leveller.

What we can broadly characterise as the Corona Correction is happening the world over, in minute and major ways. It’s the phoney market crashing, the air pollution clearing in China, the previously short-term let apartments suddenly ending up on rental websites because AirBnB tourism has dried up. It’s Italy renationalising Alitalia. It’s the US government taking cues from universal basic income.

When this is over, when the losses are counted and the grieving goes on, many people may want to return to business as usual. Many more will not be able to unsee this moment and unfeel this change. Late-stage capitalism has jolted towards final-stage capitalism. We know that the brand of capitalism governments have been shovelling fuel into the furnace of has burned out. It’s broken. It doesn’t work.

The purpose of hanami is not just to look at cherry blossoms because they are there and because they are pretty, but to engage with the poetry of transience

When something keeps crashing, when something requires such a suspension of logic, when something imposes so many inequalities, when a system has to be rotten for just a few to benefit from it, when there’s socialism for bank bailouts but not for people, you know it’s broken. We know it’s broken. We should have changed everything after 2008. But lessons have a way of repeating themselves, and it can sometimes take a lifetime for something to really land. Our economic system has been given a terminal diagnosis. The inequities are laid bare.

Misery virus

This virus is causing misery. It is not the only thing that does. Governments cause misery. Industry causes misery. War causes misery. Capitalism causes misery. Work causes misery. The destruction of our natural world causes misery. Inequality causes misery. Poverty causes misery. That isn’t much good to you if your loved one is sick or has died from this virus. But I hope in the near future we will be able to discuss the Corona Correction. And just because we discuss the strangely illuminating spotlights it is shining, that does not mean we’re somehow minimising death, illness and suffering. Everything is happening simultaneously. Everything is connected. There is no pain without relief, no relief without pain.

We are in the midst of hanami season, the celebrations where people in Japan gather to view the cherry blossoms blooming. The purpose of hanami is not just to look at cherry blossoms because they are there and because they are pretty, but to engage with the poetry of transience. One does not admire flowers in the moment without understanding that they will go. Appreciation cannot exist without comprehending loss. Nature teaches us many things, if we are open to learning. Some of these lessons are harsh, but all of them hold meaning.

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