This was originally a comment I made on a friend’s wall. Reposted here.
I have been angry by some of the mailing list messages that are shared in my relatively aging and posh neighborhood — everyone seems interested in advertising activities they want to share “in these crazy times”, but then they insist that the other person honor the social distancing. This applies to things like bike riding, too. If you’re downwind of someone else…not sure that a six-foot distancing helps much. It seems like a petite bourgeoisie way of affirming conformity to a rule that makes you part of a moral elite (ostensibly).
This world is entirely insulated from the working-class folks I know from the outskirts of the State, who have three jobs just to pay their bills, and live entirely hand-to-mouth, and cannot afford to be quarantined. Both society and each of us individually have a finitude of attention to devote to any given activity, and these working-class folks get no attention from the posh crowd. Their attention is given to their peers, and to “the event” as such, in the abstract. So many of the folks who love social distancing perseverate on that stricture at the expense of figuring out how to create systems that would genuinely distribute risk for the working class. They may like the idea of applying a band-aid to that problem, but they will not take the steps necessary to alleviate it. Even if the alleviation is impossible –if the finitude of resources genuinely handicaps any real solution– the attention of these people will not linger on the tragic nature of this insoluble injustice.
In the end, social distancing is class-based peacocking. These people love being seen “doing the right thing” during “the event”, especially amongst their Zalem-dwelling peers. They remind me too much of the people who live in the capitol vs. those who live in the districts in The Hunger Games. It’s not stupid to practice social distancing, it’s smart, but if we fail to distinguish between the epidemiologically intelligent thing to do in the abstract, and the real –the real– forces that either allow people to do the intelligent thing or else prevent people from doing the intelligent thing (these are the true forces that govern our lives — not the “we ought to…”), then we’re living in a fairy tale.
Take care of your neighbors, especially those who can never pay you back. Don’t neglect them, and don’t hoard resources. Don’t run away and neglect others just because of fear. –and vote for people with real solutions to distributing risk. Don’t just vote for the person who successfully weaponizes this event within political rhetoric aimed at an opponent; vote for the person with the best tractionable strategy for reducing the risks associated with these kinds of things in the future.
Header image found here.