Brief Coronavirus Thought

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. 

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16 thoughts on “Brief Coronavirus Thought

    • Funny, even if a bit harsh. If only our political polarizations could be resolved through a virus! I worry that the divisions between nationalism and globalism are deeper than that.

      There are principled reasons why some aim at nationalism: some people do not think that universalism is really possible, or that cosmopolitanism will benefit us all. This is not a crazy response, and I flip-flop about it regularly, even though my soul is irredeemably cosmopolitan. I still worry that there is no universal liberation in which we can all recognize one another in the face of our appearing.

      Then there are “I can’t really understand what’s going on no matter how hard you explain it to me” reasons why most people sub to Trump or Brexit. Most people can’t understand the abstract reasons why corporations move jobs overseas, but they know that there is a finite amount of money and jobs to go around, and they are losing what they had, or had been promised, or what their parents had. Thus, failing to understand the abstract dynamics of late modern capitalism, they blame scapegoats that are concrete, and which they can understand. Immigrants, &c. If I wanted to use the language of the myth of the metals from Plato’s _Republic_, I’d say that this is a constraint of intellect that the bronze souls have that they’ll never shake, and it will always look for concrete scapegoats to blame for abstract problems. Shrewd political actors will always be able to bend this to their advantage.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Yeah, the deaths of people who had the temerity to be born at a different time from you are hilarious! Let’s hear it for ageist bigotry!

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  2. I guess it’s impossible to comment directly on the previous comment. We elderly are not only less virtuous than the morally-superior young; we’re digitally ignnorant too. Thank heaven we’ll all be dead soon. I’m certainly looking forward to it. Your lives will be immeasurably improved without us as you have so eloquently pointed out.

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  3. When I pointed out that I’m a boomer, my students said that lefties like me, Jeremy and Bernie are exempt from their distaste for the elders. What is interesting is how the same people were complaining in the 1960s about the generation gap between them and their hidebound parents/grandparents can now be much more reactionary in 2020. I know a former Trotskyist cadre who has twice voted Tory to “get Brexit done”!!

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  4. I don’t know whether I was meant to be included in the description of reactionary boomers above or not. I did not believe in generational conflict in the 60s, nor do I now. I do know, however, that that nasty fellow with the moustache, who started the National Socialist German Workers Party and was responsible for tens of millions of deaths as a result, began with the concept of the “untermensch,” a rather neat corollary to the “ubermensch,” eh? If you can write off Jews, Christians, old people, Roma, Trotskyists, Trump voters, people of a particular exterior color, or any other inconvenient types as less than human, then you have license to kill anyone with impunity. Some find it humorous. I just get high blood pressure. I feel lucky that I am unlikely to see the worst of what lies ahead.

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  5. FYI, outward statements of animosity do not always mean what bigoted statements mean in the mouths of figures such as Hitler. They can simply reflect hyperbolic low-levels of animosity towards what a group is taken to represent, while excepting, by default, every concrete individual met _from_ that group. This is hardly endearing, or praiseworthy, but I don’t take it to be a portent of anything on the horizon. It is likely no more than an extension of the “OK, Boomer” meme.

    Switching gears, Slavoj Zizek argues that something actually _positive_ can be achieved by bigoted jokes, however. This is alien to me, personally, but I get the argument. Below is a very NSFW video where Zizek talks about bigoted jokes as a form of intimacy-building.

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  6. Personally I believe what that student said is simply morally disgraceful. One of the largest issues with the millennial generation is simply a lack of respect for other generations and disrespect for those with differing opinion and this is for various reason such as this generation being very over protected by there parents and many other reason such as the increased use of social media creating a better environment for potential radicalization and increased partisanship. I work in a nursing home and I have seen what this has done to the baby boomer generation in less than a week we lost twelve patients just on one floor and each more are dying and are getting sick. This virus has in fact killed many of that generation and while I do concede it may just be a joke it does reveal a underlining disrespect for those patients and those with differing political opinions.

    Sorry for any grammar mistakes or miss spellings.

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