After COVID-19

For weeks, we have been enduring a major disaster. What started as a temporary period, now lasting, has seen us cut off from physical contact with each other. We have steadily moved away not only from fellow humans, but also from a model of society whose limits are ever more apparent with each passing day. We are all affected by this invisible evil, both physically and psychologically.

Football pitch near Tabard Gardens, London. Illustrative photo, 2019. © Guillaume Squinazi Football pitch near Tabard Gardens, London. Illustrative photo, 2019. © Guillaume Squinazi

We have fully understood that we must adopt isolation in order to protect ourselves and others, and even if it endangers our disintegrating society, this medieval method is the one and only remaining solution that can work today. This much, we have all understood. We have also understood that the hospital systems within our various societies have not been designed to cope with as many patients as result from such a pandemic, and cannot be. Therefore, we must lighten the burden by confining ourselves. No section of society was prepared for a disaster on this scale.

However, if we look at smaller social units, such as our families, we can see that we always plan ahead to ensure at least a minimum of protection. We take vaccines, have a thermometer, put a little money aside for a rainy day, we are ready to keep our children at home when they are ill, always have what is required for a visit to the doctor, a first aid kit in the drawer, and try to provide a healthy, protective environment. We live with the idea in mind that the unexpected can happen and we are ready to face it when the time comes. We are not caught unawares, because we do what we can to make our homes safe and healthy, and we act as responsible adults.

What this pandemic has revealed — beyond how the spread of a deadly virus can quickly affect the entire world — is the reality of an even greater underlying catastrophe. This other disaster, which we can discern a little more every day, is the ineptitude of the world's leaders who failed to equip us with the means to face up to this type of pandemic. Nothing was in place to deal with such a situation. On the contrary, all the required means within our society had been downsized and stripped, undervalued and left under-equipped. Our dear public health seems to have been deemed worthless. The alarm had been sounding for several years, but had remained unheeded by our leaders.

Nonetheless, we continue to follow them, to trust them, as more than 4 billion people around the world strive to follow their recommendations, at the risk of losing everything. There are no apparent hard feelings, then, for this careless clan that has failed to protect our fellow citizens, and worse, had not provided for their protection to any significant extent whatsoever.

We are therefore subjected, every day, to physical and moral incarceration, confinement, captivity, without knowing when this will end. If we nevertheless remain convinced that this is the only solution for the moment, the sole reason for this is that, given the configuration of their system, any time we go outdoors, we are in danger.

100% of the world's population has lost, is losing, or will lose someone or something in this disaster. Nobody, without exception, can escape such loss. Irrespective of wealth, age or gender, no stratum of society is spared the undiscriminating effects of this virus, whether through the loss of individual freedom, the loss of a loved one who must leave without homage or dignified funeral, or else the loss of activity or work, and so of revenue. As the nightmare intensifies, anxiety increases, along with ever more psychological disorders, domestic violence and greater inequality. We are left physically alone in the face of this whirlwind, this infernal machine, relayed by endless screens that speak of little else. We will all be in need of help, both material and psychological.

The virus will disappear, but with it will go our era, society as we knew it, and our old points of reference. Afterwards, as is already quite clear, nothing will ever be the same again. Nobody will be ready to participate in an advanced societal project that does not guarantee health security. Nobody will agree to pay for the failures of leaders who did not anticipate, not even having provided for the bare minimum required. Nobody will agree to contribute to a social project that endangers their fellow citizens without guaranteeing the fundamental right to protection and access to health care.

This episode in our history will remain engraved in the collective memory, the consequences will span generations, and much of the damage will be irreversible and passed on. We will have been made to sacrifice our elders, our sisters and brothers, and all for a model of society that is unworthy of this if it does not protect us, and indeed, if it does not protect society itself. In taking care, anticipating, preventing, listening, and acting, doing too much could be forgiven, but not having done enough can never be forgotten, any more than having acted too late, and in ways that flew in the face of common sense.

We will eventually rise and gradually emerge from our dens, once the evil is over, once it has been healed. And then will be the time for calling to account. It will be the time to reinvent our society ourselves. After Covid-19, nothing will be the same again.

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