Today I watch a video report of fucking Covid-19 denying murderers in California on the way to their personal raptures who have forgotten their own sky god commandment, thou shalt not kill. Idiots. I am angry.
Meanwhile in Hackney a thirty year old Sri Lankan single mother incinerates herself in the back garden during lockdown. I am crying.
Elsewhere a young English father is locked down with his wife and son unable to take him to McDonald’s for his fourth birthday party. He tranforms his kitchen into a mock up drive through take away with himself in a YouTube video on the tv in their kitchen. The child is happy with french fries and chicken nuggets. His wife loves the ingenuity of it all. I laugh and cry at the same time.
I feel twitchy, never has there been such social fragility in all my 72 years. The Brexit talks pale into insignificance as the rise of populism grows daily. Italy is on the brink of leaving the EU. You can smell something ancient in the phrases that are bandied about. Phrases such as ” It’s the media that’s the cancer, all their news is fake.” and “All the politicians are useless, all they do is lie.” and “China is to blame.” Even the middle classes are dazed and confused by the consequences of the lockdown as their jobs also disappear and they slip into negative equity. I have read about a similar situation in my collection of 1930s left book club publications. I lie in my bed unable to sleep easy.
Still, the sun is shining this week, yesterday it was the same temperature in Antarctica as it was in Los Angeles………
I have been sat in front of our TV as 24 hour coverage of this pandemic unfolds for weeks now. I am over 72 years old, I am not supposed to go out unless it’s absolutely crucial. At first I watched all the bulletins as the prime minister and a variety of high faluting experts stood at lecterns flanked by carefully folded Union Jack flags with the white background and red cross of St George clearly and deliberately to the fore. The early strategy where herd immunity was considered to be the way forward, where every bulletin encouraged everyone to wash their hands every time they touched something but otherwise everything carried on as normal, the roads were full, the trains were full, the airports were full, sports venues, bars, gigs, theatres, cinemas, restaurants, pubs, political meetings, all functioned as ever. This laissez-faire approach was allowed to continue for weeks despite the fact that the government knew in advance that the country could not handle a pandemic such as this because it had participated in an emergency planning exercise, Operation Cygnus, which spelled out exactly what would happen in the event of a virulent respiratory virus running rampant through the world. One question sticks in my mind, if the government knew that the exercise showed that the NHS was under staffed, under equipped and under resourced, why did they not address these issues? What is the point of spending millions of pounds on full blown civil and war emergency planning exercises if you’re not going to take any notice whatsoever of the advice given from the plethora of front line experts, strategists, and senior civil servants involved? And yet, despite all the delay, as the daily death figures rise exponentially, as the economy falls into a slough of despond, as draconian measures curtail freedom of movement, somehow large numbers of people put their faith in the newly elected prime minister, one Boris Johnson. This man who eventually encouraged us to adopt social distancing, made us aware of the dangers of shaking hands with anyone outside of your in house family, and then promptly ignored his own advice, shook hands with all and sundry including a wardful of Covid 19 sufferers and finished up in ICU narrowly avoiding his own demise, some people believe that he is some kind of hero of the people. How can this be the case? He had been infectious for some considerable time and yet continued to bustle around in Westminster and elsewhere, in all kinds of meetings where he will have put untold numbers of staff, colleagues, acquaintances and contacts into harms way. A monumental case of don’t do what I do, do as I say. It’s unacceptable behaviour of anyone, let alone the Prime Minister. The daily broadcast with the Trump style flag frame moved further backwards, where substitutes run through the same sets of statistics that are designed to show how well the country has carried out the government strategy continue unabated. Ministers come and go and continuously state the obvious, the roads are empty, the people, on the whole, obey the rules, all is hunky dory as long as we remain in lockdown. And yet, and yet, PPE levels are disastrously low in hospitals and care facilities, meanwhile health ministers say the government response is phenomenal. Health workers are told not to use equipment unnecessarily. Economic forecasts say that the crisis we are heading into is massive. The number of unemployed in Britain is set to head North of three and a half million. The current universal credit system that penalises those people who have fallen into poverty is not going to be accepted as sufficient by people who have done nothing except lose their jobs as a result of the pandemic. Current levels of benefit will not meet family commitments. Only a government prepared to crack down on tax avoidance and evasion by the richest could address this future catastrophe. The country currently is being run in a totally undemocratic way without adequate parliamentary scrutiny. These are scary times and we now appear to be trapped in the middle of a classic Catch 22 conundrum. Stay locked down, save lives and crash the economy, or ease the lockdown, save the economy and bury a lot more people. Either way it’s a grand disaster. At first I wasn’t sure whether this was just a straight folk devils and moral panics scenario with the government and the media cooking up a false flag emergency to get the ruling class in a position to carry on austerity led business as usual. Now that the death levels here are not falling it is clear that the reality of the situation is that we have an incompetent government, unable to act in favour of saving lives because the economy and their pals in the City of London come first, above human lives. The Prime Minister is possibly going to stand down due to viral fatigue, he will likely be replaced by Raab or Gove, either of which, in my view, are strictly second division when it comes to leadership. It’s a giant deprression filled mess which only ends in tears whatever the outcome, and whenever the end of lockdown occurs. Many people won’t be here to see it, for some of those death might be a blessing in disguise. The aftermath to this ain’t going to be pretty. I’m getting older by the day, there ain’t much I can do about this shitshow. I would like to be able to drive my partner Jenny down to Llangrannog Beach for a pub lunch and a walk by the sea this summer, but the chance of such a simple pleasure looks ever more remote.
Looking out through lockdown windows The world in view is too sombre My mind wanders to pastures new To party times with good old friends To singing in the Poppit dunes, Picking those lost forgotten tunes. Of how we’ll change the world to come A glass half full for everyone The gig economy we’ll shun, Eugenicists? We’ll make them run. Hold hands together down The Strand, Spill wine to our favourite band, We’ll dance together after dark Like lovers smooching in the park All this for future enquiry Written now in my dream diary.
It’s bizarre to sit and watch images and words flash across the myriad of screens each of us own at this time early in the third millennium and watch with a sense of horror as the major cities of the globe descend slowly into a state of anarchic pandemonia. Each city has the potential to a greater or lesser extent to metamorphose into, what Milton named as the Capital of Hell, Pandemonium.
What sickens me the most is the realisation that there is absolutely nothing I, or for that matter you, as individuals can possibly do about it. The major news media outlets are busy trying to portray the Covid 19 pandemic as just another major news story that can be presented to the people in the same old time honoured fashion that they done since the birth of Television. However, this time the story is too big for corporatations to control. Little snippets of truth about the sombre reality of this dreadful situation are poking out and are revealed on a daily basis. The never ending howling of ambulance sirens echoing along empty streets, the conversion of skating rinks and other civic amenities into makeshift temporary morgues, the requisition of football grounds and other sports stadia and conference facilities as sites for massive health treatment and combined hospice style centres. All this clearly visible for everyone to see but once the full horror of this disease takes hold then it is right to ask the following question. For how long can the media hold the line and continue to showcase reports that, it’s true, show the level of distress the people will be suffering?
To watch as country after country pass Draconian legislation enabling them to take extreme decisions when it comes to social control is alarming and will precipitate outbursts of fear, paranoia and anger. In Europe this might be easier to control than elsewhere, and in particular the USA. At the same time as we were stocking up with pasta, lentils, rice and canned vegetables, there were queues around the block at all gunshops and purveyors of ammunition across America. With politicians in leadership positions making difficult decisions on a a daily basis the pandemic is hard enough to deal with, but to have somone that makes last minute decisions based on his gut instincts instead of listening to experts in a plethora of important fields as President of the USA is not only frightening but is also indicative of the fragility of the whole geo political system of governance.
In my view The United Nations should be convened and should take over the handling of this crisis. It is too big for crazed egoist individuals to be allowed to have control over the future wellbeing of billions of human beings through the creation of artificial states of emergency designed to prop up their own deformed political, and often corrupt, ideologies for their own gratuitous economic gain. I doubt this is going to happen until after the grisly masquerade has played out and the whole world has to clean up in the aftermath.
The plural of Pandemonium is Pandemonia. Unless there is a global approach to dealing with COVID-19 it’s quite likely we will witness the emergence of a whole swathe of cities that, for a significant period of time, will become replicas of Pandemonium, the Capital of Hell. I hope I am wrong and Trump is right when he posits a miraculously speedy recovery. Somehow though, judging by recent history, I doubt it.
Millions of Brazilians Have witnessed all these scenes before Paliamentary pantomime Has locked down everybody’s doors The army ringed now around London Stock markets fall down through the floor There’s no knowing where this leads us The MPs bluster on, so sure Their nationalistic reactions Echoed loudly on radio four Butterfly show goes on and on No dreamliners fly anymore We are told it’s for our own good For the aged, for the poor Evoke the spirit of the blitz Best wishes from second world war Spout about spiritual health Whilst televising martial law Soon round up any dissidents Is that what this is really for?
Harri Rogers, in the red bedroom, Pencnwau, 19th March 2020