The violence of living, of breathing, of existing, driven by nonsensical trades carried by cleverly crafted currencies. A normalcy of strife veneered by fancy things we buy. The act of doing nothing forgotten and furthermore frightening. Humans have become batteries that fear power failure; their bodies have become vehicles to carry their heads and feelings are intrusions interfering with the function of the gears. The fear of inconveniences not being met permeates because then the non-existent meaning of life will be unveiled and as such inconveniences are forcefully advocated for as essentials. Nothing has been normal since the encroachment of colonialism; this current modern modernity has exposed glitches which prove the unsustainable nature of the current world paradigm bankrolled on structural inequalities.
I remember laughing at a video a friend showed me in the beginning of the year. The video showed Asian passengers getting off a plane and walking through a couple of men who sprayed their whole bodies and belonging with disinfectant. I laughed because that world seemed so distant, it seemed like Corona was an isolated case that would be resolved quickly, and in a country situated on the Southern tip of Africa, I thought I was safe. A couple of months after the viral video, the president declared a state of national disaster and put into effect an abrupt and rather urgent lockdown. This lockdown meant academic, economic, travel and all other normal activities were halted. The meltdowns trended on various social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram with lamentations for everything to return to normal. A normalcy that is decried on any other normal day, calls for a revaluation and reorientation of the global economic framework were the norm when Starbucks was open. A normalcy that has educated members of society begging for menial work on the very same social media platforms. A normalcy where a quality education is a luxury afforded a few in South Africa and social distancing is impossible for those who live hand to mouth. The youth is largely unemployed and barely educated, days are spent travelling on trains looking for any kind of a job, and expecting compliance to social distancing with a grumbling stomach exposes that normalcy was a hell for others, and the lockdown a purgatory for the lucky few whose normalcy of Starbucks trips has been vanquished.
South Africa is a nation divided, while economic writers claim there are three classes; this is untrue because within the class of working class are levels of intermittent economic activity that are not carefully captured by financial agencies; in short South Africa is mired in poverty levels that have not been concretised. Social media is a privilege, high internet connection costs ensure that class lines are maintained. Entertaining videos of people going into Woolworths to shop for their “meal of the day” hammers the nail in the fence that divides the nation. The appeals for the lockdown to be lifted in order for economic activity to continue is a plea from those who benefit from the economic activity of others; the large working class of South Africa ensures that the middle class and furthermore, the elite make more money and are secure. This plea also exposes how disposable the lives of the working class are considered to be. The mere notion that black people are born only to get jobs has been a personal irritation to me because it renders black people to be of no value except to make value for others. The economic machine and apartheid history has enforced the mindset that other attributes like self-actualisation, joy and happiness are impossible to attain outside of economic activity. It is why the middle class flaunt their money on social media and are blindly loyal to a violent system. The poor aspire to be like the rich for the attainment of transitive value. The Corona virus ravages any human body, it is an equaliser of note, and the most vulnerable bodies are black bodies. Black bodies are vulnerable whether the lockdown is lifted or not because there is no reprieve. The food parcels will not change the damaged self-worth, that even in the midst of a pandemic they are reminded of their lowly living, the shame incriminating their position.
The lockdown has proven that in this world inactivity is shameful when in fact before the industrial age, rest was a normal part of life, not the rest of eight hours of sleep but the rest that included intentional inactivity. The land was given rest by the nomadic nature of historic people, the land was given rest through rotation of farming fields, humans rested at will and not only at a lunch break. The normalcy that is yearned for has devalued the essence of living and all are suffering, the rich and the poor, the poor more so. The lifting of the lockdown will continue to make the rich richer and it will rapidly increase the spread of the virus. The argument for the lockdown to be lifted in order to continue the education of children begs the question what is education? Living libraries exist in black communities but they are regarded invaluable and only worthy for government votes through the social grant system. The education that is lauded is for the benefit of the capitalistic system which maintains the class divisions. Maybe this lockdown affords us the time to introspect on the economic systems that are defended, on the inefficiency of governance and on what life means in a world were scarcity is the created normalcy. This lockdown orientates us to the revival of intrinsic values, the devaluation of economic achievements, the re-education of the value of food and farming outside of capitalism, and the revival of community; true community not the capitalistic brand of community paraded by multibillion-rand companies in order to make more profit. The lockdown will be lifted eventually and nothing will be normal again but the class divisions will remain.
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