Translation of an article about the coronavirus and the state of emergency from France, written by several people who are working in the health care sector.
“I can’t. I have a pandemic.”
Now the state is enjoying a magnificent cure. After destroying public services and declaring hospitals to be free markets for years, Macron seems to be discovering that private market economy in health care is a bad thing.
Forest fires have destroyed entire regions in recent years, like in Portugal or Greece in the summer of 2018, as a result of the closure of fire-fighting facilities due to budget cuts in connection with European austerity measures. One spark was enough to devastate everything. And a virus can now spread and destroy a health care system that has long functioned as a drastic minimum service only, as is currently the case in Mulhouse (Mulhouse is considered one of the epicentres of the Covid19 crisis).
Tuberculosis already causes devastating damage in silence. Thus, the alarm sounded for a year now by constant strikes and demonstrations is not about a simple virus, but about a run-down society with overcrowded and polluted cities, animated by increasingly fragile populations deprived of any resistance to diseases.
Even if Macron thinks he is a Napoleon on a campaign of conquest, the nursing system will not return to the 19th century, where nurses – driven by their vocation – came out of the monasteries to arm the fronts with their goodwill and mercy.
The hospital has bled to death and we know that we can no longer treat people properly, Covid or not. But now everything that is not Covid comes second, even in the unaffected regions. Whole health services have been closed down and vital care is no longer provided. Mortality may well be boosted for other reasons, if vascular surgery and emergency admissions are postponed indefinitely or not even considered. Postponing a surgical procedure for a week is one thing, postponing it for a month is another. The patient will surely die before he or she could be infected with Covid. Intensive care units are making room for reserved Covid beds, but to do this, you have to transfer or refuse patients as if they were there for comfort, not for vital necessities. As for the emergency rooms, they examine people from a distance before sending them home. In some hospitals, the emergency rooms are simply almost empty. One elderly lady stayed at home with a broken arm for 4 days before she was sent to the hospital. This was because, as she was told, she did not want to “flood the emergency room”. The same policy applies to psychiatric emergencies. They are closed because of the possible wave of people infected with Covid.
In the hospitals and accommodation facilities the nurses* and care workers do not have protective masks. In some institutions, workers are asked not to use the masks, which are now kept locked away, with the following words: “If you use them now, you are endangering the lives of patients, when the epidemic is really here! And, of course, they are called upon to denounce those who do not comply. While the management is in quarantine, they continue to play the violin of vocation and mercy of the lonely fighting nurses and give valuable advice on how to protect oneself from the virus. For example, how to keep the distance of one meter when washing the patients. Well, as soon as Emmanuel and Brigitte come to wash the patients, we will gladly let them do the applause at 8 pm. (Meanwhile, every evening at 8 pm, a standing ovation is given from the balconies and windows to the nursing staff. Considering that just a few weeks ago the striking nurses were being beaten by cops, it is quite humiliating that they get applause every fucking evening and are still being sucked dry.)
The imposed curfew is there to buy time. But it’s not a solution where everyone does their part. After a week of forced quarantine, the death toll in Italy continues to rise. It is difficult to know exactly what is being counted. Let us consider the lack of care, the fear, the deaths during the prison riots that have broken out because of the terrible conditions of imprisonment, which have been exacerbated by the health emergency. The abolition of visiting hours and of trial dates, where possible release should be negotiated, is unbearable. In France, as in Italy, fighting is taking place in prisons today, while outside, we are paying homage to a government that has not stopped getting bogged down by its own incompetence, its lies and its greed for profit since it came into power. Health workers have never been able to assert their rights because they are atomized in their daily burnout and permanent usage. We should not expect a return to collective thinking about health, to a focus on immunity, which brings the concept of the individual itself into play. For those who know 1984 – a dystopian novel of a society in which Big Brother rules the actions of all people – it is not so much the central machine as the total isolation of individuals that makes this world possible without any freedom of thought or action.
The quarantine, although it may be useful locally and on medical advice, gives us a totalitarian foretaste when it is imposed by ministerial decree by a panicking government, so that our primary fears, our desires are expressed with cruel brutality. Having been almost systematically kettled, we are now locked up.
Without knowing whether quarantine will eradicate the virus, it brings a certain darkness of our existence to light. When the refrigerator is full, the Internet connection is working and the people you live with in quarantine are not too unpleasant, you will almost like to lock yourself up in your home, assuming you have one. And the pleasure grows when we know that we are participating in the efforts of a nation, that we are “in solidarity” by following its guidelines. To call this state of isolation a state of emergency will feel like an electric shock to some people, revealing the daily standstill in their lives. Becoming aware of a lived reality that is normally not imposed on them.
Voluntary obedience is accompanied by the desire for subjection and the enjoyment of an apocalypse with a fridge and Netflix. Finally, you can be stimulated only by a smartphone, without having to feel remorse. Unless, perhaps, all the people who have fled to the countryside are building new Phalanstères (Phalanstères: Charles Fourier’s theory of a model for the functioning of a new society based on respect for the wishes of each individual). Or the wrong jogger (since sport is allowed, suddenly countless people have mutated into passionate jogger) in the cities just to train in order to resume hostilities against the rulers after 45 days of meditation.
Yes, Covid is a brutal virus that debunks a society without immunity. A society of a state that is lost in geopolitical pre-adolescence concerns. Being careful with vulnerable people also means not forcing loneliness and depression upon them, while providing good information and pointing out the risks. Information is a work of research and analysis that too many people forget. Especially when it comes to medicine and immunity, there will be no simple truth and there will be no political experts to save us. It is a question of listening to one’s own body, and perhaps that is something we have been able to learn in recent days. Taking the time to read and compare different methods and results. We should look at South Korea, for example, which has not experienced a major crisis. One of the reasons for this could be the habit of washing their hands and caring for the elderly. There, the introduced treatment to strengthen the immune system with zinc and vitamin D and the use of chloroquine in the early stages has also proved to be successful. A central question should also be how we can avoid having to record the population by tracking telephone contacts and geolocation, as was the case there. Being careful not to infect someone with a viral disease is something that can be learned differently, it is already being done. The health issue must never be a pretext for security policy.
So beware of panic-mongering, the epidemic, like all epidemics, will stop as soon as the majority of people have developed antibodies after contact with the virus. Other viruses will appear, outbreaks will continue here and there. That is inevitable because we are simply alive. The necessary resources will still not be available in hospitals, and the police will have gained even more leeway in terms of control and data collection. In Italy, the network antennas track the number of people who do not respect the curfew by tracing cell phones. We knew that this was already common practice in France too, but nowadays it is proclaimed quite calmly and is legitimized by the health crisis and the obligation of house arrest. The leaving certificates (form that you have to fill out and have with you when you leave the house) will soon be outdated because we are only one step away from punishment from a distance. The digital platforms will once again show their absurdity, as not all students can connect at the same time, several bugs will have outsmarted even the most diligent students. But the dream of 5G will nevertheless continue to be sold to us.
At the same time, as work is increasingly taking place in the more intimate areas of life, the government is taking great pleasure in expanding home work (home office) and to promote its necessity. In the educational sector, teachers do not stop answering the emails of concerned parents who eagerly ask for pedagogical advice in order to advance their children’s education. While other parents do not even have access to the Internet or cannot use the educational files that were given to them on a USB stick before the quarantine.
Excluded from the curfew restrictions is what is considered vital: Going to the doctor, shopping for food, looking after children of those who work, taking care of them and doing physical activity on their own (cycling was just banned because they realised that you can get quite far by bike). Gatherings are forbidden, and the weekly demonstrations of the Gilets jaunes, which have been going on for more than a year and for which the government has not yet found a solution, have finally come to an end. Communicating in any other way than by computer screen or smartphone is obviously not vital. The resistance movements have come to a physical halt. Even the distribution of leaflets or newspapers is contagious. Must we now rely entirely on the Internet and its ability to connect?
This forced loneliness hurts terribly, after such an effervescent period of encounter and demonstrations last year. All those cop kettles where we found ourselves fighting body to body against chains of cops. All the evaporation of our fears, our rage and our sweat went right up our asses, despite the injuries and the tear gas we shared. And by the way, didn’t these gases contribute to our chronic lung failure? For more than a year, revolutionary movements have been developing and relating to each other around the world, although they exist in different forms and contexts. A resistance which has been rising up for months against those in power around the world. The coronavirus also exists, but the measures introduced by the same governments, consolidate their authoritarianism and reinforce an already permanent state of emergency. It will depend on our ability to initiate a collective process of reflection and action to counter the drastic and security-oriented measures. Actions of a government that is letting non-Covid patients die and that is reorganizing a health system that has already been struggling with death for months.
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