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“Disobedience, thanks to you I will survive”

(La Paz, 17 March 2020, Radio Deseo). I have Corona. Because even if it seems that the disease has not yet arrived in my body, it has already reached people I love. Because the corona virus is wandering through the cities I have visited in the last few weeks; because the corona virus has changed everything, absolutely everything, as if a miracle, better, a catastrophe had occurred, a tragedy without a cure. No matter where you go, it was there before you were. Nowadays you can’t think of anything without the virus being involved. Looks like I’m not the only one with Corona. No, we all have Corona. All the institutions, all the countries, all the neighbourhoods, everything we do.

Submitted to Enough 14 in German. Translated by Enough 14. Written by Maria Galindo.

More than just a pathogen

It is clear that the coronavirus is more than a pathogen, it seems to be a form of global dictatorship: multi-state, police and military.
The coronavirus is the fear of infection.
The coronavirus is the decree of a curfew, no matter how absurd it may be.
The coronavirus is the call for distance, no matter how impossible that may be.
The coronavirus is the permission to suppress any freedom, disguised as a security measure, without the right of reply or critical questioning.
The coronavirus is an evaluation scheme to identify the so-called systemic relevant activities, which is the only sign of life that allows us to go to work or to be in home office.
The coronavirus is an instrument that effectively denies, minimizes, hides and parentheses all political and social problems we have dealt with over time. As if by magic, they suddenly disappear under the carpet or behind the giant.
The corona virus causes the disappearance of our most vital, democratic and important social habitat: the street, the outdoor space that we cannot virtually enter and which, in many cases, was the only space left to us at all.
The Corona virus is the rule of virtual life, which obliges you to move around in social networks in order to communicate and to know you are in companionship.
The Coronavirus is the militarization of your social life, which now resembles a dictatorship in which no more information reaches us, but only calculated messages that are meant to stir up fear.
The coronavirus is a – apparently legitimate – weapon of destruction and prohibition of social protests of any kind, because, it is said, meeting and gathering is the most dangerous thing of all.
The coronavirus is the reactivation of the concept of borders in its most absurd form. Closing the borders is considered a security measure, even if the virus is already inside. That closure does not, however, prevent a microscopic and invisible virus from entering, no, it only prevents and distinguishes the bodies that pass through the borders and those that are not allowed to pass through.

The Schengen area, from where the virus has spread to the part of the world where I live, closes the borders in front of bodies moving outside. This is how the fascist dream of those who have always seen the danger in others becomes reality. The Corona virus could become the nightmare of the 21st century. Large numbers of people are dying because their bodies cannot withstand the disease and health systems have classified them as useless following a Darwinian logic.

There is talk of millions of euros being spent to save the colonial economies, which want to pay their rent, bills and wages, while the proletarian masses are denied access to heaven. They say it is impossible to pay the debts of society. Now they have people frightened to death, obedient, withdrawn, who reward them with the sweet comfort of settling their accounts after those who really matter to them have been paid: the companies and the states.

Corona in Bolivia

“Socialists” like those who govern Spain speak of a “war that we can all win together”. They like this vocabulary, which turns society into a “body” and constructs disease as an enemy against which we all all unite. It is extremely violent to proclaim a war against society and against democracy that uses the fear of disease. It is extremely violent to lock people up in their own homes as in private prisons. To propagate the principle of “rescue yourself if you can” as a solution follows unmistakably the neoliberal logic. And what happens when the coronavirus crosses borders and reaches countries like Bolivia?

First of all, it should be noted that the coronavirus is not the first and only plague to hit this country: Dengue fever penetrates tropical latitudes – but not in the headlines in the newspapers – and kills the malnourished, the babies, those who live in the unhealthy suburban zones. On the threshold of this state, dengue fever and coronavirus shake hands with each other, while on this side of the border, tuberculosis and cancer deliver their death sentences.

Most of the hospitals were built at the beginning of the 20th century, when the mining of tin fostered the economic upswing. In the course of the economic boom in the 60s of the last century, they were merely modernised afterwards. They are broken-down shacks that collapsed some time ago. Usually, the thickness of the wallet determines treatment and access to medicines, the latter all being unaffordable imported goods.

The coronavirus comes by plane. We are not talking about tourists, but about refugees [1] who, displaced by neo-liberalism, come here via self-built bridges of affection to visit strangers they call children, brothers and sisters or parents. They come with gifts and with infected bodies, but the disease not only reaches us through their travelling bodies, it also comes with the first class and reaches us because it simply has to reach us. It seems unbelievable, and yet: we have to appeal to common sense and say: borders cannot be hermetically sealed, just as we cannot build a roof over the sun, nor can we put walls in front of the mountains and doors in front of the forests.

The virus reached thousands of places in thousands of ways, but here it was the body of one of our displaced persons from neoliberalism, whose body was stigmatized and mistreated as a “messenger”, even though she was among those who helped and participated in the support of this country [2]. The virus does not first reach the body, but appears to us first in the form of fear, in the form of a collective psychosis, as an instruction for classification, as an instrument of alienation.

La Paz is not Madrid

The colonial world order has turned us into idiots who can only repeat and copy. We refrain from thinking for ourselves. In the case of Bolivia, the president decides to copy parts of the discourse and measures of the Spanish prime minister, and reads off a package of measures from the teleprompter[3] as if she was sitting in Madrid and not in La Paz, talks about a war that has to be fought together, about agreements with businessmen and women and imposes a curfew and a ban on assembly. The only difference in the discourse is the reference to international cooperation, the well-known begging for donations, be it face masks or ideas, if there is an abundance somewhere. For here there is no surplus of thousands or even millions of euros to pay any bills. Here the death sentence was already passed before the coronavirus arrived in the tourist plane.

I am waiting for an enlightenment that will tell us what we have to do and which, I am sure, will reach us through the weak, feverish bodies. Meanwhile, me and my sisters will be producing and selling disinfectants, in violation of the ban, but we too must survive. At the same time I will dig out my books on traditional medicine to make a rubdown for the respiratory system against the virus. Like in the times of the community pharmacy built by Mujeres Creando on the outskirts of the city. I think about the absurd.

Now that there is already the curfew, is it forbidden to survive for those who live by working at night? Bolivian society is a proletarian society, without wages, without jobs, without industry, where the great masses survive on the streets, in a social fabric that is unmanageable and disobedient. Not one of the copied measures fits our real life circumstances, it is not just the debts, no, it is life itself. None of the copied measures have anything to do with our economic situation, they do not protect us from infection, they just want to ban us from our forms of livelihood, our life itself.

Let us prepare ourselves mentally for the infection

The only option left to us is to prepare ourselves mentally for the infection. To cultivate the infection, to expose ourselves to the infection and to disobey it in order to survive. This is not a suicidal act, it is an act of common sense, perhaps the most effective sense we can develop.

What happens when we prepare our bodies for infection?
What happens when we assume that we will be infected for sure and face our fear with this certainty?
What happens when, instead of the absurd, authoritarian and idiotic state handling of the coronavirus, we find our own handling, in the social self-management of the disease, weakness, pain, thoughts and hope?
What happens if we simply disregard the closed borders?
What happens when we organize ourselves socially?
What happens when we prepare to kiss the dead and protect the living – regardless of the prohibitions that only produce control over our spaces and lives?
What happens when, instead of individual care, we move to a ceremonial infectious disease kitchen for all, as we have done many times before?

They will say once again that I am crazy and that the best thing is to remain obediently in isolation. To accept the isolation, the contact ban and the measures while your lover, your friend, your neighbour or your mother is most likely to be infected.

They will say once again that I am crazy, even though we all know that there have never been enough beds in the hospital in this society, and that we will die begging on the doorstep if we should seek help there. We know that the disease will be dealt with primarily at home, so we should also prepare for it as a society.

What happens if we choose to disobey in order to survive?

We have to eat while waiting for the disease and change our diet to be resistant. We have to get our colliris [4] and make non-pharmaceutical drugs with them, try them with our bodies and find out what feels best. We need coca leaves to fight hunger, and Canuaha[5], flour of amaranth, quinoa soup. Everything they taught us to despise.
So that death does not find us huddled together in fear in idiotic obedience, so that it finds us when we kiss, in love and not in war.
So that death meets us singing and embracing, because infection is imminent.
Contagion is like breathing. What the coronavirus punishes us with is not being able to breathe – through confinement, prohibitions and obedience even more than through the disease itself.

I have to think of Nosferatu, the unforgettable scene when death is already inevitable and the plague through the flesh of rats has infected the population. In that scene, everyone sits at a large table in an open square to enjoy a banquet in an act of common resistance. This is also how the corona virus should find us: ready for infection.

Maria Galindo

María Galindo (born 1964) is a Bolivian anarcha-feminist and psychologist. She has worked as a radio presenter and television host. She has written three books and is also a screenwriter.


[1] This refers to people who, due to a lack of jobs and economic opportunities at home, have fled to countries in the global North to find work.

[2] The woman, who is referred to as the carrier, was medically treated and has since recovered. It is a woman of the older generation, she lives in Italy, where she makes her living as a nurse. Because she brought the corona virus from Europe to Bolivia, she is being attacked, exposed and called guilty by parts of the population.

[3] Technical device in television production that allows the filmed person to read a text while the viewer has the impression that he or she is making eye contact and speaks freely.

[4] Traditional medical practitioners

[5] Bolivian traditional cereal

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1 thought on ““Disobedience, thanks to you I will survive”

  1. […] sought — from lockdown breakers and “superspreaders” to foreigners and racial minorities, returning migrants, and even medical workers? Stepping back from the new “common sense”, treating a disease […]

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