Along with an odious spike in racism I have seen, it has been equally disheartening to see some unhinged conspiracy theories about the COVID-19 pandemic circulating on social media. And especially among some whom I thought were above that sort of thing. I have even seen a couple people whom I thought were intelligent sharing stuff from a discredited “journalist” who worked for Alex Jones’ InfoWars. So I wanted to take this opportunity to say that I will not entertain or argue these things any more.
Like human caused climate change, this outbreak is not a hoax. Real people are getting sick. Real people are suffering. And real healthcare workers are on the front line assisting these people while they are exhausted and have dwindling resources to work with. As a medical social worker myself I know of the great sacrifice of these people. Nurses, doctors, aids and all staff involved in care are putting their own health at risk. And it is often a thankless job.
Are governments and politicians reacting well to this crisis? No. Most aren’t. But if you think the powerful planned all this in some lab then you don’t understand how the world works. They are not omnipotent. But most are incompetent or are crooks or authoritarians who will use any crisis to profit themselves or to gain more power. But by all accounts, this pandemic is not working all that well in their favour, is it? Look at the stock market as an indication of this. Is the corporate media doing a good job? No. But when have they ever? Are there are those who will use this to their advantage? Surprise! That has always been the case. And is this whole thing a major inconvenience and terrible economic blow to hard working people? Of course it is.
None of that takes away from the fact that, by all accounts, COVID-19 appears to be a very different and very dangerous pathogen. And it is not the same as yearly outbreaks of influenza. It is far more serious because we understand what influenza is, we are only beginning to grasp what this thing is. And there are many who work in healthcare that understand how it can spread rapidly within populations, especially vulnerable ones, if precautions are not put in place. These people aren’t trying to make you panic when they give accounts of what they are seeing in hospitals or nursing homes. And they aren’t trying to rob you of your freedoms either when they warn of how contagious something like this is. They are trying to save your life, even the lives of those who disparage them.
We all do what we need to do when confronted with issues that seem far bigger than ourselves. We make jokes, encourage each other, provide assistance to vulnerable people, or choose to work in cooperation with others. But many get mired down by paranoia of everything they read or see thanks to the scaremongering and poor communication of the mainstream media. Others hoard things like toilet paper or distrust people who are different from themselves, either on the other side of the world or in their own communities. Still others get lost in an echo chamber of their own making. Personally, I wish to connect with those in the first camp rather than the others. Those who see a crisis like this as an opportunity to be compassionate, confront injustice, and work in solidarity.
Do conspiracies exist? Of course. It is a crime in every law book on the planet. After all, a conspiracy is only “a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful.” People are behind bars at this very moment for being convicted of conspiracy. Do powerful people collude with each other to commit crimes or things that are harmful to people or even our biosphere? Yes. Should they be held accountable? Of course. But not every crime or awful thing that happens is some kind of conspiracy. And I have found that when people go down a rabbit hole of conjecture, it will lead where it always has led. Straight to no where.
I hope this thing gets resolved quickly. I hope no one I love gets it, especially those who are fragile. And perhaps it will fizzle out and the world’s attention will move to another topic. I hope so, because maybe then we can address truly existential crises like climate change and our besieged and imperiled biosphere, or confront rising fascism, social hatred and economic injustice, or fight colonialism and rampant militarism.
But no. I will not give anyone’s “theories” about the current pandemic credence above the firsthand experience of healthcare workers. And if you do, kindly keep it off my page.
Kenn Orphan March 2020
Photo is Alessia Bonari, a nurse in Northern Italy who took this photo to show the marks on her face caused by protective gear she has to wear for her 6 hour shift.
“I’m afraid to go to work. I’m afraid because the mask may not adhere to my face, or I may have accidentally touched myself with dirty gloves. I am physically tired because the protective devices are bad, the lab coat makes me sweat and once dressed I can no longer go to the bathroom or drink for six hours. I am psychologically tired, as are my colleagues, who have been in the same condition for weeks.
But this won’t prevent us from doing our job as we’ve always done. I will continue to take care of my patients because I am proud and I love my job. What I ask anyone who is reading this post is not to frustrate the efforts we are making, to be selfless, to stay at home and thus protect those who are most fragile.
We young people are not immune to coronavirus, we too can get sick … I can’t afford the luxury of going back to my quarantined house, I have to go to work and do my part. You do yours, I ask you please.”