The pandemic unfeded by The Covid-19 has shocked the world and made it clear that despite all the technological advancement we have come to, nature can charge us dearly for our mistakes, and that globalization is excellent for expanding viruses.
As each nation has charted its strategies, its own crisis management, we have convened a group of intellectuals from diverse countries to put into context, from their respective nations, this current, globalized scourge of humanity.
They are scientists, professors, writers, journalists, communicators, who will leave their voices here to transmit their experiences, information, opinions. By sharing them, they encourage us to feel that protection that knowledge and ideas provide, something we need very much at this hour.
COVID-19 FROM ROMANIA
By Robert Lozinski*
I The ember to my sardine
The coronavirus crisis tests not only Europe’s cohesion but also some of its basic principles such as fraternity and the like. Thousands of Romanians (estimated to reach 40000) had to beep out of Italy to return to their home country, Romania. Yes, thousands, in a few days. The caravan of cars that could be seen on one of those days at one of the border points was impressive. It seemed like a mass exodus of panic-snevering people who wanted to suddenly enter a country they left years ago when they went abroad in search of a better life.
I can fully understand that in a health crisis, which is globalized by leaps and bounds, a European country takes the decision to shut down to stop contagion. But what I don’t understand is how that country can let thousands of human beings run away, leave the house contaminated, flee like unpavored rats panicking when some of those fleeing are likely to be contaminated and can pass on to others.
This attitude only proves one thing: that Europe’s supposed union does not yet exist, that at crucial times each country acts in a totally selfish way defending itself, therefore saying that others each other.
We don’t know how all this is going to end, but we can see how it started: chaos, panic, and everyone getting the embers into their sardine. They can only be expected to do so in conscience, i.e. that the measures they have just taken will be effective.
II Fake Smiles
On 15 March 2020, on the third or fourth day of the more or less serious struggle that Europe had begun against coronavirus, from China came an exciting image: several Chinese doctors, women and men, from Wuhan Province, where the first outbreak of the plague had been detected, protective masks were removed in front of a camera.
Each person’s face showed joy and satisfaction for the work done: the focus of the disease had been extinguished, and in this way they broke the news to the whole world. Gone were months of appalling work. Everyone, without exception, was happy and wanted to share their happiness with the rest of the planet. No sign of the crispness or ugliness that in us Europeans leaves the effort. The girls, mofletudas and risueñas, looked like high school students, while the boys resembled teenage girls who were fans of computer games.
What an attitude towards work! “I thought—totally different from the one I know, the one around me every day when I go to work, while I’m in it, and when I come home. The Chinese do know how to work very well, without coffees, no cigarettes, no useless chitchat. Later, however, another thought caused that impression of mine to lose its initial brilliance, gradually darkening into a desynchant.
And it’s not that I doubted the sincerity of that gesture or the success of these medical professionals, no. I just remembered that Mao’s country is not a total democracy, where attitude, outsiders, can be exaggerated by the pressure of the regime. I, who was born in the USSR, know very well the window smile, which is actually a false smile, a joy of facade of the system. Human beings could collapse at work, they might be tired and disgruntled, but with their laughing expression he had to hide the failures.
III. Between deaths
Living in isolation at home to prevent the expansion of the new coronavirus, and doing only essential things, that is to feed and take care of yourself, for a moment it occurs to you that what you have done so far was not necessary, that you can live doing only these two things.
Outside, the frantic activity that has taken place up to that point has also stopped: cars, in the absence of those who start them, are still; planes do not take off and do not land; the streets of the cities are almost empty. The whole planet, rather that part of the planet that we occupy, has stopped.
Only the essential works, the part that fights for our health, the one that takes care of our safety and the one that takes care that we do not lack the basics. And again you think: the things we did before and now we don’t do! And that’s okay. You can live like this too, at least for a while.
However, that everything has stopped is a false impression. Inside me everything works: my heart pumps blood, my lungs breathe, my liver and my kidneys filter, my stomach takes care of the food. All this works, while I’m standing, so I don’t lack the basics.
When that history of the virus is over, and having so sadly dismissed some of us, especially our elders, that these days it seems to get in the way and that they are threatened by extermination, we will probably return to the madness of before, and with more fury than before, to recover some time that we will surely regret losing.
The impulses to do all this will be received from the brain, well, from that part of the brain that takes care of pleasure, happiness, success, which is the part that, although we do not know, we value greatly. We’ll run again, probably in a hurry than before to get away from one death and to meet another.
IV The dictatorship of the virus
When the Covid-19 thing started and we started to respect certain rules, especially that of the estrangement between us, in a food store the clerk asked me almost screaming that I did not get so close, to keep my distance.
I wasn’t planning on doing it, but since I wasn’t wearing a mask—there weren’t any in the pharmacy—I probably feared an escape of polluting particles from my mouth. I was trying to keep it always closed when I went out shopping—only thing I did for weeks—so as not to spread droplets of saliva through the air. When I had to open it to say something, what was strictly necessary, of course—thank you or even later—a guilty, stupid smile came out on my lips, as if asking for forgiveness, which obviously made me look like an. And I thought to myself: if we so easily lose humanity, it is that we have never had it.
But the truth is, they put so much fear in your body; with the news of the beastly crisis that awaited us, with the thousands of deaths that kept going, with the warnings that it was possible that we were facing a bacteriological attack since the damn virus seemed to contain molecules of AIDS and malaria, which one no longer knew what to think.
I didn’t know what he was saying, he didn’t control gestures or the way he acted in public. And you wondered what was going on, why it was happening and also whether it was worth knowing the truth, if such a truth existed. Who wanted to kill our elders, for example? I was thinking of my parents who are over 65 years old, who live in a poor country, lacking medical resources to fight with that kind of spawn. I was thinking about my acquaintances that same age or close to her, including people I respect very much or friends I love. Who wanted to carry them?
Are we doomed to suffer from the disease that the virus causes when we are older? Will we have to take care of the distance between us, not approach, not shake hands, not laugh with laughter because we open our mouths too much? Who cares about having such a society, so paranoid, so distressed, so miserable?
They say that by the end of World War II and the Soviet people, who had won it, relaxed, were happy, and celebrated it throughout the country, Stalin, wary that society would run out of an enemy to be aware of and to fight against, intensified collective paranoia. I know the comparison is inappropriate and perhaps excessive, but that’s how I felt: as if someone had invented an enemy to whom I never stop fearing and who to be thinking about all the time.
*ROBERT LOZINSKI (Republic of Moldova, 1970), holds a PhD in Spanish Philology from the University of Bucharest, Romania, and a professor of Spanish in that European city. He is the author of the novel La roulette chechena, a book awarded with the literary award Francisco García Pavón de Narrativa.