Quarantine Journal by Cathleen Davies

I think we can all agree this isn’t like rehab anymore. I’m not excited by the prospect of getting fit and becoming Zen. Rest is no longer therapeutic. That shocking thrill of uncertainty has vanished and now, I’m scared. Madly though I seem to think that I’ll be fine. Even as safety nets are beginning to tear, I believe that a lack of options may suit me. The complete helplessness acts as a comforter and I’m beginning, for perhaps the first time ever, not to feel scared that I’m missing out on life because I’m well aware that in most places life has ground to a halt. Perhaps it’s the fact I’m beta-blockered up to my eyeballs, but I can’t shake the feeling that everything is going to be okay.

For me at least. Tens of thousands are already dead, the vulnerable are in a shaky position, healthcare systems are crumbling, and business owners and the self-employed may well end up destitute. Bad times are ahead and I can see it going one of two ways: either things will get exponentially worse and we’ll have to build up and recover from a horrendous time with people using it as a flimsy excuse for xenophobia and unrelenting jingoism, or we’ll finally have a badly needed revolution. I keep looking at the world and thinking ‘any minute now the pendulum will swing and progress will continue,’ but it doesn’t. I thought the left would get fired up post-Brexit. I thought people would be horrified by the election of Trump. I thought that the revelation of Muslim concentration camps in China would change something. But no, it seems that people are briefly shocked and then everything is forgotten. I’m as guilty of this as anyone else is. It’s simply too easy to be coerced into forgetting when the reality isn’t right there in front of you, and we are all in our own ways caught in social media echo chambers. It doesn’t help that we’re all trapped in this bizarre ‘post-truth’ reality where it seems like no one is sure whether or not we can trust the press or the politicians manipulating it.  

So I’m going to do what all good citizens should be doing and keep track of my current reality. It’s easy to be gaslit by dodgy politicians with their positions on the line, but it’s a lot harder for them to succeed if you have a written account of the truth. Sometimes two and two must make four after all. (You didn’t think you’d get through a Gen Z account of current affairs without a clumsily shoe-horned-in 1984 reference, did you?) So with this in mind:

                Things I need to remember when all of this is over and life is unalterably changed forever:

  1. Health is an international issues. We avoid universal healthcare at our own risk. Remember the lack of PPE. Never vote Tory for that reason. Never vote Tory for lots of reasons, but that one is particularly important. Clapping is a lovely gesture. Voting labour is an even better one.
  2. Many people in the UK were offered shelter and temporary safety as soon as homelessness become a problem that affected the rich. There is never a reason for someone to have to sleep on the street while there are empty beds available.
  3. Retail workers are essential. They deserve medals and pay-rises. Don’t look down on anyone for doing a vital job that you wouldn’t want to do because snot-nosed posh people tell you it’s unskilled.
  4. Free speech in China needs to be resolved. If there are violations of human rights anywhere, it has the potential to impact everyone, as this clearly demonstrates. It’s time to keep campaigning to allow citizens their right to speak. We cannot forget the injustice of Doctor Li’s death, or the government’s utterly pathetic and hypocritical response to it.
  5. Be angry on behalf of disabled people. We absolutely can make allowances for people who can’t travel or who struggle to leave the house. We should have been doing it a long time ago. Why weren’t we?
  6. Social housing should be readily available. 94 pounds a week isn’t enough to live on. What for some is the brutal response to an international pandemic is for many an everyday reality. As it turns out, people don’t have to be societally productive in order to deserve to live.
  7. The world still functions with people either not working or working significantly fewer hours. Capitalism keeps people needlessly occupied doing work that ultimately doesn’t matter for the sake of principle.
  8. Art matters. A lot. Books, films, TV, poetry, drawing, writing, music, whatever, everyone in the world should have some kind of creative outlet to express themselves in a meaningful way. Never belittle artists. In turns out that in times of strife they offer more to the world than economists.

So here it is. A list of all my rage so I can cling onto it and not forget when this new way of living become normalised. What do you know? It was more therapeutic than yoga. Stay indoors, wash your hands, never drink a pint from Weatherspoon’s, stay safe, get angry.

Or do what you want, I don’t know. I’m probably shouting this at people who already understand the significance of all of these points and don’t need a reminder from a middle-class failing writer who’s been living in leggings and cardigans for the past week and a half. If you think you can do better, please, please do. We need to keep engaged with each other and we need to keep writing and sharing all this. Most importantly, we need to act as best we can, using the tools available to us to make it clear that we will not stay silent on matters of stark hierarchical injustice anymore. We can all band together while maintaining a safe distance of six feet. So let’s try.

Cathleen Davies: Editor of Aloka Magazine.

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