OYSTERHOOD is reclusiveness or solitude, or an overwhelming desire to stay at home.
Bobik, at the edge of his seat, watching the President last night.
Ahead of a battle, a general looks at the battlefield and at his (in any other context, I would probably write ‘their’, but I will stick to ‘his’ here) troops and knows that many, perhaps most, of his soldiers will not see the sun rise the next day. When you live in a world where war is a possibility, and there are governments and armies willing to wage it over one issue or another, loss of life is part of the deal. That issue is usually power, or riches, or both. Basically greed. I always think that if one day, simultaneously, all soldiers of this world would decide that they would never again aim a weapon at an enemy, no matter what, there would be no war. If it weren’t for greed, there would be no war either. But that is not the way the world functions.
It’s the same with the economy. It’s a war, waged against others because of some people’s greed for power and riches. If we wanted to create a world where we would concentrate on feeding one another and building shelters, including structures that would protect both fundamental human needs, and otherwise engage in activities that bring meaning to our existence and not just bury a void of despair under mountains of stuff, the world might become a kinder place – for all. Our environment might survive, too.
Our economic reality, like war, demands that loss of life is part of the deal. Not only during a pandemic. For greed, human life has always been expandable. The economic machine is so hungry for activity that it does not care how many suffer in the process to sustain it. The show must go on. Making sure that most, if not all people, have food and shelter and are protected from harm are not priorities. Profit is. That’s the way it has always been. We can imagine different scenarios, but we don’t seem to be able to transplant them into reality. Maybe that’s human nature.
I am not naive enough to dream of utopia, but I cannot help feeling a great sense of loss watching as people are asked to risk their health and their lives to feed the economic machine, because they have no other way to feed their families, to put a roof over their heads, to survive…
I have the privilege to opt out. I can stay in hard lockdown for quite a while yet. I can live like this, still do my job, and hope that when I eventually get infected (which is not unlikely, no matter how unwanted), there will not only be highly effective and experienced medical care available for me, but also tested and effective drugs, to deal with Covid-19. I understand my privilege and I do not want to do something stupid to jeopardise it. I am not about to gamble my health away, or cut my life expectancy short, or massage my conscience into thinking that since everyone else is doing it, I might just as well risk my life and get my nails done. One can’t have one’s cake and sit down to eat it. Not during a pandemic.
The economy is not a fair place. Nor is it safe. But we all have to live in it somehow. There is next to nothing that I can do to change it, but I can stay at home, participate in economic activities that do not necessitate the unnecessary endangerment of others, wear a mask, wash my hands, and be as creative and kind about all of it as I possibly can.
I took a Syndol last night to help me sleep. I did not want to lie awake again in the middle of the night thinking of casinos and the gender based violence pandemic. Salieri and I worked in the morning after finally surfacing from the Syndol-coma. Around lunchtime, I braved the shopping centres and got us food etc. for at least three weeks. Another trip will have to be done tomorrow to complete the preparations.
The shopping wasn’t too awful this time. I had my list, mask, visor and a bottle of hand sanitiser and everything went smoothly. There wasn’t even a single queue anywhere. But on my trip to the car, my trolley full, I was approached by a man wanting to help. He wasn’t wearing an official uniform and he had no mask. I said, “Thank you, I do not need any assistance.” He came nearer and wanted to take over the trolley from me. I said, “Please, you are not wearing a mask, and I do not need any assistance. I am fine, thank you.” He did not retreat. “Please, I can do this myself. You are not wearing a mask,” I repeated. Then he just stood there, invading my personal space. I moved slightly. He watched me. I glanced around – we were alone in the parking area. And then I felt that fear – that fear that I was at his mercy. “Please, I do not want any help,” I tried once again, more emphatically. He moved away only to watch me for a while longer. Time stood still. I suppose he was considering his options while I felt I had run out of mine. He let me be and walked away. I packed the car with my groceries and raced away.
On my way home, I remembered the President’s passionate speech against gender based violence. Words will not help us, no matter how heartfelt.
I worked on the stoep for the rest of the afternoon and had feline visitors at different stages. Then it was time for a fire and a glass of red, or two.
After tomorrow’s trip to the pharmacy and to the Fiat dealer (Topolino needs a warranty service), it’s Advanced Operation Oysterhood for as long as possible. I will have to go to the post office in my capacity as business manager of New Contrast, but otherwise I cannot imagine what else could bring me out of safe solitude when we move towards the peak infection season. I will walk, preferably in the rain, when there is no one else around. Otherwise I will keep close to my hearth.
In 1918, when the influenza pandemic reached South Africa, the country came to an economic standstill, too. Not because of a lockdown, but because of influenza. The only people who continued digging for a fortune were undertakers. But I am not sure whether even they got paid…
We could still control the economic impact of the lockdown. The economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic without lockdown restrictions remains to be experienced. Or not (if one is unlucky). But we do have spaces for mass graves ready, if necessary. And it is now mostly in our own individual hands whether we get to see the sun rise the next day.
Be kind to yourself. Be kind to others. Stay at home. Support the economy in life-and-livelihood-saving ways.
“Physical distancing remains one of the key strategies to curb this pandemic.”
P.S. Bobik is not going to eat at a restaurant, go to the movies (not even the theatre), gamble, cut his hair, get a massage or his nails done any day soon, but he thanks the government for the offer.