So, I’ve closed my business. It’s not a big deal. (It is only my sole source of income.) This is what happened.
A week or so ago, as rumours of a lockdown grew, people started to behave in increasingly strange ways. It was fascinating to watch, and we revelled in our sense of superiority while we snickered at the hoarders and the toilet-paper squabblers—as if it was funny to see others in a state of high anxiety.
In this context of clickbait-fuelled panic, I began to get odd enquires: We are a young and healthy couple looking for a cabin for a month or three ;) so we can enjoy nature! :) When I read this, something chilled in me. I thought of eugenicist, pre-war Germany and wondered, What stigmas will this disease spread? My Chinese friend is already more afraid—than usual—to walk down streets where people sneer about Wuhan Flu, the Chinese Flu, the Kung Flu. Just days ago, she raged at me: Racism is the disease! We have always been your scapegoats! (I had no reply.)
And, whilst it’s horrible to witness the far-away fates of those we cannot aid, it is worse to see the state of those we can help—but won’t: the homeless cruise ships drifting in our oceans, claustrophobic with the sick. When did it become a choice to ignore the laws of the sea (or that other little thing—our shared humanity)?
The image of these hulking nightmares clutches at my core—recalling to me, once again, old stories from the war: the St Louis with its crew of nine hundred doomed Jews, travelling coast to coast, seeking refuge. What did the world do then? Exactly as it does today. It refused them entry—and sent them on their way. Though I pondered all of this—with politically correct and intelligent concern—my instant reply to my creepy new customers was (at least, in my head): Fuck off, you filthy vectors.
For days I was confused about what to do. I envisioned thousands of people pouring out from the city, glittering with the promise of a brand-new industry: ‘Quarantine Retreats!’ If I saw the illness and their panic infecting our Arcadia—I also spied a gold mine. We decided that we must not aid and abet them. We can wear the cost for now, we said, therefore we should—for everyone’s good. But then, as I watched scores of bookings—and thousands of dollars—disappear, I lost sight of our nobility. In its place? Stupidity and, worse, our perennial bloody vanity.
Had I not, single-handedly, just made myself dependent? And for what? Community? Country? Morality? Since when did I give a damn about such coy chameleon notions?
Well, it is done. Only time will tell us, now, what was right and what was wrong—who was in, and who was out—when we were flung at history.
This text was first published at Arena Online: https://arena.org.au/rewilding-part-i/
Image credit: https://unsplash.com/@usgs