what does covid-19 unravel?

a (Re)Design of Our Survival During COVID-19

Reckoning. Apocalypse. World-Ending Prophecy. Capitalist Failure. Conspiracy. Propaganda. Coronavirus. Covid-19. To name the struggle takes a recognition of it. To recognize the struggle we must name it. What then comes first?

COVID-19 hit. And it hurt. Currently, there sits over 1.3 million active tested cases, and over 73,000 recorded deaths. The truth of the matter is not so much how high the “official” number keeps going, but that millions of people are not being tested, are not having their deaths recorded, are not accessing the necessary health care services whether it be because of their spatial location, their race, caste, class, gender, religion, and/or sexuality. People are suffering. That is fact. Do we know precisely how many? That is not fact.

I hesitated to write today. To put pen to paper and attempt to contextualize something I am not intimately intertwined with—luckily, at least not right now. I recall Patricia Hill-Collins in these times as she writes, “survival is a form of resistance”; in the midst of the “we need to be productive!!!” tweets and messages online, I cannot help but find them insulting. In such survival of ours, there is hope, promise, and resistance. COVID-19 is as much a continued struggle as we would look at a war, a global outcry of death and destruction. Its end is not some silver lining to strive towards, carrying the bodies of millions on our backs, its end is through a deliberate shift—shift of what we consider normal, because “normal” is only what we adjust to and create going forward. I hope we do not forget that.

My hope extends particularly for and towards women in the home, who imbue and live through the violence, disciplining, and punishment that has taken on a greater hold of their lives in these domesticated times. The WHO records absurd numbers of domestic violence complaints. The UN Secretary General has advised that COVID-19 has hit women the hardest, who face violence not only through physical and medical means of the virus, but through the private, purposeful, systematic and structural violence legitimized and authorized at the various entanglements of patriarchal bounds. We have all heard that those most vulnerable are those left behind, and while media and government officials have made explicit the homeless, the racialized, the precarious, the poor, the migrant, and the “in the developing world” worker, we have not made salient the women, the housewife, the financially dependent, the trafficked, the prostitute, the othered who is seldom analyzed when disaster strikes. These are the people being left behind, who we cannot reach, correction: who we do not wish to reach.

I feel less of a duty, and more of a forceful pull to speak to, with, and through the crisis, for it is not only one of epidemiological concern. COVID-19 hurt not only because it is a pandemic, which historically have wiped out millions, but because it unravels the cracks, the vestibules, the shortcomings of systems we are meant to emulate, strive towards, love with our open hearts. Industrialized capitalist democracy. COVID-19 hit the hardest on these nations not because they are more biologically or geographically susceptible to its reach, but because of their structures. The state that demands them legitimacy are not structures capable to handle the crisis because they were not built to aid, assist, protect its citizens but to aid, assist, and protect its profit and economic vitality. I will not sit here and argue that those countries hit hardest are systematically much different from the rest of the globe—we all live within binding, oppressive, vexed systems of colonialism, capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy. It is impossible to escape it bounds. Nor will I argue the importance of economic prosperity in the very DNA comprising the Global North. People are already doing that.

We are sitting at the brink of the quite possible death of hundreds of millions. I hope the number is much lower, but that hope does not dissuade nor does it provide substance to forget that these deaths are treatable. We have the opportunity to pave new paths, mechanisms, and structures to craft quite literally a brighter future. For those of us with the privilege, the true, inescapable, omnipresent privilege that grants us the ability to work from home, we have the time and space to understand and calibrate how and what we want these next few months, years, decades to look like. I do still know, feel, and experience the continued fear, stress of the unknown, of the economic, of the physical that has grasped our world. Together, as cliche and morally hopeful I seldom sound, I believe we can birth new designs to not only pave more effective paths for this pandemic, but so that when a crisis such as this hits again—and it will—we can find the means to ensure it hits differently, not just hoping it does not hit at all.