We are publishing submissions about the COVID-19 crisis from readers daily on NewPhilosopher.com in the hope that it can help us all make sense of what is happening, and as a historical record of how it made us feel. Here are your thoughts, from around the world.
By Dr. İdil Gaziulusoy, Helsinki, Finland
The world is attacked by an alien species; this is arguably the closest real-life experience to a Martian invasion our generation has and will ever have. However, in this particular case, the alien species has not come from outer space; it happens to have emerged and evolved on the Earth due to some complex socio-ecological entanglements scientists are yet to fully understand (interesting threads there for those who haven’t been on top “this side” of the corona news, including bats, pangolins, wet markets and factory farming). Its alienness is due to the fact that we have not been properly introduced to one another; no appointments were made, no protocols or etiquette were followed. This Earth-dwelling alien introduced itself forcefully into our lives and took away the banal variety of our daily agenda, declaring its monopoly over all of the conversations we have with colleagues, neighbours, friends, and ourselves. In addition, almost overnight, it forced us to change our consumption preferences radically (see meal recipes from famous chefs with three ingredients: toilet paper, hand sanitizer and pasta), to abandon the privilege of choosing to be “offline”, and willingly cancel our travel plans to exotic places in the coming months. For a change, we are not at the top of the food chain or the dominant species these days. Currently, we are scared animals sent to solitary confinement in our very homes (if we are lucky to have one), if not to hospital or the grave (yet), collectively experiencing physical and emotional traumas by some microscopic and relatively simple life forms. Welcome to the coronacene.
Each one of us who are currently living under lockdown circumstances will have a vivid memory of how fast our reality have changed in a single ‘click’. My click occurred on March 10th. I was visiting Aalborg University in Copenhagen for two days as a guest professor. My host told me that the staff was expecting the university to close from the following week onwards. Before that moment lockdowns were a possibility that I hadn’t entertained; yes, they were happening but surely, ‘elsewhere’. The day after I flew back to Helsinki, where I work at a university as an international staff member, on a plane that was only a quarter full, Denmark closed its borders. I had already learned everything about the new coronavirus at the airport while waiting for departure and a lot about general epidemiology. The next day my university announced we were moving teaching online. That weekend I worked around the clock to be able to deliver my class on Monday morning, March 16th, remotely. In the afternoon of the same day, Finland declared a state of emergency; I followed the Prime Minister’s press briefing, which was broadcasted live on the national television, in an online group of three other international academics where a volunteer did a simultaneous translation. When it was finished, I immediately left home to buy cat litter for my two cats (I knew essential supplies would be available under lockdown conditions, however, I wasn’t sure if pet supplies were considered as such. It turns out they do; no current shortage of cat litter to my relief). It has been one week and five days since then (I’m writing this on March 29th); however, I feel like it has been eons. Two days ago, a new level of lockdown has been declared: those who live in the Helsinki region shall not leave the borders of the region. Some Finnish friends and colleagues have left to their family mökkis (summer houses) in the country. I am staying in my fifty square metre apartment in central Helsinki with my two cats and leave home daily for a short walk (if it is sunny) by the water and grocery shopping. I am increasingly anxious with the thought of my 80-year-old mum becoming sick, or worse dying, and me not being able to leave this country where borders are closed, to go to my birth country to care for my mum if need be, or worse, to attend her funeral.