I type this overlooking rubbish from across the alley. The streets of Austin are deserted, yet, among the usual curiosities, these overflowing bins were leaking masks and yellowed copies of The Daily Texan. Even this traditionally gun-touting, rules-flouting state has been cowed into quiet solitude.
Over the past decade, American foreign policy experts have spent more time strategising nuclear war (and according to one intelligence source, a Brady-less Super Bowl) than a probable pandemic in a post-SARS world. Global government responses are faltering—clapping for health workers has replaced necessary government expenditure and melodramatic flyovers have distracted from meaningful healthcare support.
In the United Kingdom, even as personal protective equipment finally becomes mainstream and an essential workforce is hastily rediscovered, public health services—that were already under-resourced before the pandemic—are being pushed to breaking point, while prolonged lockdowns are masking a generational time bomb of mental health trauma. Our newly pandemicised status quo is washing your hands ("for twenty seconds or more"), herding the elderly to slaughter ("a protective ring"), and travelling to beauty spots for your wife's birthday during lockdown ("to see if I could drive safely"). It is appalling.
In early 2020, the only thing we thought would be certain about Sino-American relations was that people would continue to pronounce Huawei suspiciously. Today, Donald Trump criticizes the virus for being Chinese and the World Health Organization for being global. On the side, he is either pondering bleach ("knocks it out in one minute"), blaming Obama for his government's slow rate of coronavirus testing ("I don't take any responsibility at all"), or demanding the liberation of states following his own administration’s guidance on lockdown measures and testing ("LIBERATE").
Trump may be a toddler overly fond of television, but his immaturity has been normalised and incoherence rationalised by allies on both sides of the Pond. You could not make any of this up: even Contagion—a remarkably accurate 2011 film about the response to a future global pandemic—got it wrong when casting the savvy conspiracy theorist as the peddler of useless treatments. The writers could hardly have expected such chaos would come from the President of the United States, and because impeachment seems to have more value on a fruit farm, a corrupt demagogue is likely to retain hold of the presidential office for another four years at a time of unprecedented calamity
A pandemic has widened the scope for catastrophic decision-making. It has reached a point where the wealthiest country on the planet has had more cases of coronavirus than the six next most devastated countries, combined. Despite this, like several other nations, the United States has already got to work lifting lockdown restrictions, committing untold thousands to their deaths.
Global cooperation is necessary to fight global crises, and Trump's re-election in November would hamstring effective responses; from coronavirus and the climate emergency, to racism and systemic inequality. The aspirations of young and old lie in tatters as mass job losses decimate a global economy void of reasonable debt restructuring to support the countries most vulnerable to Covid deaths and defaults.
That we choose to ‘fight’ certain crises but not others exposes political priorities as much as it muddles meaning. Some are having to consider for the first time that life does not seem fair: even the most privileged ivory towers are not immune to this disaster. Our world is in a state of flux. Art and entertainment can provide comfort in hard times, but the heralded virtues of quality personal time under lockdown are already becoming insufferable. Hobbying, reading—have you finished Tiger King yet? No! I just want to see my friends and not sense my stomach drop every time I hold back a handshake. We hope this edition will bring you, dear reader, some refreshing new perspectives as CRXSS explores the thought-provoking intersections of a global pandemic.