Freedom in Quarantine

Zairong XiangCovid-19

The whole world is in lockdown. Or is it?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen some unprecedented measures imposed by governments across the world. These governments have closed down entire cities or even countries in order to “flatten the curve” and slow the spread of the deadly virus, because, unlike us, the virus is free; it traverses social strata and national boundaries. We need to check its freedom by putting our own freedom to move and to gather in quarantine. This, historians have told us, is an ancient way of combating contagious diseases. We are also reminded, in different ways—some benevolent, some outright racist—that after all in liberal democracies “we are not like the Chinese,” who allegedly can only obey their government’s dictates. This Chinese exceptionalism obscures the fact that most of those who could afford to stay at home in China are not very different from those who are staying home in the “free world.” They are all in one way or another beneficiaries of an unequal distribution of freedom—the freedom to stay home. We do it because we care, we can, or we have to. But one thing is clear: this freedom to stay at home comes at a price. [Read More]

Politics of Life vs. Politics of Death

Zeynep GambettiCovid-19

Critics have recently begun to compare the Covid-19 crisis either to 9/11 or to the 2008 financial meltdown. This is highly misleading, in my view. The Covid-19 crisis is impossible to fully control by political fiat or to overcome by injecting money into the system. The sovereign right over life and death has been usurped by a virus, which is neither dead nor alive. Political decrees won’t be enough to stop the virus from killing, although they can slow down its spread. Nor are bailouts sufficient to revive economies devastated by the very lockdowns mandated by political authorities, since production lines cannot be reactivated without risking contamination. Perhaps for the first time since the dismantlement of the welfare state (et encore, since that was but a palliative that curbed the radicalization of working class demands), lawmaking and moneymaking pull in opposite directions. Political and economic imperatives have ceased to coincide: it’s either pandemic control or the economy. [Read More]

COVID-19: A Brake on the Desire for Fascism in Brazil

Cláudia Perrone and Rose GurskiCovid-19

“I am here because I believe in you. You are here because you believe in Brazil. We won´t negotiate anything. What we want is action for Brazil …”

These words were spoken by Jair Messias Bolsonaro, President of Brazil, in the middle of his call for the end of the social isolation measures recommended by the World Health Organization as a means of containing the harmful impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. For Brazilian experts, the moment is worrying as the country approaches the peak of the transmission curve, with some 615 deaths in 24 hours—and this even without the disease’s having reached the most socially vulnerable members of the population. The event at which Bolsonaro spoke these words took place on April 19 and gathered a small group demanding the closure of congress and the army’s presence on the streets. [Read More]

Triage: Deciding the Ethically Undecidable

María Antonia González Valerio and Rosaura Martínez RuizCovid-19

In Mexico, the worst is yet to come. Imagination fails us when we seek to picture what will happen in emergency rooms when, in triage situations, medical teams are forced to make the unbearable choice: who lives and who dies? They will have to make this choice over and over again. [Read More]