Quarantine Diaries – Day 8
March 22nd, 2020
Thoughts from Left Field
And just like that, Sunday has arrived—the day of rest, at least in most countries. Here in Italy, however, Sunday no longer has any real meaning because every day is technically the day of rest in a quarantine. Hey, don’t take it from me—take it from the official decree of Italy’s government: Io resto a casa, figuratively translated as: “Every day is now Sunday.” Ah, you want the literal translation? Well, there you have it: “I’m staying at home.” Good luck with that, Jack Torrance.
All this isn’t improved by the fact that I have a Geography of the Mediterranean Region test tomorrow—online, of course. Life goes on in the end, doesn’t it? Well, not really; life has kind of stopped; it would be more correct to say that virtual life goes on, but enough arm-chair philosophy.
Getting back to my test: Logically, I should’ve had lots of time to study; even more correctly, logic should’ve dictated that I did make good use of the clock, but there are always convenient excuses lying around—the easiest one to pick up was literally and figuratively all around me. Here’s me io restoing at mio casa, busy preparing for the test; at this rate, it’s a 30L for sure, which is equivalent to an A+ in the US.
With 4285 coronavirus deaths as of today, Italy has had it tough, but not as tough, perhaps, as what Israel endured yesterday; the country had to witness its first victim die of coronavirus—an 88 year old Holocaust survivor, Aryeh Even; things like this shouldn’t happen. Why must it be that someone can survive the discriminatory horrors of WWII directed specifically against a people and yet fall victim to so such a random, indiscriminate virus?
I really just don’t know anymore. When the cosmos was born from an explosion billions of years ago, did it really shoot out all these ingredients which came to define our world today? How sadistic, in fact, is the universe itself and how inhuman is humanity? Or, since we’re just products of the universe anyways, do these questions even matter?
Hannah Arendt, a German-American philosopher and political theorist, discussed evil to a great extent in her 1951 work, Origins of Totalitarianism. She borrowed Kant’s idea of radical evil (the idea that all people have a tendency to prioritize their self-interests over morality and that this tendency is deeply rooted in human nature) to comment on the evils of the Holocaust.
Arendt modifies the moral component of Kant’s theory in order to highlight the monstrous scale of human suffering that occurred under Nazism; thus, she uses Kant’s term to portray a completely new form of evil that can’t be circumscribed by the already-existing moral concepts. This new evil, according to Arendt, is based on taking away people’s humanity and seeing it as something superfluous—waste that can be disposed of, in a sense (although Arendt didn’t use such a metaphor).
Again, why am I talking about the Stone Ages? I do this a lot, but it all leads somewhere in the end, doesn’t it? I haven’t disappointed you so far and I won’t do so this time either. Let’s start with a 2017 UN Report about which countries have the greatest number of elderly people living within their borders (that should be recent enough). As the graph shows, in terms of population age, Italy is the second oldest country in the world.
When combined with the fact that coronavirus largely affects the elderly and that 99 percent of patients killed by coronavirus had existing conditions—a phenomenon that strongly correlates with aging—it becomes clear (although rather inexcusable) why the country is resorting to measures outlined in this document mentioned by USA Today, which essentially gives the government a right to view the elderly as disposable.
In all fairness, notwithstanding the tentative guidelines presented in the document, Italy has not decided to stop treating its elderly population for coronavirus—not yet, at least: “The truth is, instead, that overwhelmed Italian health officials are planning for the worst, given the recent influx of cases and lack of available resources. If cases continue to surge, officials might be forced to prioritize care for those with ‘the best chance of success’ and the ‘best hope of life.’” How rational it all seems.
Indeed, it all sounds too logical and convincing, which is exactly the problem. Those with the best chances of survival—because of their desirability—are deemed superior and, thus, worthy of treatment while those who don’t have much chance are considered inferior and, therefore, not worthy of humanity—let’s face it; that’s the discourse.
I wonder what Arendt would say about all this? What I’m really curious about, however, is the following: What if the so-called person without much chance of survival happened to be a holocaust survivor? Does he or she deserve treatment, then? After all, no one really had much chance of surviving the camps anyways, but many still did. If there’s the slightest hope, there’s always a chance and I’m not really sure if we can deprive people of that, no matter how bad things get.
The fact, also, that an astonishing 99 percent of people dying of coronavirus are individuals with pre-existing conditions likewise has me worried about the integrity of the medical industry. In an effort to justify stricter quarantines, is it perhaps possible that doctors are putting down coronavirus as the cause of death when people with underlying medical conditions are in many cases dying of something else? Is coronavirus, perhaps, being used as a smoke-screen by governments to gauge how far they can infringe on people’s personal rights? As Martin Niemöller famously said, or didn’t say (again, I’ll leave it up to you):
As, I’ve said in previous entries, the coronavirus, at least right now, does not pose nearly the same threat that gun violence, automobile deaths, and smoking—just to name a few—present. Yes, it’s a pandemic; it’s a problem; it’s a tragedy, but is the response to it quite the one we expected from our governments?
The US—which last time I checked is considered the barometer by which all countries are judged—is doing remarkably little in terms of testing for coronavirus. Why? As a personal aside, when my dad flew back to Los Angeles from Rome on March 15th, US authorities didn’t conduct any checks or ask questions upon his arrival. Again, why?
All this really begs the questions: Who, in fact, actually wants this virus and who can honestly claim they want it gone? Who’s profiting and who’s suffering?
I really hope that my suspicions are wrong and that everything I’ve said in the previous paragraphs is bullshit. I hope this just a very serious pandemic that will lead to nothing else except a vaccine that will cure it—and I hope that’s what everyone wants. I hope.
All the way from quarantined Italy: I may seem crazy now, but in a month everyone here will be no different.
Until next time.
About David Garyan
David Garyan has published three chapbooks with Main Street Rag, along with a full collection, (DISS)INFORMATION, with the same publisher. He holds an MA and MFA from Cal State Long Beach, where he associated himself with the Stand Up Poets. He is currently studying International Cooperation on Human Rights and Intercultural Heritage at the University of Bologna. He lives in Ravenna.