Lockdown is a prison term. It’s when there is trouble afoot and convicts are restricted to their cells. There’s trouble alright, but not from us inmates. No, sir, Mr Ramaphosa. We’re good, obedient citizens who will do whatever you tell us to do. Well, maybe not all of us.
Even though I have nowhere to go, I now feel trapped and desperately want to go out. I don’t know if it’s because I resent the government telling me what to do and how to live or if there’s something wrong with me mentally.
Before corona, I was happy enough to stay in with a cup of tea and a game of rummy with the cat. Now, forced to remain at home, I feel an overwhelming desire to have lashings of unusual sex with strangers while drinking heavily and experimenting with dangerous drugs. I think it’s something to do with the wartime syndrome – a reaction to the idea that we’re all going to die and have nothing to lose. In World War Two, everyone who didn’t go off to fight quickly turned into ravening beasts guzzling amphetamines by day and copulating like rats by night.
To be honest, I don’t really feel like death could be imminent. I do, however, feel a bit infantilised. I went to a friend’s house the other day to leech off her gin supply and she offered me a lesson on how to wash my hands. She’d watched a video, she said, and that if I wanted gin and maybe a small sexual favour then I had to cooperate. I meekly followed her hand-washing ritual and by the end of it I felt like I needed help going for a wee on my potty.
I see messages from people all the time saying they need to go to the supermarket and does anyone have any advice. It’s as if we are no longer confident enough to handle basic everyday stuff. We are going to be utterly helpless and completely malleable by the time this thing is over and we won’t even notice the Illuminati erecting millions of 5G transmitters to control our thoughts and make us obedient servants to the new world order.
I was hoping for this to be a coronavirus-free column, but when I began the usual ritual of pacing and chain-drinking while thinking of a topic, I found that my brain was coming up empty. Sure, that might have been the beer, but I like to think it was more because the pandemic has so completely overshadowed everything else that writing about local politics or the usual criminal shenanigans in government would seem like a wilful distraction.
On Sunday I wandered up to my local pub, careful to maintain the standard 300m distance between myself and the police. That’s the best thing about this virus. New rules of engagement insist on maintaining a gap to prevent possible arrest.
On a normal weekend, there’d be live music, laughter and braai smoke drifting through the milkwoods. The place was deserted and the gate padlocked. A hadeda looked at me as if to say, “Go home, you idiot.” All that was missing were four horsemen in black hoods cantering down the empty street.
We’ve been told to stay inside even if we are not sick. The point, apparently, is that we might catch it while we are out and give it to someone else. Someone old. I don’t know, man. The elderly shouldn’t be on the streets at the best of times. They’ve had their chance. It’s our turn now. Well, not any longer, obviously. The streets have been turned over to hamsters and chickens and dolphins. When we finally do emerge, it’s going to be quite a shock to find elephants instead of crack dealers loitering on the corner.
We are told that we need to look after the poor and the vulnerable. Let’s not forget that they only became poor and vulnerable because nobody has ever given a shit about them. The indigent don’t particularly care if they live or die, but they must be delighted with all the attention. They risk dying of exposure, disease or boredom every day of their lives, but now that people with cars, jobs and homes are affected, they have been swept up in a global dragnet of concern.
In London, people who sleep on the streets are being given hotel rooms. Here, our homeless are being given a wide berth. No change there, then. We don’t treat the destitute as real humans when there’s not a pandemic on the go and it would be cruel to raise their expectations now. Imagine when it’s all over and London’s dossers have been turfed out of the hotels. What do you say to them? “Now that we all have immunity, you can go back to your cardboard box. No, you can’t take the towels.”
Some governments are bending over backwards to help their citizens. Not ours. Not really. Yes, the president mentioned some numbers on Monday night, all of which pale against the R1.5-trillion lost in the feeding frenzy of greed during the Zupta years.
The corporate world hasn’t exactly been quick to offer a meaningful hand to businesses either. The Oppenheimer and Rupert families tossed some spare change into the effort. Telkom asked its customers to activate debit orders so they don’t risk infecting their staff who are already suffering from non-contagious ennui. A couple of banks have made token gestures. More importantly, though, nobody has asked me if I’m going to be alright. Freelancers are people, too. They can all suck my stimulus package.
Governments everywhere are assuming radical powers to arbitrarily impose new regulations. Some make sense, others don’t. We are going to have to remain vigilant to ensure that, when this is over, we’re not left with a diluted form of martial law or living lives straight out of Orwell’s 1984.
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