By Armando Chaguaceda
HAVANA TIMES – Today the virus acquired a face. An acquaintance, the daughter of a friend in Europe. Even though she’s a young person, strong and well taken care of, it makes me nervous. It makes me sad, because when the threat comes close, things change. It becomes tangible. Right away I thought of things grave and solemn, including to stop making jokes on my social networks.
But don’t we need humor to resist what’s coming? Will adding more bitterness and pessimism save us? Don’t our psyches and immune systems need laughter? Okay, I’ve decided to keep smiling: in public and in private, here and there, on this internet, which has become a substitute for the real world. While I can. Don’t take it as disrespect or insensitivity to the pain of others, but as a weapon in the battle for survival, to resist the “new normal.”
The “new normal” isn’t the same for all regions, all classes, all families. My neighborhood, as I think I’ve said, is a heterogeneous mix of middle and working class. At home, we belong to the former, we plan the quarantine, take measures, because we know how to and have the ability to do so.
But others, who here and in our countries are a majority, don’t have the same possibility. They simply keep on with their old lives as long as they can. They are impeded by their precarious relationship with the state —and the market—, in which they compete at a clear disadvantage.
In this case in the coming weeks —and unless confinement is absolute—, perhaps we’ll be looking for something that’s sold out. Buying at the corner store will be an option and the fate of the small businesses, our neighbors, will be bad without our help. We members of the middle class need to rethink our excuses: we can be infected just as easily in a crowded supermarket. We may not all get through this, but we need to try above all to do it in the most humane way possible.
Coming back to the real world, I go to the window. On the corner, opposite my house, they sell water. Here the people, even the poor ones, buy the water they drink. Now that’s a story in itself…
Just there outside the store some well-prepared and organized Jehovah’s Witnesses are set up: people with a purpose and a sense of the moment. The weeks pass, and they come by every day. Nothing like a crisis to bring out the sects and the messages they preach.
The thing is that in Mexico, with the authority’s incoherencies, delays and omissions, improvisations and the search for magical thinking spreads.
In this world, among those who give the orders, there are too many politicians and not enough statespersons. Ideology and the type of regime don’t matter. But if this was all, it would be less serious. The problem is that among those below who can make a difference -through their resources and actions-, there are many more residents than citizens. We are going to need a lot of this civic consciousness, sleeping or absent, to confront what is approaching on the horizon.