Isolated, but Not Alone
The spread of the coronavirus across the world has necessitated nationwide lockdowns in which the majority of the citizenry are forced to remain inside, unable to work, unable to participate in the real economy and cut off, not only from their local community, but often also from their closest friends and family. To many people, this is an entirely novel experience and a highly traumatic one. Being so suddenly and swiftly severed from all that they had known before and all that is familiar, those who have spent their entire lives toiling in their wage-slave capacities now find themselves unmoored and, in a sense, unshackled from the chains that had previously bound them. They are free, at least on a temporary basis, and for the first time in their lives actually have hours on end just to sit and think about contemporary society, contemplating all the ways in which we have veered so drastically off course in the subsequent years. They have the time to explore their own creativity, their own ingenuity, their own feelings about what it means to be alive in this, one of the most volatile and precarious ages in human history. Instead of using this sacred space productively, however, many individuals are choosing to bemoan their lost chains and lament their mislaid professions, waiting with bated breath for the instance they can return to the comfort of their usual servile, obsequious state. Naturally, as always, I see things differently.
Isolation is a relatively new phenomenon for millions who, throughout their narrow existence, have conformed to capitalist orthodoxy and been ever obedient to the dictates of the neoliberal regime. Whether rewarded or punished by capitalism, the rich and poor alike are, perhaps for the first time in the annals of human civilisation, sharing the same experience; the wealthy being reduced and subjected, as it were, in an unprecedented manner, to face the same issues which have confronted the impoverished masses on a daily basis; the difficulty of acquiring basic necessities, the inability to find work, the fear of dwindling resources and the sensation of remaining at the mercy of inept and increasingly incompetent governments. Although isolation may be a new-fangled undertaking for many, it has always been an integral part of capitalist system since its inception – at least for all those unseen, invisible victims that lurk in the shadows of “civilized society,” in the recesses of our minds – the undeserving, downtrodden, albeit entirely essential collateral damage of a system which serves only to bolster the obscene wealth of a tiny global elite.
For every billionaire that neoliberal capitalism creates, it generates millions more who have either been displaced from their homes, lost their communities, been unemployed and locked out of the system, enjoying little or none of its advantages and suffering all the worst for its excesses. These people have always been isolated, always been alienated, always been neglected by those up on high; leading lives of unjustifiable terror, anxiety and abject misery. Isolation is then a natural state for these victims and, in much the same way, is a natural state for me. Since as far back as I dare to recall, I have been outcasted from a system in which I could find no place, rejected for my convictions that threaten its ideological supremacy and, like so many others of my generation, condemned to idle on the sidelines – talents, aptitudes and education all lain to waste. Loneliness too is something I feel all too well acquainted with. It has been a part of my life for so long it has become a fundamental part of me. The sensation of being alone in my ideals touched my soul as a small child and has carried me well into my tumultuous adulthood, where I have been consistently scorned and exiled for believing in a more fair and equitable world for all.
This loneliness reverberates in the words I speak and the brief albeit disheartening conversations I share with others. I observe it in the faces of strangers as well as in my own reflection, pained and troubled as it always is, staring back at me. It’s in my thoughts, it’s in my deeds. It is with me in the city and in the countryside alike. It has been my guiding hand in questions of morality and my most fearsome accomplice in the pursuit of debauchery. Loneliness has not only been my vehicle but my destination, as I barrel ad infinitum through an alien landscape in which greed is good, profit is king and societal progression is something reserved for the imagination of the rich to justify their obscene wealth.
Somewhat ironic it is then that for me this happens to be the least isolated moment of my existence. Indeed, this is the time I have been waiting for my entire life; when everybody can finally see what I see; when everybody can finally feel what I feel and understand what it means to be kicked to the curb, forced to watch the world from the sidelines, cut out of the debate, cut out of sight. The brutal, inhumane aspects of neoliberal capitalism have suddenly become as plain as day to anyone paying the slightest attention to the chaos unfolding in the wake of this global pandemic.
In an abrupt and most unexpected twist the masses of people are beginning to ask the questions I have been asking since time immemorial – why don’t we have a fair and equal healthcare system? Why can’t we have a universal basic income or a functioning welfare safety-net? Why have we allowed wealth inequality to grow to such extreme proportions? Why are the interests of billionaire corporations more valid than those of society at large? Why do millions of people go hungry while millions more throw food away? Why can’t we handle the climate crisis? Why can’t we abandon oil for safer, cleaner energy sources? Why can’t we distribute resources fairly? Why can’t illegitimate debts be written off? Why have our democracies failed us all so terribly? Why is the life of a royal or a celebrity or a supposed “world leader” more valuable or more important than the lives of those who work in our hospitals, in our supermarkets, in our pharmacies; those who clean our streets, who collect our rubbish, who construct our buildings, who deliver our necessities, who take care of our elderly, who work with the homeless and mentally ill in a desperate attempt to patch up the wounds capitalism creates as it lacerates society?
The global corporations and banks have once again gone begging to the governments (essentially to the taxpayers) to bail them out to the tune of trillions, yet this time I no longer feel alone in challenging the legitimacy of this “free money” and the possible austerity that they may be exacted upon us all to pay for it. For the first time in my life I am not isolated, for now millions across the globe stand with me in questioning why we should allow a system which denies people the healthcare they need to survive, which crashes every 8-10 years causing mass immiseration and lost generations, and which consistently and without fail demonstrates an unwavering faith in an ideology which is at best is unnecessarily cruel, callous and divisive, and at worst catastrophic for the survival of the human species can be allowed to continue at all. No, I am not alone anymore and I am no longer in isolation, in the true sense of that word. The seeds of doubt regarding the sustainability of neoliberal capitalism have now taken root deep within the popular consciousness, generating a brand new zeitgeist that embodies a collective disputation of the status quo.
The community we are building now in questioning a system which is failing us all is potentially one of the strongest and most powerful global communities in human existence and when the pandemic has subsided, we will endure and we will prevail. No longer will we accept the excuse that there’s no money to create an equitable healthcare system. No longer will we accept that strong welfare states are not possible. No longer will we buy into the ideology that the elite deserve more government assistance than the impoverished masses. No longer will we accept the notion that predatory, pernicious capital should rule the world and destroy our lives. No longer will the interests of the rich trump the wellbeing of the poor. We may still be physically isolated, sure, but in many ways we are more connected than ever and we no longer stand alone.