Open letter to a virus

SARS-Cov2, Corona, Covid… We called you in many ways. Today I am speaking directly to you, even if it is hard to speak with a virus. I’m trying to tell you what I think of you and it helps me to see more clearly the attitude that we should develop …

We just spent a year with you. You are undoubtedly the most recurring character in our news for a long time. Even Trump, this virus of American democracy, despite his presence on Twitter to be talked about every day, did not do as well. At first, we talked about you as the “new coronavirus”, as if we used to talk about your colleagues! We didn’t really know much about your family. We knew better the flu viruses of which we had memorized with great difficulty some variants H1N1, H5N2 … The health authorities very quickly baptized you SARS-CoV2 and for a while, we tried to call you like that, for your real name. SARS, or SARS in French, again we had more or less understood that it meant “severe acute respiratory syndrome”. We understood well, with the combination of “acute” and “severe”, that we should not joke with you. CoV, it was coronavirus for short and 2 distinguished you from 1 without us remembering that there was a SARS-CoV1.

You were still young and we hadn’t really gotten into you yet.But hey, for everyday, it was still not an easy name to bear. We first called you “corona”, it was a little familiar but it allowed us to tame you a minimum. Corona, we could see that it referred to your crown (by the way, I have never seen a crown like yours: it is not on your head but all around, not easy to wear queen with pimples everywhere). And then, with Chirac, we all learned that Corona was the name of a beer and that rather reassured us. But that was in the spring during the first confinement. You were still young and we hadn’t really taken a grudge against you yet (puny pun)! At the time we had Skype aperitifs that we interrupted at 8pm to go and applaud on our balconies and we took advantage of the sudden stop of the world to walk in the deserted cities and to think. I wrote a lot because of you during this time. I was one of those who wanted to imagine the world after.

Spring has passed, then summer. We knew you would come back but we pretended you had left with no return. We needed it too much. Autumn has arrived and you are back. It is undoubtedly with the fog and the shortened days that we began to call you only by the name of the disease that you tirelessly transmit to us: covid. Not even Covid-19, the vintage name for the syndrome, but covid itself. As if you could no longer be dated, as if you had become eternal, perennial, indestructible, the new phoenix that fire does not destroy. Even the looming vaccine battery can’t quite convince us that you will ever disappear.

So here you are Covid – covid short – with the oddity of not having succeeded in having a stable genre. Most of us are hesitant and use a bit of male and female at random. In France, in fact, we have an Academy which intervened to tell us learnedly that we had to switch to the feminine (although we had spontaneously attributed the masculine to you), simply because your name ended with a d which means disease. Forgetting that disease, being English, has no gender. Also forgetting that a disease in France can be male like cold or cancer!

The longer you last, the more we endure and the less we want to understand you and live with you.Regardless of your gender identity, you are more and more confused with the disease you are causing. The longer you last, the more we endure and the less we want to understand you and live with you. We, Westerners, the crises, after six months, we are fed up and we hear that they stop! We don’t have a taste for endless days. You have to be able to zap, move on. However, you, you become encrusted. The British even discovered that you were mutating to infect us a little more. As a result, the English were deprived of Christmas. How do you want us to feel like “living with the virus” as I was trying to write in the fall? The confinements in “ stop and go Make life impossible. In any case the life to which we are used and which we do not want to lose: café terraces, sports clubs and shows when we decide! We have accepted a stressful life, always under pressure but we hold on to our compensations, trips to the end of the world included. The more time passes, the more it is the life before that we demand to find without modifying anything. Soon we will say like the Americans that our way of life is not negotiable, forgetting in passing that precisely we had to change our way of life if we wanted to face climate change. You are making us lose all desire to change and this is perhaps the most dramatic.
I fear you will wear us out much more than you will kill us. In fact, you devitalize us. Two or three more things to tell you, SARS-CoV2 (I’m calling you by your real name because I’m getting serious), you are a particularly nasty virus. Yes, wrong. One might even have the impression that you have calibrated your effects to be serious enough that we put our lives on hold, but not to the point that we do not have deep down – permanently – some doubt about the relevance. of what is done to fight against you. If I dared, I would say that you are a quantum virus, at the same time serious and not serious without one really knowing which state is actualized. This double state twists our understanding, our patience and our morale. Yes, you really are a twisted virus. I fear you will wear us out much more than you will kill us. In fact, you devitalize us. How are we going to be able to cope with the even more serious crises that await us after you? And how can we fail to see that it is not the whole world that you strike like this but its most western part? Neither Asia nor Africa are hit like us. Virus, would you have decided to reduce the smugness of this self-confident West?

See how you push us to the limit and lead us to go beyond our thinking ?! There are paths I don’t want to take. I don’t believe in a vengeful God who expresses himself through a virus. You are not the eighth plague of Egypt. And our desire to eradicate you, however legitimate it may be because of our unbearable cohabitation, quickly risks bringing us back to the certainty that we are the strongest and that we have nothing to change in the order of things. . Twisted you are, twisted you will remain, even in your disappearance. You will make us believe in our invincibility, when admitting our vulnerability would be our greatest chance for years to come. Stronger again, will we still have the ability to make our fragilities the resources of our resilience ?

Are we doomed to have only one possible way of life with a survival mode as soon as “ordinary” life is no longer possible?Like I already wrote it, we don’t have enough dialogue with you. We have been living under your thumb for a year without really revolting. We submit to you. But we should question ourselves more. Not like the conspirators to find out who is the hidden culprit but to try to define what could be a good life taking into account you, Covid, today, but also, tomorrow, climatic disruptions, technological weaknesses. We must include you in our discussions. Governments do not know how to have this kind of exchange. They are too conventional for that. They did not understand that our democracies to continue to exist in stormy weather had to operate in more creative ways. The misadventures of the climate convention show the reluctance of our leaders. An institution, therefore, does not speak with a virus. A living society, on the other hand, can.

The question we must ask ourselves is “simple”: Are we doomed to have only one possible way of life with a survival mode as soon as “ordinary” life is no longer possible? Or do we have to find a way to live fully but differently when we have to face the impossibility of living as usual? I do not have the answers but I would like these questions not to be obscured by the lack of a current alternative. It is not true that we only have a reasonable possible path.

What exhausts us the most is hearing morning and night that everyone is exhausted.We absolutely have to question ourselves on what a different cultural life can be, how all activities can be reorganized to get out of the essential / non-essential categorization, how to think of the presence in others, in work, in health, in the care in general, how can we re-examine the city-countryside relationship so precious to limit our too strong interaction with you, virus… These questions are dizzying. A citizens’ conference not on the post-Covid but of course on “life in bad weather” would be very useful. We must learn to be more agile… and happier in the face of adversity!
Living with adversity, we know how to do it at the height of conflicts or catastrophes but we do not really succeed in the long term with heavy constraints but not vital from day to day. This “medium” intensity of the crisis is in itself a difficulty that we must learn to deal with. Once again life, even under stress, must remain joyful and creative. What exhausts us the most is hearing morning and night that everyone is exhausted. I have known for a long time that energy flows from person to person. Sadly, depression too.

The collapsists and collapsologists have taught us nothing to live through these long and slow crises, which make life difficult without making it impossible. We are going to have to compose, it is a necessity and an opportunity if we are to take the Anthropocene seriously. Yes we are going to have to learn to talk with you, SARS-CoV2, Corona, Covid. With you and your successors and all the agents of the crises that we will have to face. We are going to have to become multilingual!

Hervé Chaygneaud-Dupuy, Guest columnist of UP ‘Magazine – Essayist – Sustainable development consultant and stakeholder dialogue

The original of this text appeared on Mr. Chayneaud-Dupuy’s blog,
With our warm thanks to the author.

Header Image : Courtesy of international cartoon festival on coronavirus battle / illustration Igor Smirnov

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