In the first week of self-isolation there were simple, though sometimes difficult, tasks. The first was getting over the jet-lag. This was familiar, and couldn't be avoided. Energy was low, it was hard to concentrate, and sleepiness came at the wrong times.
The second was adjusting practically to the new situation: getting the housework done, establishing new routines, breaking old habits to avoid a threat outside the house. As it happened, this was familiar too. Many people were obliged by health warnings to stay indoors, sometimes for days on end, during the months of the bushfire crisis and smoke hazard in Australia this summer. It was relevant training.
What was different, of course, was the virus. The third task was coming to terms mentally with the fact of being in an epidemic - a mortal threat to growing numbers of people, including everyone I know and love. Realising that there is no-one who's absolutely safe from an agent as infectious as the novel coronavirus is. And realising that I might be a bearer of the infection (which I hardly realized while I was travelling). All that involves emotion work, which in one way or another will go on as long as the epidemic does.
|For no reason at all - a perfect Waratah|
In the second week, things are becoming more complicated. I'm over the jet-lag, have a bit of energy back. But I can't move about the city and get on with purposes that involve other people: libraries, choirs, work, politics. Plotting to overthrow world capitalism on one's own isn't very convincing - you do need a cabal, and cloaks, and a dark cellar to meet in.
Events that I'm looking forward to later in the year are being cancelled one by one, or postponed optimistically to next year. I'm beginning to pick up the threads of writing projects that I can do in isolation, or in semi-isolation after the 14 days for quarantine are over.
But they have to be re-shaped for the new conditions. In my booklet Writing for Research - free to download, folks! Just click on the link at the top of this page, or go to https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B7PfMzZfEk7vQ0Fvd3JEWnBBUmM/view
- I quote the South African novelist Nadine Gordimer saying that "some form of solitude is the condition of creation". True. I've never had the urge to write great works in a crowded café while swigging Calvados and smoking Gauloises. But there can be too much solitude, too.
Like many others I'm also trying to understand the politics that have emerged in the epidemic. On previous days I've commented on the incompetence and mendacity of the right-wing governments, here and abroad, that are making such a mess of this situation. I hadn't got round to the Modi government in India, which the epidemic has caught in the middle of an anti-Muslim pogrom that is becoming as brutal a repression as the Chinese government's efforts in Xinjiang.
But it's the Australian system that I have to think about immediately, and the two main models that Australian politicians follow, the US and the UK. It's now hard to believe that such sustained mismanagement as we've seen from these regimes is simply a matter of confusion and incompetence. There's more to it than that. I'll offer some thoughts in my next posts.