Berlin Diaries: "Abnormal Normality"

by Ognjen Ogy Vrljicak Vrljicak

Week Five 12/04/2020 – 19/04/2020

“I don’t want to be remembered as a hero. I want my death to make you angry too. I want you to politicize my death.” — nurse Emily Pierskalla

“Merkel moves ahead with gradual return to normality in Germany” – “Britain has weeks to go before normality returns” – “Italy, Spain to gradually return to normal” – “Canadians should expect weeks or months before life return to normal” – “France plans a different path back to normality” – “When Will Life Return to Normal? The Answer From Europe Is Emerging” – over the past few days, mainstream media headlines have been filling up search engines with thousands of such and similar entries from virtually every corner of the world.
The pattern is obvious and so is its intention — giving some hope to the millions that are unemployed and stuck at home in self-isolation whilst providing trading initiatives for speculators, gamblers and criminal manipulators at DJI, FTSE, DAX and other stock markets. It also sets the ground for the global ‘return to normality’ that everyone is apparently craving for. However, is ‘getting back to normal’ an act that we should cheer and feel hopeful about or is it an act that we should fear and indeed take as a threat?
If ‘normal’ signifies lack of deviation from the average, then we can easily conclude that the recent discussions, forecasts and announcements of a ‘gradual return to normality’ can only mean one thing — a slow but certain return to our previous way of life and the world as we knew it before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

In this regard, a potential ‘return to normality’ does not only mean a return to some degree of control over COVID-19-like crises, but also to the  continued exploitation of the working class across the world.

Most importantly, such a return would also be coupled with an enhanced severity of global class inequality due to the economic meltdown caused by the pandemic. It would undoubtedly translate into far more ‘zero hour’ contracts in the West and far more slave labour In the East, significantly increased  unemployment figures, greater household debts and largely expanded global poverty levels. Getting back to ‘normal’ would mean the further underfunding of health and social services, further privatisations, deregulations and general pillaging of many by a few.
Over the last few years it became perfectly ‘normal’ for any remotely progressive figure, movement or a party to get targeted and suppressed by the establishment with the usual help from the mainstream media. Generally speaking, all available means are used to silence and eventually eliminate any progressive and socialist idea from the political stage. For example, in the case of South America, it is safe to say that there isn’t much left of the ‘Hopes and Prospects’ Noam Chomsky so passionately wrote about not that long ago. The Occupy movement in the US is long gone, and so is Syriza in Greece. Jeremy Corbyn and his vision of the Labour Party in the UK experienced similar faith and, only a few days ago, Bernie Sanders was defeated for the second time in four years by a corrupt neoliberal Democratic Party. None of this is surprising since such developments have become the norm of our collective reality.
Similarly, not many were surprised and revolted by the fact that Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning were prosecuted and that Edward Snowden is on the run – all for speaking and exposing the truth of what is being done to us and others in our name. On the other hand, criminal bankers who caused previous economic crises and the misery of millions of people, not to mention the war criminals, are all free and richer than ever – this is also not surprising. After all, any other outcome would go against the ‘normality’ of the world we are living in!
Until recently, it was ‘normal’ to live in polluted cities, swim in polluted rivers and seas and breathe polluted air just like it became ‘normal’ for the imperialists to wage unprovoked, aggressive wars. As soon as we got used to one, the next war usually followed. It became ‘normal’ to disregard international laws and have dysfunctional international bodies. It became ‘normal’ to see a war criminal promoted to the position of a peace envoy just like it became ‘normal’ to have a regime guilty of most horrible human rights violations preside over the Human Rights Council. Initial shocks and rage triggered by horrendous crimes based on lies and half-truths were expressed by various peace activists and movements across the US and Europe. But as time passed on, the majority of people got used to the permanent state of war turning slaughter into yet another segment of our sick ‘normality’.
“War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” – and then some since this famous quote from Orwell’s 1984 is well out of date by now and as such it only begins to describe the state of affairs in our world. Is this the ‘normal’ key political figures and the media are talking and writing about and if so, do we really wish to ‘gradually return’ to it? This is an urgent question in demand of an urgent answer.
There are fundamental differences between cautiously good news in regards to numbers of dead and infected going down across the world — of ‘flattening the curve’ and ‘passing the peek’ of what is probably just the first wave of the pandemic — and the insidious plans for ‘gradual back to normality’ the plutocrats are already moving with. Good news we should cheer – of course! – but we should fear a possible return of the ‘old normal’ and be ready to fight such prospects with everything we got!

Over the coming weeks, the ruling class and the mainstream media will almost certainly ramp up the use of words ‘back’ and ‘return’ in connection with ‘normal’ and ‘normality’.

They will undoubtedly play on and use human (sub)conscious short-term selfish desires to get people back exactly where they were a few months ago, with a fake smile, illusionary hope and no change whatsoever.
An amazing and inspirational open letter was published a few days ago by Emily Pierskalla, a nurse fighting the local outbreak of Covid-19 in Minnesota. She was outraged with her government’s response to the pandemic, emotionally overwhelmed with the scenes of suffering around her and in fear for her own life, Emily wrote:

“If I die, I don’t want to be remembered as a hero. I want my death to make you angry too. I want you to politicize my death. I want you to use it as fuel to demand change in this industry, to demand protection, living wages, and safe working conditions for nurses and ALL workers. Use my death to mobilize others. Use my name at the bargaining table. Use my name to shame those who have profited or failed to act, leaving us to clean up the mess.”

If we fail Emily and indeed millions of others in the same situation, we will fail the world!

This barbaric and destructive ‘old normality’ — the one set and imposed upon us by the neoliberal establishment — should be urgently challenged by progressive political voices and, ultimately, with progressive policies for a greener, sustainable, egalitarian, peaceful and international ‘new normality’. Almost everything that was considered to be ‘normal’ yesterday should be turned upside-down today. There is no other way to cure the madness and there is certainly no normality to go back to. Carpe diem and no pasarán!
Learn more about the Progressive International, launching soon!
For previous and future articles written by Ognjen Ogy Vrljicak, you can visit his blog.
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