Berlin Diaries: "Welcome to the new reality"

by Ognjen Ogy Vrljicak Vrljicak

Week Four 05/04/2020 – 12/04/2020

Photo:
lasst grüßen
 (greetings!)
wellkommen in der neuen realität (welcome to the new reality)

This project chronicles an ongoing, personal thought process driven by reflections of the world we live in and the system we are part of.  A world that has — on a micro level at least — suddenly shrunk to the size of our homes. A system that has failed us all in the sight of what is, objectively speaking,  just a minor disaster.

Easter Sunday marks almost exactly one month since partial lock-down measures were officially implemented in Berlin.

Hordes of chocolate Easter Bunnies armed with equally chocolate Easter Eggs aren’t making this commercialised religious spectacle any sweeter this year, despite the good weather!
For the entire week, the city was bathing in warm pools of sunlight, unpolluted fresh air and gentle northern breeze. Berliners — probably encouraged by the outstanding efficiency of German health system — took full advantage of the weather by flooding the streets, river walks and local parks. Queues in front of coffee and ice-cream shops were as long as they would normally be and grass covered canal banks looked pretty much the same as previous years.
Southern bank, shaded by nearby buildings of Neukölln — was completely empty. Sunny side of Kreuzberg’s northern bank — almost full. Social distancing? Some, but mostly none. Social irresponsibility? Bucketful! Out of the corner of my eye, I spotted small graffiti on a nearby wall, reading – “We are young, we are the stars and we burn brightly!”.

It made me think of the future.

Some 6.700Km further West, Trump was thinking of the future, too. He was contemplating new lies, thinking of new ways of how to blame others for his own failings, of new insidious ways to extend his mandate and, perhaps surprisingly, of moon mining and tapping asteroid resources by signing an executive order and therefore officially establishing U.S. policy on the exploitation of off-Earth resources. How about some Personal Protective Equipment desperately needed by the health workers, here on Earth? Forget about it!
Under his watch and with over 500.000 confirmed cases of COVID-19, the United States steamrolled to the very top of the John Hopkins statistics list, leaving China and all European countries well behind. When we add to this growing food crisis and the close to 17 million people that have filed up for unemployment in the past three weeks, it’s easy to conclude that the American Dream is nothing but a feverish illusion, or a nightmare caused by Incubi and Succubi of monstrous neoliberal system in place.
Without a doubt, the most horrifying and distressing images from the past week have come via drone video footage showing a massive, freshly dug trench on Hart Island being filled with coffins. They showed dozens upon dozens of white wooden caskets stacked next to each other, creating a scene that was closely reminiscent of fictional post-apocalyptic stories. Of course, we are talking about COVID-19 victims with no next-to-kin or families who can afford a funeral. The nameless and easily forgotten ones. Temporary burials only — officials are saying — as if that makes it any better or easier to digest, even if true!
Perhaps mildly aware of the ordeal, and unable to face growing criticism both at home and abroad, Trump accused the World Health Organisation of bias towards China and threatened to cut US funding for this specialised agency of the United Nations. This is probably the most disgraceful thing any leader could possibly do in such a situation, but I guess that the world must be used to American preposterous outbursts by now. Such desperate rhetoric and actions are nothing but the reflections of rage and agony of a diminishing empire intimes of irreversible decay.
In the UK, the situation was almost equally grotesque. Johnson, being released from the intensive care unit, was praising and thanking the NHS for saving his life. The same NHS that his political party was privatising and underfunding for decades. The same NHS that infamously ended up as part of post-Brexit trade deal negotiations with the US.
In typical fashion of ‘special relationship’ echo-chamber, the UK government, just like its US master, is also enraged with China and deeply concerned that it might be hiding facts and statistics concerning the COVID-19 outbreak. It is indeed possible that the Chinese government might not be communicating the full picture of local horrors to the world, but we don’t know this for sure.
What we do know for certain is that the British government hid the findings of 2016 pandemic drill from the general public. This drill, code-named Exercise Cygnus, highlighted shortages of intensive care beds, vital equipment and mortuary space. In short, it underlined utter UK unpreparedness for even the mildest cases of potential pandemics.
Baseless accusations and finger pointing, towards the WHO, China, or anyone else, won’t save the UK, the US or any other government from the fact that the blame for utter neglect clearly lies at their own door steps.
In the EU, mainstream media has largely ignored the news of Mauro Ferrari’s resignation letter to the position of President of the European Research Council, the main scientific body of the European Union. Towards the end of the letter, Ferrari underlined the main issue perfectly:

“I am afraid that I have seen enough of both the governance of science, and the political operations at the European Union. In these three long months, I have indeed met many excellent and committed individuals, at different levels of the organization of the ERC and the EC. However, I have lost faith in the system itself.

Let’s repeat the last two words — the system itself! The main message being: it is the system that’s the problem rather than the individuals serving it. In the case of the EU, this is particularly important to understand since the survival of the union depends on it.

After everything that has been going on over the last few weeks, it is blatantly clear that the world won’t be the same after the pandemic ends.

The magnitude of inevitable changes in our societies in our cultural, economic and political landscapes, will be directly proportional to the length of the pandemic itself. In other words, the longer the pandemic lasts, the greater and more radical reforms we will need to overcome its effects.
Over the last few days, I was wondering how the world would look like in the case of a global strike of the working class, or in the case of a world-wide, nonviolent proletarian revolution. No one knows, of course, but maybe the world wouldn’t look significantly different to how it looks right now? Perhaps global ‘lock-down’ measures triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic can end up serving as one of major inspirations for a  green, socialist, world-wide activism in the near future? Recent initiatives like the Progressive International, announced by DiEM25 and the Sanders Institute, are certainly encouraging developments in this regard.
One day our governments will lift those measures and order us to get back to work, but what if people actually refuse to do so until a long list of specific demands isn’t met? This is a historic and inspiring time which should be understood and used as such. The ruling class is already on it, let’s make no mistakes about it! What about the rest of us?
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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