For two years, there has been a counter on top of two major news publications for the city I live in. Every morning at 10am, the government releases the numbers of new cases and how many people have died “of” COVID.
This is especially true if we’re “not from here,” even though we’ve made it our home. It’s also particularly true if you’re of the “wrong” ethnic background, like the Roma, and have either had your community surrounded by the military to “prevent the spread of COVID” or been blamed for your lack of trust in both the State and medical establishments despite the fact that neither has done anything to build trust with you after the many times they decided to try to eradicate your family through other eugenics programs.
The State sees most of us are undeserving, honestly. That’s why they’re letting the bodies pile up in support of their one true deity: the Economy.
The ‘official’ tallies on the news websites don’t keep a running total for the number of people who “died with” COVID, even though they also died because of COVID. Instead, they continually separate the people who died “of” COVID and the people who died “from their comorbidities” but “with” COVID. There is no consideration that they most likely would have continued living their life without COVID being a factor. No one cares that those who died “with” COVID are just as much its victims as the people who are dying “of” COVID.
Other interesting information that is left out of the conversation and obscured by those constantly updated statistics: How many people have died because they couldn’t seek medical treatment for other diseases because of how COVID has impacted our hospitals? How many people are afraid to seek medical treatment or are putting off medical treatment because of the situation in hospitals? How many people are having necessary surgeries put on hold because of the situation in hospitals? How many hospitals are crumbling from a decrease in staff, either because they’re sick, they died, or they quit under the excessive pressure of two years of obvious government failures?
It’s interesting that none of that information is recorded on those counters. The number of people who died “with” COVID gets a mention in our minute-by-minute updates that have been going on — though dwindling in information and consistency — for the past two years. Few have even ventured to explore the other questions, and few have even dared to publish those explorations (if they did at all).
Just looking at the local numbers for where I live, we have lost far too many people. Effectively, we’ve lost the equivalent of whole towns. The number of people we’ve lost in Slovakia is more than the number of those currently living in the town of Kežmarok, which is registered at 16,346 people (as of 2018 records). And that number keeps increasing. We lose dozens of people every day (except for holidays, where numbers are a shockingly low zero), which feels small and insignificant when you only see numbers.
Until you remember that Slovakia is a country with a tiny population, and losing dozens of people to COVID every single day is huge and impactful. Until you remember that numbers need context, otherwise we become very numb to them.
Individually, some people have lost much more than others. People have been evicted from their homes; they have struggled to pay bills because governments across the planet have refused to provide any kind of assistance to ensure that those who could stay home were safely able to do so. There have either been mass shortages of COVID tests (as is the case in my home country of the United States, where at least one manufacturer decided to destroy COVID tests). People still struggle to afford more expensive and disposable masks, as governments mandate that we use those over the cheaper reusable ones because they’re better.
This is a strange policy for them to get stuck on enforcing when every other decision they’ve made has been utter nonsense. You know things like how schools can stay open with the least vaccinated among us being trapped in them while everything else remains closed. How we can halt every single outdoor activity and event, but indoor cultural venues like concerts can continue. How everyone is suddenly horrible for wanting to see their friends and family because they need to comply with “personal responsibility,” but governments are insisting that we go to work and stop work-from-home programs just to benefit… anyone except ourselves.
Anyway, the State does nothing to offset the cost of supplies that we have to buy in order to keep ourselves alive, and they refuse to do anything to make them freely available.
Meanwhile, way too many people have died. They have died a completely preventable and unnecessary death because so many of us are being sent to slaughter, sent to die so someone else might be able to hoard a little bit more. The State simply doesn’t care.
Tens of thousands of people where I currently live, hundreds of thousands in my home country, and millions across the planet. So many people who should be more than just numbers, but the only thing we really get to see when talking about any of this is the sheer volume of people who’ve died.
Officially, that is. We haven’t mourned those who are left uncounted, who’ve gone neglected, who won’t be seen in those tallies.
We haven’t mourned how this disease has decimated whole communities, particularly those that are primarily filled by people from racial or ethnic minorities. We haven’t really come to terms with how it’s been used to keep people from finding communities, intentionally or not; we haven’t explored ways in which migrants have felt lost and alienated, losing whatever grasp we had on our communities because we got locked inside. We haven’t honestly spent enough time thinking about how it has neglected immunocompromised and disabled people, trapping many in their homes and away from the people they love and care about.
Children have been forced to “go on” as normal, despite the fact that so many of them have lost years of their childhoods to something that could’ve been halted a year ago. Their mental health has been weaponised as a reason to “get them back in school,” despite the fact that schools have never cared about the mental health of the children in them and have never received adequate resources to even account for. Throughout this pandemic, we have seen people weaponising children as a reason to “continue” with “normal” routines. They haven’t let children mourn the many losses they have faced: the lost lives of people close to them and their lost childhood.
We haven’t adequately explored how this pandemic has been used to cause fear and segregation, how it’s been weaponised by bigots to attack people or leave them to die. We haven’t properly understood the ways in which nationalism is increasing in many of our respective countries or how it’s being used by people with harmful ideologies, like white supremacists.
And while this isn’t the first such disease to accelerate the deterioration of social structures and community in my lifetime (that, for me, would be the outbreak of the “global epidemic” of AIDS/HIV), it is the first to shine the light on how absolutely destructive the structures of our world are for many people around me. I just hope it shakes some people loose, that it pushes them to see how fucked the few “running” this world want us to be.
It would just be nice if more people recognised that the State, regardless of their eloquent and often populist language, will never care. They will let us die for their sake; they will never care about us. This needs to be part of our grieving process.
We just need to grieve, really grieve. Because it’s just clear we haven’t, and we can’t go on like this.
And in that grieving process, we really need to reflect on whether or not the ‘normal’ of before is something we want to go back to.
Personally, I want something better, something healthier. Because I can’t go on “as normal” when normal wants everyone around me to die.
So in this new year, let’s grieve our losses. But let’s also let those losses fuel us to create a better world.