COVID-19 Op-ed

Mental Despair and Thinking Politics in the time of COVID-19

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Fernando Ximenes

Covid-19 is Real and
Symbolic: A Personal Battle
On Friday (20 March 2020,) my sister told me that Timor-Leste
had detected its first one positive Covid-19 case. I remembered that time, I
was not feeling too well, and had a cough. At the time, my heart started
beating really faster, with shortened breath, and I developed a panic attack
worrying that I might also catch one as we were not clear whether the virus
was airborne transmitted or whether the affected person is a Timorese or
malae  (foreigner) that work in Dili.I woke up with
back-pain and fever the next morning. I was thinking this is perhaps due to
the community work after the flood in Dili that is lasted the capital for
three days of wasteful urban desert. Then, that’s when
the Ministry of Health made the announcement to confirm the rumor that
Timor-Leste has it first case and it was a malae. The
situation was fraught as there is no clear information and leaving many of us
in confusion and people turned panic.Like many going through this crisis, I
passed through weeks of mental deflation. Every night before I fall asleep, I
was intensely inseparable from extreme modes of solitude – very often I ended
up in feeling melancholia. This feeling terrorized me for weeks but the cares
from home has helped a lot to reduce my stress. Love is that reign in my
rarely loneliness and anxious time. What I worried the most is not about my
personal health, but more of the fear of me spreading the virus to the others
and my family. The viral has forced us to confront such invisible threat.
I’ve come into terms with my fear is based on the absence of adequate and
quality national healthcare system.For many years, the government spends a huge
sum of money to send high-risk patients (mostly veterans and privileged
politicians families) for medical treatment abroad, instead of developing a
quality national healthcare system that can help us to prepare in facing this
pandemic.Instead of building a local and independent economy, the government
preferred to send young people to work as cheap laborers in capitalist
countries such as Australia and South Korea and many have choose to migrate
into United Kingdom to work as exploited manufacturing labor. Instead of
coming up with government policies to tackling the socio-economic inequality,
exploitation and unemployment problems, the government continues to neglect
it and the wealth-power-privilege has concentrated mostly in capital Dili.As
a student activist, I am totally skeptic towards institutionalized politics
under the so-called representativeness liberal democracy. The lack of trust
caused by a systematic discontentment is a clear result from a growing
‘democratic malaise’ in Timor-Leste, for instance the unending political
impasse. To make it worse, Timor-Leste society as a whole also lacks of
alternative thinking.Our Normal is whyWe are
Even before COVID-19, End
of History
has not really “ended”, as Francis Fukuyama
would’ve predicted. The Keynesian’s
state interventionist has returned to many countries. Capitalist mode of
social reproduction has facing its emergency internal contradiction and
crisis. Now that COVID-19 is ravaging our societies, the neoliberal system is
now in agony. Practically, global crisis
of supply chain
will emerge if the situation of emergency/lockdown
accompany with massive economic suspension continue across the nations,
particularly on dependent-state with depeasantization of
local farmers such as Timor-Leste.After all, the new possibility
has not come to exist – a new horizon of real
that might bring a real common solution to our
common problem
. Without overruning into newness politics,
COVID-19 will simply reveal the evil faces of our
normality, rather than forced us on real changes (Badiou, 2005.)Whether
unconscious or not, we are totally subjugated, and only with a capacity of
recognizing oneself in this chaotic natural event and invisible forces
imposed on us, we are able to recognized the irony within ourselves. With
willingness, we can alienate it radically in order to liberate us. It compels
us to move away from impure objective order of the current impasse (crisis of
liberal capitalist world) in order to confront the actual ideological
constellation.Only with this, we can ensure the safe passage of an inadequate
same-boat into another possibility of a new real – a new
normal (Zizek, 2020.) Such will enable a paradigm shift from fetishistic
normality of neoliberal capitalist order that has melted, since Covid-19 became
a pandemic. Embracing the new normal can direct and guarantee our rights,
freedom and emancipation of our life.References:Badiou, Alain (2005).
Metapolitics. London and New York: Verso.Žižek, Slavoj.
(2020). Pandemic: COVID-19 Shakes the World. New York
and London: OR
Books. ___________________________________ Newness
refers to Alain Badiou’s Event-truth that interrupted the rationality of
objective reality and to break from law of repetition.

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