February 23rd, 2020

mom walk

What does freedom mean to you?

On January 29, i posted an entry called humans are trash about how this virus is turning people into the ugliest versions of themselves.

Perhaps a more accurate reading is it's reverting people to their comfortable biases.

This weekend i poked my head out in a few internet forums to talk about how i feel about the severity of the lockdowns and containment policies, and i was smacked the fuck down by foreigners accusing me of being selfish because my attitude is going to kill tens of millions of babies and old people. Apparently i need to shut up and stop complaining because the current situation in China is merely an "inconvenience" for the greater good.

Of course, it is one hell of a fucking privilege to be living in a country or working in an industry where these lockdowns are not affecting you whatsoever.

If anyone reading is thinking "wow, that amw sure is selfish", please consider what it would be like to spend this much time essentially confined to your home, all public events canceled, no bars open, no restaurants open, no coffee shops open, nothing open except for a few grocery stores. Sure, people can still order pretty much anything from Taobao, in theory. But how much would you be ordering if you hadn't seen a paycheck in 5 weeks? What would be the state of your mental health if you went to visit your in-laws for the holidays and ended up stuck there for over a month?

Imagine what it's like to have to pass through multiple checkpoints just to get to the shops, or to your job. Think about what it feels like to stand in line and see people arguing with the police and being denied entrance to their own villages, or even quarantined due to a bad temperature reading. You know what it feels like to go through customs in a foreign country? Yeah, now imagine doing that several times a day.

Terrified foreigners are suddenly hauling out quasi-socialist rhetoric to try justify their defense of authoritarianism. The whole thing of "it is you who must endure right now, so that the world doesn't suffer in the future", smug as can be, like they are some kind of righteous climate activists or something. Close the borders! Ban Chinese! Ban anyone who even went to China! Quarantine everybody! Blast them with disinfectant! Check their temperatures! Masks! Masks! Masks! Don't complain, you selfish ingrates! The safety of the world is at stake!

But, of course, that attitude is not limited to foreigners. Here in China there are plenty of terrified people, which is why the lockdowns are so severe in the first place. People have become distrustful of outsiders, of their neighbors, of everyone. People fearful to even get on public transport, opting to drive private vehicles instead. Ah yes, those true socialists, making the great sacrifice of driving private vehicles for the good of the masses! I don't see a lot of those people, because they tend toward the rich and upper middle class, and most of my neighborhood is not that.

Most of my office is.

On the other hand, there is a grain of truth in the claim that i am being selfish. I consider myself fairly left-wing politically, but the words that keep going through my head lately are "live free or die".

When i was young, like most ignorant young people with privilege, i was drawn to libertarianism. In international politics i was onboard with neocon interventionism - hell yes, let's liberate the world! But through it all, i also felt that the hawkish pursuit of freedom needed to be coupled with a safety net. I was a migrant, and a raver, and trans, and gay... I hung out with women and indigenous folk and transients and drug addicts. Over the years i found myself increasingly disgusted by the pull yourself up by the bootstaps rhetoric coming from people who were born on third base. Eventually i settled into an idealistic base of punkish green anarchism and (more pragmatically) hard left politics with a fierce internationalist bent.

Yet here i am, in a time of crisis, going back to "live free or die". And the bourgeoisie, notorious nimbys at the best of times, are preaching that "we must all sacrifice for the greater good". Were they secretly socialists all along? Am i actually still a libertarian douchebag?

Probably a little, yes.

-o-

Anyway, a follow-up on the mask situation from that post of January 29 - today the local pharmacy finally said that they had facemasks again. Boxes of 50. I was like, sure i'll get a box. Then she said they're being sold individually - 5.8元 (bit a under a dollar/euro) each. That probably doesn't sound like much, but think about how many people have zero income right now. 6 kuai can get you a 肠粉. 6 kuai can get you enough tofu for 3 meals. I bought 10, because i know i need to wear this as a performance to get through the checkpoints, but left the rest of the box because i also know there is still a shortage. The Shenzhen COVID-19 task force has set up a lottery for people to win boxes of masks. All you have to do is subscribe to their WeChat group and submit your personal information.

Life free or die.

Here are some important articles from the last week.