Writing From Quarantine, 19th April 2020

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I’ve got a weird week coming up.

I’m going ‘back to uni’. Except, I won’t be leaving my hometown, my house, or even my bedroom. And that’s strange in a number of ways. First of all, I generally leave my house to work, aware as I am that my productivity in my bedroom (which is For Sleeping) will be infinitely worse than on campus (which is For Working). Second of all, I can see this being a very dislocating experience. Being part of the university cycle of contact hours, work and assessments, without the accompanying socialising and whilst still being meshed into my family’s home life, is almost certainly going to reduce my sense of ‘involvement’. I’m worried that I’m going to be working my way through the rest of this semester with one foot in Reading and the other in Southampton. But that’s hardly anything new. I’ve travelled back and forth between the two a fair number of times since I left for university. I spent last summer in Reading, but left often to go to Southampton. Nonetheless, it’s going to be weird bringing my life in Southampton into my bedroom.

But it’s not forever, there will be an After, and in the meantime I guess I’m just going to have to roll with it. There are far worse problems I could be having at the moment than combining my work and home space. What I’d like to know is what the hell this After will be like. Given that China, a country whose economy has averaged a growth of 6% for 30 years, posted a recession of 6.8% in the first 3 months of this year, it seems we have another recession coming down the mountain. Given that IMF has said we could be facing the worst economic crisis since the 1930s, a crisis that only really ended with the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, it seems we’re well and truly for the high jump. I would not dare predict the outbreak of another major conflict, and nor should I by any measure of morality or responsibility. But it is fair to say that the coming months and years are likely to be more unstable than usual.

More unstable than usual. Yes, I know.  The Amazon and Australia caught fire, Trump killed a Iranian General and was impeached in the House, our own parliament has spent almost 4 years paralysed by dissent over Brexit, which is now happening, we’ve seen the largest migration of people since the Second World War over the past 6-7 years, and now is when things are likely to become more unstable? Well that’s just great. Not just for the world, but for us as students. I am supposed to be graduating in two years time, or maybe one years time?* Either way, things are going to be messy and difficult, and may well be for some time. So that’s a depressing thought.

For the world at large, I can’t help but think that this is going to hurt. Governments are going to be dealing with precipitously declining revenue, and economies on life support, with the knock on effects that this could have. But I’m remaining optimistic, or trying to, anyway. Most of this I can’t do anything about, and most of it will be due to policies that are necessary to stop millions dying globally, so I reckon it’s a price that can be borne. That’s the fundamental truth of this, as far as I can see. Money is not more important than people. If you want to come out and declare that a recession would be worse than an uncontrolled epidemic, I can’t stop you, it’s a free country, but you should know that you’ve put yourself on a very particular side of a pretty important moral divide, and I guess you’ll have to live with that.

In other news, I’ve started re-reading a book of mine called A Gentleman in Moscow. It’s about a Russian aristocrat placed under indefinite house arrest in a Moscow hotel after the Russian revolution, who charts his life as he undergoes the world-changing disasters of the period, so it’s quite relevant. But the thing that strikes me most about the book, more than the quality of its prose (which is excellent, by the way), is its relentless optimism, its almost lyrical appreciation for all the joys of life, no matter how small. And we can all do with a bit of that at the moment.

 

*The status of my year abroad programme is a mystery; it is both alive and dead at the same time, and we will only know when the faculties concerned open the box – Schrodinger’s study exchange, if you will.

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Political Editor for the Wessex Scene 2020-2021. Interested in politics, foreign affairs, and just about anything within those to be honest.

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