I am a pariah. When I speak to people, they step back. When they see me coming down the street, they cross over to the other side. When I enter a store or cafe, I have to cover my face and stand apart lest I contaminate others with my impurities.
The rules are very precise. There must be six feet of distance between me and other human beings. I cannot approach the cashier until summoned. Once granted entry to the carefully disinfected Checkout, I am cordoned off and made to stand dutifully behind plexiglass. Touching is absolutely prohibited. Verboten! In fact, don’t even look people in the eye. You might weaken their immune system with visual contact, for the eyes are windows to the soul.
All of this is exhausting, but not following the rubrics of the new system to the letter can get you fined or jailed in addition to being treated like a pariah. The chief priests of this system–medical professionals, epidemiologists, and public health officials–have determined that the freedoms I enjoyed previously are dangerous to my health. So I must stay at home, not breathe on the Amazon delivery guy, and prepare for a new normal in which human interaction occurs via computer screen.
Who knows? Maybe it won’t be so bad. As I see it, the greatest advantage to interacting with people virtually is not having to wear pants, which reminds me of Woody Allen’s line about the cultural advantage to living in Los Angeles as being able to turn right on a red light. And don’t get me wrong–I like Los Angeles. I also like turning right.
Not wearing pants would have gotten me arrested under the old normal. It may become common practice in the new normal. So, on a practical level the biggest difference between the old and new is the point of arrest. I may be closer to it now than at any time since my days of unionizing and canvassing. Who would have imagined it would be for stepping out of line literally?
I am not comfortable with the state having that much control over my life, even if its dictates come via experts in white lab coats. I don’t trust the pharma-medico technocracy any more than I would trust a renewed theocracy. Not that there’s any chance of that happening, since the church has ceded much of its authority in this crisis to the state.
There is another price to pay for being a pariah: families living apart and older parents dying without their loved ones present. A friend of mine had to watch his father’s cremation online and was not able to conduct religious rituals prior to his death. Apparently, the life of the spirit is less important than the life of the body and much less important than control of the body.
An Italian legislator recently called for the arrest of Bill Gates for crimes against humanity. She is being lauded by some as a heroine for standing up to those who want mandatory vaccinations, forced quarantine, chip implants to track the coronavirus infection, and population reduction.
I do not hold to conspiracy theories (although I spend entirely too much time on YouTube), but it would be foolish to ignore the potential for disaster such policies might have if made a permanent part of the new normal. Look no further than China to see what such a future could look like, including social and moral “credit” ratings and a stint or two in a camp. And I don’t mean summer camp.
On the other hand, think of the fashion bonanza that may come from living like pariahs. I’m picturing Dolce & Gabbana face masks, bandanas, and surgical gloves as well as “smart” clothing that sounds an alarm if anyone enters your safety zone. There could even be droplet-measuring baseball caps that can tell you if somebody in the immediate vicinity has a runny nose.
The possibilities are endless, as is the market, which goes to show that my instincts were right all along. I should have gone into marketing as a career. I just might contact fashion houses with my pariah-peasant ideas.
But don’t despair. It’s not all bad news. We can take comfort knowing we’re all in this together.