A couple of weeks ago I re-read* Jose Saramago’s 1995 novel, Blindness.
In the book, first a man sitting in a car, then his doctor (an ophthalmologist), followed by a small group of people become blind.
They are quarantined in a disused psychiatric hospital, guarded by soldiers ordered to shoot on sight (ha!)** anyone trying to leave.
The hospital wards fill-up, chaos ensues.
Eventually everyone is blind. Including the soldiers.
There is more to the story. I won’t spoil it.
I remember, in the early days of Covid, when people were stockpiling, the sense that the virus would lead to a similar state; an end of days. A falling apart of the world order.
One of my first responses was to read the The Great Influenza by John Barry. To gain a better understanding of the experiences of those living through the 1917 pandemic.
Others bought lots of toilet paper.
Yesterday, I finished Bernie (Bernard) Sanders’ book, It’s OK to Be Angry About Capitalism.
What can I say.
He is a lone voice in a world of conspicuous consumption.
In a world where everyone seems to want more and more, even when that more is not very much.
It is hard to imagine that the world of potential he describes will ever happen.
Decent pay, job security, health benefits, quality education, environmental preservation.
None of these are rocket science.
Yesterday I also listened to Blindboy’s most recent Podcast, The role of Art in the Housing crisis.
It is longer than his usual.
The first half is a sardonic interaction/analysis of Chat GPT, the second a response to the Irish housing crisis, based on the paintings The Eviction by Daniel Macdonald and Visual Artist, Spicebag.
Bernie’s aspiration is that the masses – those who are not the one per cent will decide to vote in their own interests and elect someone to power (UK or US – we have a similar situation) who will make the necessary changes.
At the very least, helping the planet, buying us some time.
I’m not sure.
I appreciate it is not productive to determine we are doomed, that the mega-rich and mega-companies will not give-up their positions, that the anti-democratic situation accelerated by digital and social media will end any time soon; I don’t see any alternatives.
I see Netflix or Disney forcing us into little boxes, squeezing us into TV watching dolts (Season 9, Episode 23), where we are unable to band together to work out alternatives to the existing world order. We are sniffing the digital glue.
Bernie, what can we do?
Saramago’s book ends optimistically. Yes, our own pandemic is over, the world is normalising, the toilet-roll necessity was overkill, and yet, the scare that is the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere?
Many people take the approach that either, the government will sort things out or technology will arrive with a solution.
Again, I don’t see it.
Watching David Attenborough’s recent series, Wild Isles, I sense that he sees the writing on the wall too. He sees the disappearance of the animals big and small. It’s not that he has failed, it is that he came too late to the table, he started talking about the disaster past the tipping point.
Easy to write yourself into a box.
Easy to write yourself blind.
Just close your eyes and never open them.
For the triumph of evil, all it takes is …
What do you think?
*I say re-read as I have read it before although I couldn’t remember anything about it. Must have been during one of my lost-years.
**Book is filled with puns and double-entendres