Patricia from Paris, Mourns its Empty Streets that Were Once Full of Life
Faces of Quarantine, One Virus Many Faces
When the shut down first happened on March 16, I quite appreciated the coziness of my Parisian apartment as I like living on my own, shutting out all the noises of the outside world. I remember looking out of the window and saw an empty, deserted street: it looked and felt a little like a perpetual Sunday being able to read as much as I could without being disturbed by any social interferences.
I was not too fearful of catching this virus as I heard every day that for the majority of people, it would be like the flu, and it only killed 1 % of the population. Since then, I have heard so many poignant testimonies from people that have caught the virus, the terrible effects of the disease, that it now scares me. I really DO not want to catch it, especially now that I am 69.
After a few weeks, I really miss going to the cinema, the theatre( I live near the Paris cinemathèque), sitting on the coffee terraces with friends, or walking once a week with my club. It is quite sad to see this lively city turn into a deserted one with most shops shutdown.
In the beginning, our government was slow to react and was not well prepared to face this pandemic (no maks, no tests) thinking that, like the SARS in 2003, it would not reach our borders. France is a highly centralized and socially protective country, and so now our government is doing a lot to protect the citizens, reduce the spread, and save lives. Like most European people, we are fortunate because healthcare is free for all.
I am now anxious about the terrible economic consequences of this pandemic, France, like many other countries, has chosen the physical health and protection of its citizens over reopening the economy. With the closed businesses and no way to earn a livelihood, the situation of many in the industrial sectors and restaurants is rapidly deteriorating. In the years to come, many small businesses will undoubtedly close, many large companies will lay off workers. Unemployment, which was starting to drop recently, will begin to rise again. At the moment the salaries of private and public sector employees who are forced to remain confined, are covered by the government.
I think the virus is a symptom of two completely contradictory things. First of all, it is clearly a crisis of globalization. Conceiving industrial production, like an assembly of different parts from all over the world, to always seek the lowest cost and the best quality/price ratio has reached its limits. I don’t think it’s the coup de grace, but we have suddenly discovered this vulnerability to places like China for getting basics like paracetamol. This is becoming absurd and counterproductive. Globalization will undoubtedly have consequences, something like we are currently experiencing. There will be a stopping point and the start of a slow but persistent regression in this version of globalization.
For me, this period of confinement is likely to challenge globalization, but it will probably not lead to a reversal of capitalism. On the contrary, I think this isolation could have the effect of strengthening digital capitalism and dehumanizing our long-term relationships. It seems to me that
this crisis is accelerating the transition to a world with applications that will replace human work and contribute to this dehumanization