This is not the break we were aiming for. Text by Paula Bruna

So many times I have felt the vertigo of an accelerated life that demanded me to produce, project, manage, create, communicate, request, innovate, be up to date professionally (in my case, two professions), adapt to tight schedules and deadlines and make ends meet; and at the same time maintain social and family contact, take care of my home, take care of my body and mind and try to attend cultural and leisure events that I consider to be unmissable. And while you’re juggling all these things and squaring up the agenda, one must also remember to be happy, (as my dance teacher used to say, “you know the choreography, now you need to enjoy it”).

So many times, in that vortex, I have wished that the world would stop so that I could rest, give priority to what is important instead of what is urgent and do things at a different pace. But this was not the stop I was asking for.

So many other times we have also protested against a system that we consider unjust and destructive. A system whose main objective, unlimited growth, is a devastating oxymoron. A social model that is not very resilient, extremely vulnerable to the serious ecological conflicts that it generates. A model for which, even among those who recognise its unfeasibility, no alternative can be found because its rigidity prevents it from changing course; because globalisation has trampled on other ways of life; because through the politics of fear it has inoculated us with the idea that, not only is it the least bad of all possible models, but that any other would lead us into barbarism, as if it were not already present in the refugee camps of Lesvos or among the cash machine cards in my neighbourhood. So many times those of us who insist on unveiling the fiction of late capitalism and opening doors to other ways of coexistence -both between humans and non-humans and the whole of the ecological systems in which we live- have wished that the system would stop. But this was not the stop we were asking for.

Confinement has put the socio-economic system in check, but it has also greatly limited human relations. I am referring both to relations between humans and to those of humans with the rest of nature, which have been abruptly cut off, and relegated to the minimal domestic environment –which is not always the familiar– of a few square meters. All this, in a society that was already suffering from a very serious alienation from the natural world. A greater physical approach to the rest of nature with all the senses was needed, but instead this state of alarm has sharpened the hegemony of vision in a world relegated to the virtual. We were asking for coexistence, not isolation.

As for the functioning of the system, it is true that it has been seriously affected and that it has brought collateral benefits such as improved air quality in cities. But without a questioning of the ultimate cause of the conflicts, without a recognition of our vulnerability as a society that is very little adaptable, and without getting off the pedestal of anthropocentric hegemony with all that this entails; without this reflection –which must lead to action–, any benefit will be temporary and quickly reversed after the catastrophe. And no such reflection is taking place, not by a long shot. Because as we have already seen, even in this state of crisis, production is the last thing to stop, and we arrive at the paradox of not being able to go up to the rooftops while some are forced to travel by metro to go to work where, together with fifteen other people, they design the next sales campaign for the fashion product. We didn’t want patches or casual improvements, we wanted conscious, deep changes.

I hear on the radio about the fight against the virus and I can’t help but think about the struggles that are accumulating in us: the fight against air pollution, the fight against plastics, the fight against the climate (as proclaimed by the Barcelona City Council)… and now the fight against the virus (this virus, more can be added later). But we are mistaken, because the fight must be against the system that promotes conflicts that its rigidity prevents it from supporting. Because just like climate change or contamination by micro-plastics, the crisis that this virus brings us is also related to the model of unlimited growth. We only have to think about the impact that the high global traffic of people and goods, so necessary for the circle of production and consumption not to slow down –not to mention the social inequalities it leaves exposed regarding the degree of affectation– has had on the spread of the virus.

In short, we must stay positive and try to take advantage of the good things in the situation. So I’ll take advantage of it to get to know my neighbors better, communicate more with my family and friends, spend hours contemplating the sky and the passage of time through it, watch movies and read outstanding books, and enjoy organizing my time as I see fit. Oh, and finishing my thesis, of course. I’ll also enjoy the silence and its breakup by the collective applause and the songs shared from the balcony (some more than others…). But let’s not be blinded by surfing. Let’s not settle for the virtual world; let’s not become beings with lives relegated to a chair and a screen while we continue to happily consume products. In other words, let’s not be like the humans who inhabited the Axioma space station in Wall-E, the Pixar film. Let’s live this moment as best we can, but also miss the face-to-face contact with our expanded family and the rest of nature. This was not the break we had asked for, so let us continue working to make possible other less hegemonic, anthropocentric and exclusive ways of living together; living together more respectfully and consciously of our interdependencies, and more resilient to the changes and fluctuations of the complex ecological system on which, as much as some continue to deny it even now, we live and depend.

Barcelona, March 19th, 2020

Text by Paula Bruna on the situation derived from the COVID-19 from her vision of political ecology. Paula is an artist in residence at Hangar and a member of the motor team, together with Agustín Ortiz Herrera and Carolina Jiménez, from which is thought –with others– the program Fictions of Dis-order.

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