after life, a melancholic spring
"i can't breathe"
the dying words of eric garner continue to ring true. the turn of these words into a representative slogan for black lives matter, "we can't breathe", has broadened its audience. we are in the middle of a pandemic whose viral instigator thrives by taking one’s breath away.
it has knocked the wind out of capitalism the world over, those in power are having trouble breathing too.
how will planes continue to fly when a virus threatens their infrastructural respiratory system?
is a global work stoppage only a defence against the spread of a novel virus? or is it a collective inhale that rejects the normal way of life, the oxygen needed before you dive under the water?
is this the tidiest natural disaster of all time? a tidal wave that can be deflected through good sanitary practices and not leaving your house. catch up on netflix specials, become even more addicted to your feeds, replace your tired feet with tired eyes, everything in life's a compromise, but still, you breathe.
perhaps; that is until the footage from inside the hospitals is released.
much like the trash we throw away and forget, there's a sinister side to those who are sent to the institutions of "rehabilitation"–death chambers though they may be–the prisons, the hospitals. numbers without images is a sanitizing act, a symbol disconnected from the source, their lungs can only breathe collectively as a graph: the prison and hospital populations, the infected, the dead. society has sold its soul to statistics, from instagram live viewers to death counts, both are different sides of the same disaster capitalism.
the application of these numbers to the mysterious blob called The Market seems to be changing everyone's life in a similar way to the virus: you can't see the hurricane but you can see the boarded up luxury stores and the empty streets. the video’s not hd anymore, there's too many people logged in at once.
this global pause, this worldwide inhale, has a centrifugal force, we can look outside at the blooming trees and hear the birds chirp ignorantly as we cough ourselves to death. the fear of aerosolization restricts where one can feel safe to breathe, unprotected. to those that have one, "home" infers an additional sense of safety, the one place the gloves and mask feel unnecessary.
to take one’s breath is the first step on the road to death. it can also be a shock of the unexpected or the new: falling in love, the first day of spring, a singing voice resonating beyond the canyons of the city.
this lack of breath may be temporary, like a lustful choke from a lover, or the end of life as it used to be known. to learn our own agency, the agency that for so long has laid dormant, in a time of lockdown, is to try and breathe again.
Jesse Hlebo lives in NYC, has two fish tanks and a number of books he has yet to read. He is encouraged by the global shift in focus from “appropriation” to “expropriation”.