Misc 01/11/2020

Tacking the ship

Esther Vera
3 min
Virar la nau

It feels as if our world is doomed to crash against the rocks and we need to focus on our own breathing. Yet it is precisely when fear and the resulting decline are most noticeable that it makes the most sense to hold the line in order to avert the social fallout that indifference towards noble things will lead to.

We are living through days of collective uncertainty and we lack a navigation chart and, at the very least, we will need a compass to avoid hitting the rocks. The passenger liner that we inhabit can only change tack if it is done gently, with every personal and collective decision leading us to build or destroy.

Second wave

The pandemic’s second wave is here and we are less prepared than we ought to be: front line staff are tired and short of resources. “Worn out and saturated”, medical staff can see “a black hole” in front of them and feel they will be unable to cope with a situation like we had during the first lockdown. Rising covid cases means that other patients are seeing their treatments put off to deal with the ravages of the pandemic and, according to a doctor who spoke to Lara Bonilla in a special feature for this newspaper, the pressure to attend to everyone feels like “bailing water out of a sinking boat”. Although we have a better understanding of the coronavirus, the pandemic’s ill effects on our health service are being met with dwindling human endurance.

Street rage

In many European cities and in the US we have seen denialist demonstrations that extremist groups have capitalised on. A tanking economy only adds to the rage and this might be expressed through violence. Besides the paranoids who believe in government conspiracies and the libertarians, who oppose government intervention, there is a segment of young people that have been left to their own devices. They are not a social priority, even though official figures show that employment rates among the young (16 to 29) have dropped down to 43.8 per cent, with a 7.1 per cent fall year-on-year. 16.2 per cent of young people are neither employed nor studying. Protesting or not, we have failed to address the collective needs of these young people.

The schoolboy who gets good marks

This week we have witnessed the unbearable eviction of [a squatting family with] young children by the Catalan police, who were acting on a formal complaint. The children left home carrying their school bags on their backs, on a pandemic night before curfew time. This particular case has now been resolved, but we ought to wonder if our social priorities are well-defined and taxpayers’ money is being properly spent. The schoolboy who was evicted from home claimd that he wanted to stay because he gets good marks at school. In a way, he was arguing that he was keeping his side of the social contract. It was adults who didn’t keep their end of the bargain and we do that when political priorities lie elsewhere.

A fishing expedition

Spain’s Guardia Civil and an examining court have launched a new fishing expedition that the Prosecutor has put on the back burner for now. Named after Franco’s Blue Division, Spain’s contribution to the Nazi war effort, the police operation has targeted Catalonia’s independence movement. By pursuing a less-than-solid, even ludicrous lead —the crazy ramblings of someone who had direct access to Carles Puigdemont in October 2017—, the Guardia Civil are hoping to get to the source of the funds that bankrolled Catalonia’s independence push and to the small, decision-making circle of individuals outside the Catalan government, which some ministers opposed before stepping down. Shooting from the hip will likely bag them some conjecture that they can go to court with, even the odd case of influence peddling.

Criticism and self-criticism

When confusion is widespread, you must turn to the classics. This also applies to journalism. On 22 November 1944 Albert Camus wrote an article in Combat entitled Self-Criticism where he reflected on the role of journalism.

“Let’s engage in some self-criticism. The job of defining every day in the face of current events, the demands placed by common sense and sheer mental honesty are not without peril. As you hope for the best, you devote yourself to judging the worst and, on occasion, that which is not as good. In short, you can take on the systematic attitude of a judge, of a teacher of morals. The distance that separates this job from boastfulness or nonsense is but one short step”.

Current events are demanding and the fine line that separates morals from moralism is a blurry one. Sometimes you cross it because you are tired or you forget. How can we avert this danger? Irony is Camus’ choice. Unfortunately, this is not the time for irony, but outrage. If every one of us does what they are supposed to, the ship that is headed for the rocks will turn. As far as we are concerned, the only sort of journalism that makes sense is “critical journalism”. Anything but is merely taking shorthand.