Chroniques Covid Chronicles Day 32

Lundi de Pâques, 5ème jour de Pessach 5780

Journées étranges où rôde une mort invisible(…) Te désapprendre la peur, avoir du courage ou une machine à laver(…) Nous nous enterrons vivants en nous empêchant les gestes de l’ivresse (…) Donne du courage autour de toi et n’accepte pas ce qui te révulse.

Lettres de l’Interieur. Wajdi Mouawad sur une gymnopedie de Satie à son fils dans le futur (France Inter)

7:30 levee. Je mets en marche la première machine, lave-linge, puis une heure et demie de café-salade de fruits-radio-journaux où l’ai entendu cette si belle lettre de Wesh dis-moi Wades, un dramaturge que j’aime particulièrement, avec lequel je me sent plus que des affinités, des correspondances de lame. Cette lettre à son fils c’est un petit peu ce que je fais ici à ma petite fille que je n’ai pas encore… Lui laisser des traces d’un moment particulier qui risque d’être occulté très vite par notre folle marche en avant.

J’ai eu le plaisir de faire la causette sur WhatsApp avec Anita ma relectrice avisée qui a la gentillesse de me corriger mes plus grosses coquilles.

Il est vrai que je dicte et que ça donne souvent des résultats assez rigolos. À 0h30 quand j’ai fini d’écrire mon blog il est rare que je le relise trop soigneusement, les plus grosses fautes en général me sautent au visage mais beaucoup m’échappent et je reconnais détester revenir sur l’ouvrage à vif mais avoir très honte parfois aussi !

9:00 Scrabble, jeux et début de ce blog par la lecture les articles qui m’ont intéressée

9:30 Guardian, so allowed to switch back to English with these considerations on the necessity to fill the social gap during this pandemic and afterwards:

Over the three-month American summer break, school students diverge. In high-income families, students keep learning, thanks to museum trips, instructional camps and home tutoring. In low-income families, students slip backwards, losing one to two months’ worth of learning by the time they return to school.

According to one study, the “summer slide” accounts for two-thirds of the difference between poor and rich students.

The gap between high-performing and low-performing children in Australia is already larger than in most advanced nations. With a large share of families currently homeschooling, this problem is likely to worsen. (…)many men lost their jobs in the 2008 crisis that some countries called it the “man-cession”. This time it’s different. Service industries such as hospitality are dominated by women, who do much of the in-person work that is most affected by the shutdown. The “fem-cession” may have the effect of worsening the gender pay gap. (…)Before coronavirus hit, Australia’s net debt was more than twice its level when the Coalition came to office in 2013. As a result of the coronavirus response, net debt may end up at three times the level it was in 2013. (…) If the Coalition’s answer is a rerun of their notorious 2014 budget, with its unfair cuts to pension and Medicare, then the burden of recovery will fall disproportionately on the most disadvantaged.(…)If we get it right, Australia could emerge from this crisis a more connected community and a more egalitarian nation. But if we get it wrong, then the legacy of the crisis could be a sharply divided nation. The choice is ours.

“The poor bear the burden of the coronavirus downturn, but inequality is not inevitable in Australia” by Andrew Leigh, Australia shadow assistant minister for treasury in The Guardian, 13 April, 2020

A paper in The Guardian reminded me of one of my most fascinating moments spent giving a talk in a prison 8 years ago... You meet fascinating people in prison and realise not all of them are any different from you … Life circumstances are unfair and anyone can fall or be trapped. It’s what happens next or afterwards which is important and also how you handle your predicament.

As the outside world disappeared, a new one took shape. The inner world within myself surfaced, as if it had always been waiting to do so. The most important lesson I learned during this time was that I had to accept my circumstances as they were, then change my perspective about them. To my surprise when I did this, those once menacing walls, with their obscene graffiti and chipped paint, transformed. They were no longer holding me hostage but offering refuge.

Testimony of a former inmate in The Guardian 13 April, 2020: I was in prison for two decades – here’s what I learned about isolation.

Another article explains how what we experience in our lucky cosy comfort isn’t what experience millions of people, even in rich countries let alone the less developed ones.

Low-paid workers are under huge strain. It’s not irresponsible to question whether the social restrictions should be eased. (…)A very human crisis caused by Covid-19 is already here, beyond the illness itself, and it demands our attention. To a large extent, it is the result of what many of our politicians have been extolling for years: labour market “flexibility”; a benefits system designed to deter people from using it; and a public sector so underfunded that charities have had to step into the breach. (…) If you are able to work from home, relatively free of anxiety about your job and so far untouched by either illness or death, isolation might come with compensations: you may, indeed, be living the Sunday-supplement lockdown dream of craft projects with the kids and demolishing your backlog of novels. But that is the experience of a tiny minority, even if it is informing some of the media’s apparent neglect of what so-called lockdown actually means for millions of people. (…) It is surely not irresponsible to wonder whether the suspension of everyday existence is not already proving unsustainable, and whether there might come a point when the risks of the virus are outweighed by damage to people’s lives that may prove irreparable. (…) Ten days ago, for example, I spoke to a single mother who works for McDonald’s, is paid £9.45 an hour, and has been furloughed. Even if Sunak’s job retention scheme ensures that she receives 80% of her average wages over the previous year, the loss of a fifth of her money will have dire consequences. She budgets penny by penny and lives month to month. She is already faced with deciding between cooking or heating.

For millions, lockdown is not novels and quality family time but food parcels and hardship by John Harris for The Guardian Monday 13 April, 2020

Another question we should start thinking about is the future of Europe. The Guardian asked several experts’ opinion about future prospects and none of their answers is optimistic but some are constructive

After coronavirus: how will Europe rebuild?

Europe is at the centre of the global pandemic but solidarity among European governments has been strikingly absent. Political fault-lines have reopened and it’s now feared that tensions over the cost of the looming economic depression could feed nationalism and far-right populism. Despairing Italian and Spanish leaders have warned that the EU itself is at risk of falling apart. We asked experts how governments might still come together to reconstruct a hopeful post-lockdown future for Europe and beyond.

“If the EU cannot respond to Covid-19 by moving towards fiscal union it will lose credibility in many member states.” Charles Grant is director of the Centre for European Reform, an independent thinktank

“So far, it is not Europe’s finest hour. We see authoritarian creep in Hungary and elsewhere. As solidarity becomes a hollow mantra, the EU brand is tarnished. It doesn’t have to be that way. With US leadership missing in action, the EU could step boldly into the breach in three important ways.(…) European leaders must do what wise leaders did at the end of the second world war: organise another Bretton Woods moment to build an inclusive system of global economic governance. Second: build a global partnership on health to give the World Health Organization the powers to monitor government health policies and ensure better global exchange of information on health emergencies and pandemics. Third: Europe should push for a global humanitarian rescue plan to help countries in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa that lack national capacity, money or medical personnel.”Shada Islam is director of Europe and geopolitics at the Friends of Europe thinktank

“If Europe can find the right instruments in the short and medium term, this crisis can be turned to good.(…) Risk-sharing to address the financial burden is essential. In the longer term, Europe will need a credible recovery plan. But we need to learn from the past: the EU’s obsession with austerity unnecessarily deepened the eurozone crisis and led to massive unemployment. This time, Europe needs to go for a serious investment programme. And it must be used to address the climate crisis and biodiversity.” Bas Eickhout is a Dutch Green MEP

“Public health is a matter for national governments, not the EU – yet much of the coverage of Europe’s response is framed as “existential”, a test of its survival. But the EU does not command the resources or loyalties that can be called on by nation states.(…) The absence of reliable comparable data on the spread and mortality rates across Europe remains a major problem. The EU also needs to prepare for future pandemics by stockpiling vital equipment and ensuring that it is not dependent on far-flung supply chains. Covid-19 is a psychological crisis for individuals, communities and whole countries. The hardest-hit countries need to experience solidarity and know that the cost of recovery will not fall only on them alone.” Brigid Laffan is director of the European University Institute in Florence

“The coronavirus crisis has amplified the gap between east and west. Central and eastern European governments panicked knowing that their health systems, under-funded and stuck in the 90s, simply could not cope, hence their extremely strict lockdown measures. The crisis is also laying bare the effect of the brain drain from east to west. The EU cannot continue to neglect this problem. If Germany’s success in handling the pandemic is partly down to an army of migrant doctors and nurses, it should not be to the detriment of central and eastern Europe. Free movement of labour has also, paradoxically, led to the return home of millions of eastern Europeans. Apart from the suspicion that they are importing the disease, the returnees may become a longer-term preoccupation – and the EU may want to think about common labour insurance system. A new Marshall Plan to rebuild post-pandemic Europe could help its economy to bounce back. And we may find that the populist wave has reached its limits and Orbán-style power grabs are short-lived.”Vessela Tcherneva is the deputy director of the European Council for Foreign Relations, based in Sofia, Bulgaria

“Last week’s agreement to make 500 billion euros available for recovery is a step forward but far from enough to allow Europe to use this tragedy to prepare for the future: a green and digital economy for the next generations. They will, in any case, have to pay for the costs of this pandemic. This requires a complete shift in thinking about public investment, where the lessons of postwar Keynesian reform are more relevant than the more recent neoliberal decades. It’s not just the economy. Democracy is increasingly under threat. (…) The risk of a more inward-looking Europe is high now. But, should the pandemic spread across other regions, there will be demands for western support. If Europe fails to take responsibility, the loss will be felt around the world.”Rosa Balfour is the director of Carnegie Europe

The Guardian, Katherine Butler, 12 April 2020

There are also the seamen st risk. “Ships’ crews are the unsung heroes in our food supply chain, says reverend Reverend Dennis Woodward, and a pastoral visit can be a lifeline after months away from their families” according to Karen McVeigh who has interviewed a chaplain in “Europe’s busiest port, in Rotterdam”,. Read this heartbreaking testimony in The Guardian. You all know my fascination for seafarers, me, who gets sick just looking at the ship and who yet love so much tides…So my thoughts are with these people who allow me and my family to keep feeding ourselves almost as if nothing had happened… at the cost of their own safety and happiness…

Meanwhile we have every day more signs that nature is incredibly resilient and that it takes on the a couple of weeks for it to return as the master of the game. Are we going to forget this soon?

The clarity of the water has improved dramatically. Cormorants have returned to dive for fish they can now see. At the Piazzale Roma vaporetto stop, ducks have even made a nest. “Someone has put up a sign saying, ‘Don’t tread on the duck eggs,’’” Beggiato said. “All totally unimaginable a while ago.”

“I honestly believe we should take the opportunity of this lockdown to reflect and see how we can be more organised in the future to find a balance between the city and tourism.”

‘Nature is taking back Venice’: wildlife returns to tourist-free city by John Brunton, 20 March 2020

My friend Jean Freymond, an eternal optimist, a wise man and a walking historical and international affairs encyclopaedia, sent me the copy of his letter to his friend Barnett Rubin, who dealt with peace restoration in Afghanistan

As a “New Yorker facing a most peculiar event of historical magnitude, with a humanity which strength is rooted in its simplicity and casualness. It reflects who you are and the attitude we should all have at this juncture in history, which significance is hard to measure.

The pandemic seems to be just another and accelerating stage in a process of deconstruction of what was and of construction of what will be, which is taking place for many many years and which Kishore Mahbubani has so well described since quite a long time, and brutally summarized in two of his recent books, Has the West lost? and Has China Won?To keep silent and reflect is the best one can do those days. History is for sure one of the most appropriate mirrors to be inspired from, and Barbara Tuchman was so correct in drawing attention to the fourteenth century to be considered as a Distant Mirror. There are not much doubts about this early part of the twenty first century in the perspective of what the historians of the French Ecole des Annales, described as “l’histoire de longue durée”. 1177 BC, the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the decades following the Great Plague, provide so much relevant foods for thoughts when considering what one observes today.

The difference between what was, long processes of disaggregation leading to ends of civilizations and the emergence of new civilizations, is that today there is an awareness of what is taking place, an awareness not too recent as it dates back to at least the first part of last century as reminded by Paul Valéry in 1919, ” Nous autres, civilisations, nous savons maintenant que nous sommes mortelles”, but an awareness which has only increased over the years and has underlined the responsibilities human beings have, even if history is to be considered as so powerful that to attempt to modify its path is very much utopian. What to do and try, not forced as Sisyphus, but freely and deliberately, as one considers it is the right thing to do?

Stated in such a broad manner, this call sounds indeed rhetoric and utopian. So much points at the vanity of attempting whatever one might think of. As Harlan Cleveland was observing: “We live in a world in which no one is in charge”. I disagreed then as much as I disagree today. “We live in a world in which everyone is in charge”. The share responsibility we do all have for the Planet is not one, but the sum of the billion of responsibilities we all have, tiny some, larger others, but all to be crafted so that each can be managed successfully, not individually, but mostly collectively in small and large groups.
This is the essence of the democracy one has to promote, primarily for and by the people, and not any more as the illusion it has continued to be in ensuring power is not shared, but delegated, and thus very much confiscated.
From your own perspective, you have, for so long, concentrated what I call our divided responsibility on Afghanistan, in a way which is most impressive. Even as the process might often seem as a desperate one, you have never abdicated, always trying all what you could to make sure it stays or get back on track. Listening to you playing music on the roofs of New York, your dedication to the people of Afghanistan is something which has constantly come back to my mind.
What the weeks and the months ahead will be is not known. What I am aware of, and I am sure, you too, is that the profound turmoil which the pandemic does trigger might provide opportunities to be seized, and should also provoke us to battle for what we believe in. This calls for very concrete action I will get back to. (
Jean F. Freymond
President, Dialogues Geneva – D@G and Network for Governance, Entrepreneurship & Development (GE&D)

J’aime l’optimisme de gens il est bon de le lire et de le côtoyer. Retournons sur le français pour finir la description de ce lundi de Pâques confiné… après mes lectures, un peu de cuisine et pas mal de rangement et de nettoyage, je commence à avoir une cuisine qui ressemble à quelque chose de praticable. Du coup je me suis empressée d’aller commander des nouvelles casserole, poêle et autres ustensiles qui avait réellement bien vécu! Je me suis attelée à lire et jeter une pile de Canard enchaîné et autres bougies du sapeur. J’ai glissé les bonnes feuilles dans la récolte du jour qui suivra le portrait que je m’apprête à dresser dans le cadre de ma galerie commencée il y a deux jours .

A tout seigneur tout honneur, je vais donc commencer par Ingrid, en vertu d’une amitié qui date d’un quart de siècle. Cela aurait dû être Rela ou Anne, mes plus vieilles copines mais leur tour viendra….À l’époque, mère de deux jeunes enfants, femme d’un entrepreneur international, parisienne mal dégrossie et peu au courant de la vie genevoise où je ne passais pas énormément de temps, je m’occupais d’une association pharmaceutique tout en étant assistante au département de sociologie de l’université de Genève. C’est là que j’ai rencontré la merveilleuse Ingrid et notre immédiate amitié ne s’est jamais démentie. Je sais pouvoir compter sur elle à chaque instant et elle croit plus en moi que je n’y crois moi-même… J’ai entraîné ma copine dans une série d’aventures qu’il n’est pas question de raconter ici dans le détail mais la dernière en date est de l’avoir proposée comme secrétaire de JCall Switzerland pendant que je partais pour ma sabbatique en Asie en 2012 2013. De là, par boules de neiges se sont adjoint d’autre d’amis dont le portrait suivra. C’est Ingrid que je continue à retrouver pour me rendre au marché, c’est elle qui, apprenant que finalement je resterais habiter à Genève en 2000, m’a fait découvrir le café des amis de Choulex, les scouts nautiques où mes enfants ont grandi, l’aviron et la nautique dont je suis à présent membre….La liste est trop longue ! En échange de tout ça, j’ai le don de l’entraîner dans toutes sortes de galères dans lesquelles elle me suit les yeux fermés en poussant des éclats de rire.

Merci ma chérie de ta confiance, de ton amour et de ton amitié inconditionnelle !

Voilà il est l’heure de prendre congé, le président Macron vient de donner un délai au 11 mai pour sortir du confinement en France, je me demande si la Suisse le suivra là encore… Mais il n’est pas exclu qu’en tant que petit pays, nous ne suivions plutôt l’exemple autrichien qui sort aujourd’hui…

Il est l’heure de me replonger dans la suite de la seconde trilogie de Jón Kalman Stefánsson

Rien ne me dépayse plus que ce pays et cet auteur que j’adore

Mais avant ça les trouvailles du jour (on s’essouffle un peu… c’est normal !)

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