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Can we start actually talking about the coronavirus? Or, better yet, make more jokes about it?
It was a surreal experience returning to London, just before the start of the quarantine. The city reminded me of a post-apocalypse film set or a Michael Jackson fan club – utterly deserted. You don’t need me to tell you that COVID-19 has brought the world to a complete standstill, but actually seeing a space that is usually so crowded become so empty overnight really hammered it home for me. There were about as many people at Euston Station as there are opposition candidates in a Russian election. There is a universality to coronavirus, everyone and their mum has felt the repercussions from the outbreak.
So why is it that everyone (and their mum) is so reluctant to openly talk about it?
This may just be me experiencing this – that’s often the case when you are writing an opinion piece – but there seems to be a Voldemort-like level of hushed-ness around talking about the pandemic. Perhaps since it’s so omnipresent in everyone’s lives – like crippling lifetime debt or pasta – that it doesn’t even merit being discussed. But I think it’s more than that – a level of stigma that nothing in recent memory has come close to. Returning to the Voldemort analogy, someone did refer to “You-Know-What” in a message to me, instead of directly naming the virus. I’m not sure I see the parallels between the Dark Lord and COVID-19 – what could the insidious force that threatens every aspect of our existence (and wants to kill our parents) possibly have to do with Lord Voldemort?
This is being written from a place of privilege, make no mistake. At the time of writing, no immediate family members or friends of mine have died from the disease – or if they have, they’ve been bloody rude not to tell me about it. And I also don’t mean to sound crass. The threat of COVID-19 is a very real one – one where everyone is at risk to some degree. But that is exactly why I think we need to reclaim it. This pandemic is a constant reminder of our own mortality, and the best way to distract ourselves from that isn’t by glueing ourselves to every daily briefing and news headline; obsessing over every insidious statistic about the number of new deaths and infections around the world. Until WHO creates a vaccine, laughter is the best medicine. Discounting, of course, the social distancing, hand-washing and responsible self-care that you should all be doing anyway.
I think the point of this article if there is one, is that we all need to survive this – I don’t so much mean the physical survival against the virus itself as much as the mental survival throughout the lockdown that may go on for months. Comedy brings humanity to this situation. So, wherever you can, however, you can; try to make light out of this incredibly dark situation. Maybe re-post a meme or two. Because if we can’t laugh, we’ll cry.