On the day `British deaths from COVID-19 become the highest in Europe we choose to reflect on problems, that existed before we dropped all other stories for Corona Virus. Girls are still being cut and married young; refugees are still fighting for space and recognition in camps; wives and mothers are being beaten – babies are still being born, the elderly and the sick are still dying. Our worlds may be changing – the human experience remains. And we ask: when the media suggests we look away, what truths go unreported?
I watched a feature film recently about the connection between the North American crack-cocaine epidemic and the supply of guns to the US backed Contra rebels in Nicaragua.
The Central Intelligence Agency was forced to admit a connection. The admission, however, came when the world’s attention was firmly fixed on the Clinton/Lewinsky impeachment hearings.
The admission attracted no media coverage (or precious little).
This week we have had the scaling back of the Nightingale Hospital project. We have had the outpouring of adoration for the efforts of centenarian Captain Tom and his multi-million-pound fundraising efforts for the NHS and we have had the progressively quieted voices of concern, as the government’s rescue packages start to reach businesses and individuals.
I am not much of a conspiracy theorist and I don’t regard myself as terribly cynical, but I have been a journalist and writer for long enough to ask myself what I should be looking at, if someone tells me I should be looking at something else.
It’s clear that procurement procedures are more open yet less transparent. There’s greater opportunity to ‘tip-the-wink’ to friends and connections. We are on a ‘war-footing’. That means two things – greater fear and greater freedom.
It was with some sadness this week that I read the Welsh Assembly’s grant announcements, for international development through the Wales and Africa scheme. All funds had been directed in this round to COVID-19 projects.
This did not come as much of a surprise. But I was disappointed. (Not just for my own bid either!)
Across Africa there has been a very limited impact of the virus so far. Many of the countries at greatest risk have very young populations. The young, though not immune, are less vulnerable than older populations. Many countries are applying learnings from other, now almost forgotten crises (Ebola, HIV/Aids, Malaria).
The conversations we have had across Africa suggest populations would rather risk the CORONA virus than starvation, privation, isolation.
How many mothers are getting beaten by frustrated husbands in curfew? How much crop is left rotting in a field because work-gangs can’t be recruited? How much impact do these visceral experiences have on the normally grey-suited execs in the global-north, languishing in isolation at the pool-sides of Norther Europe and the US.
The Corona-crisis will pass. We will have spent an enormous amount of money on rescue bids and health care provision and developing a vaccine.
And the world will return to the ‘new normal’ – it may look like what we knew before, it may be something different. Whatever it looks like, it won’t be based on one story.
My worry is we will have lost our tonal response while we wait. We will only know the difference between COVID and non-COVID, black and white. But life is a unique and shifting pallet of endless grey-scale. Let us not forget.