Coping with the 21st Century Corona Epidemic
In the year of 1848, a phenomenon called the Gold-Rush occurred in the world. The rumors of gold found by James W. Marshall in California, followed by masses of people coming from across the United States and beyond, straight to California. Everyone came to look for the gold.
In these troubled days, the word “Rush” received a new and formidable pairing, namely “Corona”. Only a few days passed, since the time when we were tried to hold with the wanted hope that Corona would pass us by. In that era, television broadcasters in Israel produced a new phrase: “Corona-Rush” (or Corona-Panic). This expression drew a thin and dull line between panic or hysteria and personal responsibility or preparation. It was not long ago before “Corona-Rush” was once again got a replacement in the form of “Toilet Paper Rush” (when people stormed the supermarkets buying products, most notably, the toilet paper).
If so, what is actually the gold of the present age, and where is it localized now? Also, what does this Rush/Panic signify, beyond the different periods?
The new virus that attacked humanity two months ago, beginning in China, was given the name: COVID-19, and in addition it got nickname: The Corona Virus (meaning, “Crown”). As an epidemic, The Corona is a strange kind of natural disaster for the human race. This is a disaster that cannot be seen. We can only acknowledge of its consequences on the body, in retrospect. It requires us to prepare – in advance. The invisible virus spreads through human body encounters. Thus, reminds us of human stickiness in its threatening sense. The contagion of something destructive that goes from one body to another produces a feeling that involves the Unheimliche. When the basic assumption of separation is shaken, it becomes more difficult to maintain human connections.
The spread of Corona confronts us with our helplessness against the threat of the Real. According to Freud, when the child turns a painful experience into a game (like in the “Fort-da”), he transforms a passive position he had at the time of the mother’s disappearance, into a position in which he has an active role when he repeats the game, even though it was unfortunate1. When reality strikes hard and exposes us to an imminent encounter with the traumatic, Repetition rises up with the purpose to achieve control. Watching epidemic movies for example, seems to allow an experience of some control, as the viewer makes himself with active role. At the same time, the current Reality summons us an opportunity for subjective learning while facing the Real and trying to delimit it. Usually, we experience pain as consequence from the lost Real which the word has “killed”. Nowadays, we can rediscover the vitality of words and life embodied in it. Instead of the hysteric habit to doubt the Symbolic order, there are more attempts now, to build and re-sew the Symbolic. Writing, as well as use of humor, are good examples for this.
The Ministry of Health defines two measures to deal with the epidemic: 1.containment policy; 2.Social distance; Both of this stages implying on attempt to isolate something. Paradoxically, attempts to isolate relates to attempts for re-sew social order in light of the viral Real threat that emerged with its senseless. Corona virus is not subject to any director, nor the most powerful dictator. And yet, there is something we can do as society. The attempt to isolate people is for now, the effective way to try control the plague. Still, there is hesitation about deciding on economic downturn. The discussions on the economy, of course, are important. However, it may be assumed that their importance is now secondary to the health emergency. So, in the Rush of Corona, and the Gold Rush, it is worth asking again- Where is the money? If we maintain functioning economic over decision of disable it temporarily (in favor to build a dam against the spread of the virus), this is like choosing money over life. The Symbolic economic system must be reassessed in such times. In every day that this decision is delayed, the Corona increases its gap on us, and slides forward. Only when we acknowledge the anxiety and dread, as well as the unreasonable spread of the virus, only then we will be able to take the necessary steps to deal with this epidemic. We must give up something in order to preserve life. Paradoxically, isolation is a modest human strategy for preserving Symbolic order, while creating separation where the virus does not separate.
Finally, where the slope is slippery at the grocery shops and the animalistic chase after toilet papers is exposed, there is still an element of subjective choice In favor of the Symbolic, that can be manifested in isolation and separation, to delimit the Real.
Freud, S. (1955). Beyond the pleasure principle. In The Standard Edition of the Complete Psychological Works of Sigmund Freud, Volume XVIII (1920-1922), pp. 1-64.