Don’t believe the hype. There’s nothing new about Coronavirus. Everything about it says more of the same.
Not necessarily the same as yesterday. But the same, as in we knew enough about it already, that the disease and the changes it’s imposing on our lives has no surprises in store for us.
Everything about the virus, from its origin in China to the mass deaths its causing, is somehow familiar.
The issue is not so much it’s novelty as it is our memory of its precedents. Swine flu, SARS, Ebola, Zika. For years, new epidemics have been breaking out on the periphery, threating to infect the industrialised world.
The problem is that none were able to take root in Europe and the United States like this. COVID-19, as it is also called, is the disease that finally broke through, levelling the playing field of precarity between East and West.
Now, everyone’s lives feel subject to the same random forces of nature. Until a vaccine is developed, the world is doomed to experience a sense of unity it never imagined it would. Everyone is a second class subject in an epidemic.
That is if you’re only focused on its existential significance. It’s a rich political metaphor, laced with elements of Greek tragedy: The importance of the state, the necessity of affordable healthcare, the need for a universal basic income, etc.
It was all already on the books before the epidemic and undoubtedly will become more common to political debates after.
In the meantime, its business as usual. Everything that was of political significance before the Coronavirus crisis will be as significant after. This is just an interregnum.
Hence, our Spring Books list. Here are ten recent titles which mean a lot to us, which The Battleground thinks should matter to you too. As with previous seasonal recommendations, we’re all about reading Europe as part of the larger picture.
We can’t wax harder about any of these books. Take the novels as seriously as the nonfiction. With all the downtime we’re looking at, out of work or working from home, under curfew or in quarantine, there’s never been a better time to read.
Fiction in the Era of Social Distancing:
Just After the Wave
How the Tories Destroyed Britain:
Steal as Much as You Can: Culture Wars in an Age of Austerity
For Your Inner Greta:
The Force of Nonviolence: The Ethical in the Political
Poland Fears Queers:
Swimming in the Dark
Never Mind the Fake News:
Journalism: Why It Matters
Read the Holocaust Chapter:
Germany: A Nation in Its Time: Before, During, and After Nationalism, 1500-2000
Helmut Walser Smith
The Varieties of Authoritarian Experience:
Spectres of Fascism: Historical, Theoretical and International Perspectives
Bucking the New Normal:
Stamped: Racism, Anti-Racism, and You (Remix edition)
Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
Little, Brown and Company
Smartphones Make You Dumb:
Future Politics: Living Together in A World Transformed by Tech (Paperback edition)
Oxford University Press
Photograph courtesy of Joel Schalit. All rights reserved.