By Andre Vltchek

It is now the beginning of April 2020, and our planet has already come to an almost complete standstill. Some human beings are mesmerized; they are under the spell of the novel coronavirus (flu), named COVID-19. Well, not as novel, one could argue; not anymore.

Every day, we are being bombarded by sensationalized numbers and analyzes. Until, it feels, at least occasionally, the COVID-19-watching has become some sort of a new type of entertainment, at least for millions, many millions, if not billions, of people. Not unlike disaster-watching; like an obsession with typhoons, earthquakes, or tsunamis. Or, a fascination with wars (why else would Washington’s adventurism be allowed to continue, almost unopposed?). Or, should we say, football and other sports?

In many countries, particularly in Europe and North America, people feel unsatisfied with their lives. That is putting it mildly. I have just finished reading the latest novel Serotonin by arguably the greatest living French writer, Michel Houellebecq. Fabulous stuff. After finishing it, I began counting how high my own apartment is located from the ground (I’m on the 15th floors, and in Chile, they do not omit 13th levels) … Just to calculate the speed at which my own body would be hitting the ground, as well as the precise time of the drop (final thoughts in Serotonin).

With such sentiments, forget about building socialism or about embarking on the great projects designed to save humanity.

At the end of the book, the main character of Serotonin concludes that humanity is finished and that he too is finished, at the age of only 40+. He also convinces himself, that it is useless to do anything against the trajectory. And so, he locks himself in his studio apartment in Paris and watches on television sports, cooking classes, and talk shows. He also consumes gallons of alcohol, most of it of very high quality. And he is waiting for death, anticipating his demise.

I do not dare to estimate the percentage of people who are right now living their lives in this way; in New York, London or Paris. But it appears that the percentage is high. Some never reach this extreme, but they still feel that their lives are meaningless, empty, and coming to an end.

With this, comes frustration, even anger. And irritation with those who are doing much better.

Frustrated and depressed people do not want to see countries like China or Russia, fighting (and winning) the epic battles against terrible diseases, or for the survival of the world. Such victories depress them even more, reminding them, with increasing force, about the meaninglessness of their existence; their own and of their political and economic system.

For some, COVID-19 has brought a certain relief.

Such individuals open their laptops in the morning, they turn on their television sets, and begin consuming countless gruesome predictions, about the number of estimated deaths and infections. Something monstrous is finally eclipsing their own misery.

Apocalyptic scenarios become some sort of relief or entertainment. Death, presented in a certain way, turns to something hollow, meaningless, like pop culture.

Numbers lose meaning; they are flashing, like in a video game, or on the screen of a gambling machine.

News agencies and television broadcasters soon comprehended the trend and began giving to the public what it wants. 

Every day, hundreds, thousands of new COVID-19 cases are being reported. Millions of people are expected to die, in one month, in two months, within a year. They are written off, buried in advance. Numbers are flashing on the screens, scrolling, being shouted at the viewers from monitors. The more that get infected, the more that die, the more titillating things get.

And the numbers themselves?

As a war correspondent and a novelist, I know only too well that at some point, numbers lose their meaning. You can bear one person’s death, maybe two, but never one thousand. At some point, numbers really lose meaning.

The numbers of dead men, women, and children, the number of endless kilometers, the number of li. If in the thousands, if in millions, nothing can be comprehended by many.

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