The reflections by Benedetta Bonichi during the pandemic
April 9, 2020. Week 5 of quarantine, day 3.
I look out the window and smile at the sun that shines on a clean, quiet, respectful and elegant city. I look up to the sky of Rome, which in spring makes my heart shiver; it confuses me and duplicates in a thousand copies, one for each portrait of it that was painted. It expands above baroque palaces with their balconies and statues; over charming eighteenth-century buildings with their elongated, gold and pink façades; over velvety pozzolana and burnished red earth (so dear to Scipio) sixteenth-century palaces, which are kissed by the sobriety of opulence. I see seagulls fly between the cornices.
This is a city of ghosts. This is my city, finally. As in Wells’ story, I woke up in a deserted city whose inhabitants have been reduced to blindness. Like the protagonist of the story, who is blindfolded, I can now see what I have always known, because, for me, nothing has changed; what amazes me are other people. Suffering from mass blindness, isolated and confined, they grope in fear and cling to the only shared certainty they have, the only media that took advantage of this quarantine (this alien attack to our freedom, intelligence, equality and democracy): television. When I ask questions to my relatives, acquaintances, friends and intellectuals who previously had a name, a history, a public and private personality, they all gave me the same surreal answers, which I did not understand. For an extraordinary reason. I had just relocated, so I did not have a television.
A single thought dominates it rests upon fear and tv chatter
You are asking me how I lived these weeks; what was it that struck me. I was struck by the widespread refusal of most people to question what was happening; their blind obedience to common belief; their enslavement to the one thought. Again. The rejection and isolation of those who dared to contrast passive acceptance with reasonable doubts – they were branded as “truthers”. And the loneliness of a thought I could not share and did not perceive as shared. What disturbed me most was to see those I wanted to converse with “frozen” in a state of intellectual stupor and the few who had exposed themselves publicly apologize. This disturbed me, but did not upset me. Such as the sudden blackout of news about wars, foreign and domestic policy, migration and economy. This is unsettling, isn’t it? Information is like a hat or a pair of gloves that are no longer essential when you’re in a hurry or distracted or… annihilated by the propaganda of fear.
For me, nothing really changed. The only difference is that, now, the king is naked and, ironically, it was a crown that exposed him! Sooner or later the streets will be filled with people again and these words will be denied. The people who die from the virus will no longer make the news and we will learn to live with this virus as, in the past, we learnt to live with war, hunger, immigration and poverty – hopefully of the others. The middle class will emerge from their golden nests fatter and more insecure than before, whereas the poor will be poorer and more numerous. Football matches, masses and TV news will go back to normal. And people will start consuming again, toasting because they escaped the danger. Like my skeletons, actually. Nothing changed. The king is naked … Hooray for the king!