Coronavirus & the toxic narrative of disability

Every catastrophic film, every war novel, every graphic novel about dystopian futures is for me an opportunity for an imaginative exercise on my death. If you have been a kid with a disability and then a girl with a disability, to finally become a woman with a disability, then you have grown up with the request to remain rational.

During evacuation drills they teach you to stay in your place, not to hinder the escape of others and to wait for rescuers to come to save you. On the plane you will always be on the side of the window so that the people next to you can escape without having to step over you.

And no, you can’t get angry. You can’t even get too sad.

Emergency management is a science and you, aware of your physical condition, must understand that society is something complex and in every emergency the goal is to save the largest number of people who can then survive.

Embracing your limits is your duty, rejoicing in what you have, for the time you have it, is good practice.

Aiming for survival during a zombie epidemic would therefore be a foolish waste of time, better cultivating fantasies of heroic deaths in which your legacy will be the survival of your loved one rather than an entire community or group of children …

Coronavirus: How to reinforce a toxic narrative?

Then comes the coronavirus and you live a few km away from that town that everyone talks about because it is the epicentre of the Italian version of the contamination. And find out that no, now that we are at that point all that exercise done in your first 35 years of life is not going well for you.

Dearest world, dear television, dear journalist, dear expert in the most disparate scientific subjects, however praiseworthy your attempt to say that the coronavirus Covid-19 is a disease that is only lethal only for a low percentage of the population, you every time conclude, by saying that I will die.

«Coronavirus is dangerous for weak people … elderly people … people with previous respiratory diseases … cancer patients»

I didn’t understand it right away. At the first interviews it seemed to me that their words calmed me too. Or maybe I just wanted to be comforted. Also be considered a subject to comfort.

But we are not. I am not, nor are the older people, nor the cancer ones. We, all of us, are the examples that comforts others. We are so when we are called to be examples of life, endurance and wisdom (read under ableism).

We are such when we are asked to accept the fatal percentage of an illness in our ranks.

After all, we live so far from the idea of immortality and so in confidence with that of death, that it will certainly not be a great effort to accept the role of borderline cases in a collective narrative aimed at not questioning the power of the healthy.

A wasted opportunity

This moment could be used in many ways. This virus, its easy movement in the world, could become an occasion to remind us that we are human and as such we are fragile. We could have accepted all together that we are not immortal, not only we weak subjects but also that 40-year-old who feels the eternal power flowing in his bones.

It would have been nice for once to seek a more noble sense in a truly special moment. Perhaps an enlightened precedent would have been created, perhaps caring for oneself and others would have truly occupied the center of the world for some time. And since I’m playing a fantasy game, I like to go further and think that perhaps capitalism would have trembled, seeing its fake immortal and performing bodies waver.

We would all have been fragile. And we, who have always known fragility, swear that we would take care of you. But none of this happened…

We could have sailed together. Instead each one remained anchored to its reef and collective reflection preferred the more immediate consolation.

Maybe I will get sick and if the TV happens, he told me that I will most likely occupy that small percentage of hopeless. So since I have been organizing death since I was a child, I decided to write this article. I won’t be able to save anyone with my passing. And if it happens as they say, it will be lonely and far from heroic. But I want to tell you that while the virus sneaks around a few kilometers away from me, I read Laura Pugno who in her “In the wild” says:

“The savage is decided by us, it does not exist in nature, it is created when we close the front door, we define an inside and an outside (…) It comes by itself, from the wild, that it is dangerous”.

Written by Chiara Bersani, Italy (translation Anna Rossi)



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