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Growing up in England during the 1950s and 60s just about everywhere was closed on Sundays. The only places that were open were ones I didn’t want to go to. Or ones I did want to go to, but was too young to go to. I could go to church, but I couldn’t go to the pub. With the arrival of home confinement in Spain every day is like those far-off English Sundays now. The only difference being that even churches and bars are closed.
This Sunday morning the sun shone brightly for the first time in some days, and I longed to go for a walk along the beach. But it was forbidden. I’d have settled for a walk in the country, but that was forbidden too. So I decided to nip out to the new bakery for a loaf. That wasn’t forbidden, just short and boring. But not quite so boring when you’re suffering from cabin fever. Just nine days confinement and I had begun to understand how psychopathic killers can get a bit over-excited at exercise time in the prison yard.
Though only a few minutes’ walk, a leisurely stroll to the bakers would have suffice to calm my frustration. But venturing out after days of being penned up inside can contain its own moments of nerve-wracking anxiety, so I equipped myself with a mask and gloves for entering the bakers, and any other unseen eventualities that might befall me on the way. A quick peek, before stepping out, revealed the streets to be all but deserted. There was just one suspicious-looking character walking his dog in the distance. Everybody starts to look suspicious in a pandemic. Despite there being no sign of life anywhere in the vicinity, or its surroundings, he was wearing a mask. I began to suspect it had more to do with concealing his identity than protecting himself from infection. Walking dogs is severely restricted, and this one looked just a bit too far away from home to be out for a quick shit. If he was out to get bread, he was in for a disappointment, as was I. The bakery turned out to be closed.
We’ve been confined to our homes for over a week now. The longest week I have known in since arriving in Spain at the beginning of the century. It’s the same for everyone, I hear you cry. But is it the same for everyone? What about those who called for austerity for us and bail-outs for themselves? The same ones that demanded hospital closures and drastic cuts in doctors, nurses, firemen and even police officers. Is it the same for them? Is it really the same for those who have enjoyed huge salaries, enormous bonuses and massive tax cuts?
Is it really the same for the ridiculously wealthy? To listen to them whinging on to the corporate media, you might believe they deserve a bigger share of pity than the rest of us, when even just one of them suffers. We are all expected to weep copiously at the death of a wealthy princess, a millionaire screen icon or a pampered rock star. Too often, we fall for it. Even the passing of a lousy politician is supposed to have us wailing, for chrissakes! And when we suffer by the thousand, they nail themselves to the cross of suffering, on our behalf. With feigned compassion and crocodile tears, they set about convincing us that their suffering for our suffering is the greater. Yet, you can be sure they won’t run short of masks or loo rolls. As for our shortages, like Marie Antoinette, they might just as well offer us bizarre solutions, as fake sympathy, “Let them cover their mouths with handkerchiefs of finest silk and wipe their rear orifices with damask napkins. We’re all in this together”. But we’re not.
Those slippery grifters and smooth-talking swindlers that don’t hunker down in luxurious town houses with underground swimming pools, squash courts and walled gardens bristling with security cameras, will seek refuge from the great unwashed in million dollar mansions complete with ballrooms, conservatories and tennis courts in secluded country estates, far from the madding crowds. While we huddle in front of our TVs for the latest bad news, they will stroll through acres of private woods, extensive orchards and ornamental gardens, or laze by pools, watching fountains play.
So, over the coming weeks of confinement, let’s turn our thoughts to those that have more than enough. Let’s think of ways to even the score, so we all receive a fairer share of the world’s wealth. Or, to be more accurate, what is the common wealth, everybody’s wealth. Let’s distrubute the combined sum of the peoples’ labour according to need. Let’s put a stop to the nonsense that transfers the fruits of our work to tax-free, off-shore accounts by tapping at a keyboard linked to a screen. Let’s commit ourselves to better lives for all, not just the greedy few. There will never be enough to make us all billionaires or millionaires, but if we fight for radical change, there will always be enough for each to get a fair share. There’s going to be an awful lot of down-sizing in the years to come, for an awful lot of people. And I do mean awful.
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