Fear of networks.
|Mar 16, 2020|
Up until now, Mexico City has been in the periphery of this crisis.
This was not the case a couple of years ago when the influenza epidemic turned us into today's equivalent of Wuhan.
There was an earthquake during that period, which only reinforced the city's post-apocalyptic reputation. In a last-minute decision, I escaped with a couple of friends to Acapulco (we called it, afterward, our "swine vacations"). While we were driving out of the city, there was a sense that we might not be coming back.
Since then, every restaurant and café in the city has a giant alcohol gel dispenser available. This has been our scar.
Anyway, after the whole shenanigan was over, I traveled to Israel and was surprised to find myself in front of an officer asking me if I had experienced any symptoms related to H1N1. Inside the country, I found that the media called the epidemic the "Mexican flu." The name struck me as offensive, back then. Now I think that attaching a geographical reference to the disease was a way of establishing a psychological distance from it.
Another thought. If the fear of atomic nukes dropping down from the sky was the defining feature of a post-WWII world, expressing the dread of total annihilation by a powerful foe somatized perhaps through fears of martian invasions, then epidemics (and global warming) have come to replace this anxiety, making overconnectivity our vulnerability.
Viruses are the perfect candidate for our network fears. They are invisible, they invade a host, and they rely on hubs and connectivity to spread. What epidemic science fiction—"The Andromeda Strain", "The Plague", "Blindness", "12 Monkeys"— reveal is a condition of perpetual fear when personal and communal boundaries have been erased.
Anyway, I'm not saying anything new here. Yet I do find it strangely ironic that the most connected countries, the driving forces behind globalization, should be the first ones to get infected. But today there's no "outside" from where to look: countries like Mexico and India will be hit the hardest. I've taken some precautionary measures. Every time I go to the supermarket, I buy a little bit more canned food than usual and start stacking up for what I know will come.