And I am alone in my fear.
Blogger is now putting page views right next to the posts on the dashboard, so one doesn’t have to go to a stats page to see if anyone is viewing the blog. No one seems to, literally not a single person, so I can probably start looking at this thing as a private diary. Which is good. Because I do need to talk about this stuff, to articulate it, bring it outside my head where it is just running in circles or rather downward plunging spirals. I need to create some kind of mental order before I lose my mind. Which, I think I am in the process of doing actually. Writing it out (in lieu of talking about it) may help slow this. It won’t stop it – I am too frightened for my mind-state to go back to any sort of rationality any time soon. The world, as I have known it during my 66 years here, is probably gone. The lively streets, the cafes, the conversations, the city animals, the shops. I keep seeing this picture in my head. So, let me write this like a story like as if someone else is telling it, like a quote:
“At some unknown point in the future the powers that be will say “OK, you can go back out now” and I will go out. Turn the corner, down the little hill that leads into the market. There is a restaurant there, it is called Sokak Restaurant (sokak means street in Turkish) which was owned by a wonderful guy named Cengiz. On the wall they have a mural that says “sokakta hayat var” which means “life is on the streets”. I will see that mural. It will slowly fade over the years to come but right now it is still there, still bright and fresh. The restaurant itself is gone. They used to have a colony of cats there. Well fed happy cats. They never used to bug customers for food or anything like than. Back then (before early March 2020 – I am projecting into the future in my fantasy), while there was still “life on the streets” no cat in Istanbul ever did. The shopkeepers took care of them, you see. The restaurant is gone. The chairs and tables are still there, covered in dust. No one has even bothered to move them and they are not loot-worthy it seems. They are starting to rot away. And of course, the cats are gone too. Some may have died of starvation. Some have hopefully gone feral and are feeding off of mice and such in the garden of the big churchyard next door. Cengiz’s waiters, his wonderful maitre d Cafer, the busboys. Where are they now? Are they OK? Did they go back to their home towns? Were they from villages? Maybe they went back to them and have started to at least grow their own food? At least that. And maybe there is even a kernel of hope in that. A new beginning. I continue to walk. There is a small street. It used to be lined with small businesses. Mostly cafes and bars, an internet cafe, a glazier who was a very special friend of mine. All boarded up. They left. Had to. Could no longer pay the rent. Had gotten into too much debt. Whatever. If you can call pavements and buildings a street, sure it is still a street. But of course it is no longer a street, there is no more life. I turn the corner into what used to be one of the busiest tavern streets of Istanbul. Boarded up. I had a special friend on this street. Kemal. A wily old Kurd from Ağrı who owned the small tea and coffee counter, a little gold mine. There was a small seating area of straw covered stools, always jam packed with all sorts of people, from all sorts of backgrounds and ages. Common denominator: We were all HDP supporters. We had a common political cause. I used to hang out there sometimes. Kemal has long closed the counter and gone back to Ağrı where he is lucky enough to still have a small farm. (As I am writing this he has already left, so this is no fantasy, has already happened). Where all the other comrades are – who knows… Dispersed to the winds. And not only they – politics itself is dispersed to the winds. Who will scream about this or that atrocity, gossip about this or that politician when the world is collapsing around us? Because this is what I am walking through right now, of course. The economy has collapsed, ergo the world, as we knew it, has collapsed. Not just a crisis. It is demolished. And not just here in my little old hood that used to be so full of life. Not just here in Turkey. Across the globe. Maybe a few ultra rich northern European countries are not yet facing the music. But fear not, they will in time. When everyone else is belly up who are they gonna export their goodies to? It is here now. They will get it in 6 months. Anyway, I continue to walk. The whole tavern street is almost gone. A straggler here or there hanging on for a few more weeks maybe. There are no customers. The clientele used to be shop owners, small business employees – they are bust. Maybe students whose allowances could afford these places. The allowances are gone – the parents are bust. Everyone is bust. Who is gonna go to a tavern now? This used to be a soccer neighborhood. Giant screens everywhere, in all the taverns where people watched the game. All have been looted away. A few broken ones here and there, still mounted. Gathering dust. I continue. The fish market. Half empty. Most of the customers who used to buy the fish can no longer afford it. Besides the fish wholesalers have gone belly up too. They can only sell what local fishermen fish out of the Bosporus and that is precious little. But not too many people who have enough money left in their pockets to buy it, so all is good. Supply meets demand. I walk as far as what used to be a bustling supermarket. A small one but stocked to the gills. It is still there. The shelves are now mostly empty. There is only one cashier left and only one of the many many floor guys who used to always annoyingly get in the way. I know both of them by sight. We hug. We burst into tears. __ It is now 6 months later. In the meantime my employer, the university has already made an across the board cut in the salaries. Only 50% of what it used to be. But now I get a personal message. Since I am so near to retirement age they are cutting me off. Well, it is true, I was very close. I go. No hurt feelings. __ It is now a year later. The university closes entirely. Paid students can no longer pay tuition. And the foundation can no longer pay for the scholarship students. Finito. I am no longer there myself but it breaks my heart. __ I have savings. I dole them out into tiny amounts. We are living on bare essentials now. Hafize, and her daughter decide to move back to a small town called Cide where she has a house. Her village is close by, she can grow food. They want me to go with them. And I do. My life, as I have known it, is over.”
Back to now: I cannot talk about this. It is a forbidden subject. I have tried. Not by describing such a walk, of course. That I am doing for the first time now. By saying “forget the virus, the world has seen many pandemics and survived all of them. It will survive this one too. Look at the world: It is collapsing”. Do not look at the trees, look at the forest, in other words. Look at the collapse of an economic system that in one shape or another has been around for thousands of years. It is in meltdown in front of our very eyes. It is targeting you now. Not just the working classes as has always happened during crises. This is not a crisis! It is a meltdown that will wipe out everyone, including the global middle class, even the upper middle class if it is allowed to go on long enough. You! And you are talking to me about a virus? Economies have run, shops have stayed open, as have taverns, as have brothels even, even during the black plague for gods sakes! And you are talking to me about a virus? For which there isn’t even a proper test?
The answer I get is either a resounding silence or a reply that calls me irresponsible, deluded, a conspiracy theorist (I do not have single conspiracy theory about this btw, to which I will get to in a minute). Mostly it is silence. But it has become a pattern. It is always either one or the other
I have wondered about this, about this defense mechanism that seems to kick in, whenever I try to draw attention to the economic collapse. And the answer has come to me during a conversation with my nephew Sinan (one of only 2 people around me who are looking this straight in the eye).
It is too scary. So, when someone tries to make them face it they either shut down or become hostile. I am fairly certain that somewhere in the back of their minds everyone knows this, sees it. We have this saying here “cambaza bak”, means “look at the jongleur”. I think it sort of corresponds to “shiny object”. So, for now at least, for as long as you can afford to do so, it is safer psychologically to look at the shiny object. Because when you look at the future – the sheer uncertainty of what you are looking at, may lead to insanity. Which, I think, is the road that I am headed down myself.
But it isn’t just that. It is also the loss of logic that is driving insanity as much as uncertainty.
I do not know anything about this pandemic. I am looking at those Euromomo graphs. What I see there is that there have been very bad outbreaks in these 26 countries every Winter, and into the Spring of every year since 2016. What I am also seeing is that they have the same pattern. They start, they escalate, and then probably when it gets too warm for whatever that is causing the outbreak to continue operating they die down. And return when it gets cold again. Only 4 years that I can see here, but I imagine that this would have to be a recurring pattern since the start of this planet. And one that would affect all living creatures, not just humans. Nature’s way of cleaning up, make way for the new. Very sad, yes. Natural, also yes.
Why did we not go into full on panic mode in 2016? Or 2017? Or 2018? Or last year in 2019? Is this one bigger now? The graphs don’t say that. In fact they suggest the opposite. Yes, the Euromomo people have put on a caveat on the site saying that it takes them some time to aggregate the data, so the recent weeks may not be reflected accurately. They say that they have put this caveat in because a lot of people are confused as to why the current deaths shown in the graph do not spike as much as the ones in the previous 3 years. I am not at all surprised that people are asking about this. I am too. Even if the data of the recent weeks may not have yet been fully aggregated, is there any way that they would eventually constitute a curve bigger than the ones from previous years? Could they even approach it? Sinan did some more digging around and found out that the epidemic in 2016 caused 270 deaths in the EU alone. The total world number, as I am writing this, is at 28,791 – about a tenth of that. The whole world against only 26 EU States, and it is only 1/10?
I do not know whether this is a pandemic that will kill hundreds of millions or not. What I am seeing in numbers does not support this at all. But, what do I know? Maybe this is only the start and it will escalate completely out of control and all the computer models that the technocrats are busily concocting are accurate, which is why they have put the world in lock-down. Only time will show us that. But right now, with what we can see tangibly here on these graphs, locking down the world economy is illogical in the face of the data that we currently have.
Which adds a layer to the illogicality here: Who benefits out of locking down the world economy because there is a perceived (real or not, but definitely perceived) threat of a pandemic that would dwarf the Spanish flu? Because that is what they are saying, right?
No one, as far as I can see. At first I did wonder about all this “upward transfer of wealth by the 1%” stuff. The “major reset to a single world digital currency” stuff. Or “they are using this to set up a global police state” stuff.
Who is Apple going to sell all those iphones to? Every busboy here, during those happy bustling marketplace days, had one you know? Not just the 1%, or the 5%, or indeed the 10% or even the 20%., 30% Masses across the world were buying the stuff. That is how the stocks went up, that is how the shareholder fat-cats became even fatter-cats. Only iphones? Name a product. Any product. Same principle. So, how exactly does the 1% benefit? So, they have swooped in and bought up everything in sight that the depleted middle classes had to forsake. And? Can they sell it on? Who is there left to buy it? Valueless property, that’s all. On top of which the production lines have dried up. No one left to buy all the goodies.
Nation States: How are they gonna collect taxes? Here, as in quite a bit of the rest of the world as I understand it, a lot of tax is collected from VAT. But everyone stopped buying? Businesses went belly up, so not much income tax left to collect either. So, how are all these famous police states going to operate? With no money to fund all the toys, the drones, the software, the personnel? The Military Industrial Complexes: No taxes, no tanks. Sorry.
So, they have gone to a digital currency. Go right ahead. Not much use left for it, is there? Commerce has stopped. Sure, it will allow governments and corporations to monitor every single purchase. So, if I go and buy a pack of cigarettes my insurance company will raise my premiums. Not to worry, will there even be any insurance companies left?
There is no logic. It just doesn’t add up.
And this increases my fear. The complete lack of logic of this whole thing. From the pandemic to the measures taken to prevent its spread.
I will probably not be alone for long. Soon the forest will to come people’s doors. It will be right there staring into everyone’s faces – regardless of whether you want to look at it or not. The juggler will pack up his balls and go home when the neighbor upstairs goes bankrupt. And then the neighbor downstairs. And then… No, I won’t say it.
I will not be alone in my despair for long, I think. Unfortunately, at that point, it will probably also be too late.
I hope I am wrong. I pray I am wrong. I pray that this time next year everyone around me will take the piss out of me, reminding me of my panic today and how utterly silly I was and how I made a mountain out of a mole hill. And could my mental state be attributed to paranoia? Dementia maybe even? I might want to check out a really good health professional, you know? I am ready and willing, more than willing – I beg to take on all the ridicule and more. I am willing to take on abuse, if only I can turn out to be completely mistaken.
I need to add a note here: Since I wrote this, I have had occasion to speak to a lot of my students. Both current ones, and recent graduates. And I am seeing that young people actually understand (or rather do not understand) what is going on and are as scared, and probably even more scared, than I am. And for the same reasons that I am.
In one way I am relieved about this for my own selfish reasons since I really was wondering about my own mental state and it is a relief to see that, no I am not alone. Other people, who are clear thinkers, young brains, are as freaked out as I am.
In another way it makes me feel utterly awful. I have lived, I have had a very good life actually. These young kids… What are they in for? I can’t even imagine how scared they must be, in full awareness of this as they appear to be.