KICK IN THE DOORS

A PRESCRIPTION FOR COMMUNITY HEALTH 

All of society—not civilization, just society—must be shut down for the Boomer Flu. We must all be reasonable and responsible and confined to our homes indefinitely. You don’t want to be a vector, do you? You might be contaminated without knowing it—disgusting! What a shameful disease-carrier you potentially are. Lock yourself away! 

The music has stopped; we each have to scramble for a chair, and there remain… at least through April. Maybe longer? We’ll see. It’s for the common good! Re-imprison yourself within the abuse factory of the nuclear family, consign yourself to the toxic couple-form, or embrace the post-apocalyptic passive-aggressive polycule of your fatuous housemates, rat-caged like a reality show. 

Maybe you’ve got resources, like I do! Perhaps you have an apartment or living space all to yourself. In that case, the government and the greater good require you model the behavior of a depressed, isolated shut-in. No gym, no library, no more interactions. If you do go outdoors, be sure to stay beyond pheromone range of another human being. Nothing can cross the sanitized isolation barrier! 

Some of you may feel that performing major depression and self-isolation might itself be unhealthy. That’s a very selfish attitude. The lives of the over-80s are at stake, you prick! Go lie in bed alone for weeks immediately. 

You’ll be fine. Thanks to technology, you’re “free” to absorb digital images and sounds of other humans. While you lie in bed rotting, alone, your eyes and the most easily-distracted piece of your monkey-brain can go on imaginary, short-term narrative journeys into the sunlit world—with limited commercial interruption. Who needs sex when you can watch porn? Who needs the conviviality of restaurants when you can have bags of prepared food brought to the doorstep of your isolation chamber? 

Amazon Prime is booming! Imagine the broad avenues of creative self-expression that will be open to you in long-term quarantine. Heck, you can bedeck yourself in whatever combination of culturally-assigned gender signifiers you like—as long as you can afford to purchase them, of course. And no-one will see or judge, because you’re entirely cut off from other humans! You’re so safe from judgment, it’s as if you never existed at all! 

Locked away from all context, you’re free. Free as a boat without rudder or sail, under a sky without stars—free from not just any meaningful human connection but from any human connection at all. When no one can hear you scream, you’ve achieved perfect individual liberty—and helped save society’s most vulnerable to boot! All you had to do was heroically embrace living death. 

It’s not just the right thing to do: it’s the law. 

Out of Sight, Out of Your Mind 

What I object to is not the retreat from society. Staying alone or just with one’s household for a few weeks with no school or job isn’t bad in and of itself. As long as you’ve got groceries and broadband, it sounds a lot like what we’ve been told constitutes “self-care.” It could even provide opportunity to investigate and contemplate what a life removed from the relentless video-game assault of modernity might feel like: an existence built around something besides the ever-accelerating treadmill of wage-slavery. 

The key here is that we’re not free to choose. We’re being confined to our homes by the government. This is called martial law, and I don’t find it relaxing at all. 

To embrace or applaud these authoritarian restrictions, you need to have guzzled so much fear-juice that your veins run with liquid cowardice instead of blood. You need to have absorbed years of carefully tailored mass media designed to make you crave a higher power’s control, as have many of the (overwhelmingly) elderly (overwhelmingly) men on whose behalf our government is imposing martial law. You think my generational analysis is reductive? Wake up, kid. All the candidates for president are men closing in on 80 years old. That’s who’s in power. They own everything. They built the world that gestated this pandemic, and the government-mandated shutdown of public life is in their interest. The gerontocracy are already confined to their La-Z-Boys watching Fox News all day. Having ushered in and profited from climate change, having inflicted the car economy, highway system and fossil fuel industry on us, they’ve been subsisting on Facebook for years, already socially distanced and afraid. This lockdown just brings the rest of us down to their level, albeit without their resources. 

But as with anything, one must follow the money. The major disease hotspots in our state thus far have been so-called “retirement facilities,” the horrific tower blocks of Meemaw Storage in which we retire our less well-off elderly and disabled from view once they become inconveniently unproductive. As the number of these facilities hosting breakouts climbed into the dozens, the Louisiana Department of Health stopped identifying them by name. A cynic might think concealing the sites where these infection “clusters” occur had something to do with the immense power that the nursing home industry’s lobbyists wield in our state capitol. For most of these outfits, secrecy is a key to their business model.

Like prisons, which they closely resemble, Louisiana’s long term care and nursing home networks can continue to operate (and turn profits) only if nobody on the outside sees, knows, acknowledges, or is obligated to confront how bad they are. Also like jails, they are staffed by underpaid, under-resourced, and in many cases under-trained people locked in an adversarial dynamic with their assigned wards, while a few fat-cat executives at the top draw eye-popping salaries. 

Numerous deeply-upsetting-to-read lawsuits have proven major Louisiana long-term care centers are rife with abuse, concrete honeycombs of suffering designed to harvest profit from human decline. Anyone up in arms about the supposed sociopathic selfishness of 20-somethings playing frisbee on the Fly might instead better direct their advocacy on behalf of the Crescent City’s senescent citizens towards these industrial ice floes of monetized abandonment. 

Some beloved community members who are not old-old but merely middle-aged are also dying now, since America’s uniquely broken and poisonous civilization ensures anyone who’s not rich is already a sick sitting duck. In this vein, Dorian Commode, a very smart writer who vehemently disagrees with my fixation on the lockdown, wrote in an email, “Everyone’s been watching too many apocalypse/sci-fi movies that claim that ‘lockdown’ is the moment the police state starts… but it was already here. People were already on lockdown.” 

Commode chides my individualistic focus on the shelter-in-place orders. To her, this new international government-ordered confinement feels like a broadening of California’s fire season, where if you go outdoors, “you immediately get fucked up breathing problems… the sky is red and houseless people are stuck outside and getting really sick.” So, she says, “The problem is not being stuck inside; it’s that this horrible society created climate change, and as usual, the most vulnerable people suffer the worst consequences… you HAVE to stay inside and if you can’t, you’re fucked.” 

Meanwhile the Times-Picayune informs us Bayou Segnette State Park “is being transformed into a coronavirus isolation area, something [Governor] Edwards said was aimed mainly at providing a safe place for homeless people who test positive for the virus.” Yes, very safe. Not a hospital, but a bunch of wooden cabins in the swamp. Chicot and Lake Bistineau State Parks, locations so dismally remote they make Bayou Segnette seem like Congo Square, are to be similarly repurposed

This is precisely the FEMA-camp scenario Alex Jones types have been shrieking about for decades. They don’t care about brown people caged on the borders, but will these so-called libertarians finally take up arms against the state now that it’s shuttling its own citizens off to extrajudicial rural detainment facilities? I doubt it… but I’d like to be wrong. 

 An Easy Cure 

As many have already stated, the houseless are especially imperilled by this crackdown on public existence. Our dirtbag District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, he of the fake subpoenas, has used the supposed health-threat of the homeless as an excuse to keep innocent people locked up, writing in one case, “The defendant has failed to show that, if released on bond, he will have a residence to stay in while the city battles the coronavirus outbreak.” 

Alas that our city’s great house of healing, Charity Hospital, remains empty in our hour of direst need, devoid not only of hospital beds but of the fancy Sonder-Airbnb tourist beds with which cynical profiteers intend to fill it. Still, there are many blocks of this city rich in untenanted beds. 

I’m speaking of Sonder and otherwise privately-owned short term rentals. Countless whole-home and whole-building multi-unit Airbnbs were grandfathered in by our slick City Council. Just look for the number-pad locks, or you can check the registrations online, if that particular branch of our clown-government isn’t presently being ransomed by bitcoin bandits. 

Back in 2016, a local group calling itself the Washitaw Mu’urs began reclaiming some of our city’s empty, gentrified homes as housing for low-income Black New Orleanians. When the absentee “owners” eventually caught on and called police, the Washitaw confounded NOPD with mountains of legal-esque paperwork. The Washitaw remained in their homes for weeks, in some cases months. It wasn’t until our local yellow press ginned up outrage with racist fearmongering about “Black nationalists” “taking over” homes that the police finally evicted and arrested these housing activists. 

The Washitaw, consigned to jail for refusing to honor the rules of the same private-property system that legally enslaved their ancestors, demonstrated courage and creativity. We too must demonstrate courage and creativity in the face of this manufactured crisis, this sickness of civilization made possible by globalized trade—we must act locally, the only locale that matters. 

Evictions are on hold, remember, but only for now. You’ve been inundated with instructions on how to glove and mask up to contain your humanity, with all of its attendant fluids and prints; so there’s no better time to do a good deed for public health. Get a crowbar, get a ladder, get a couple friends. In this age of government-enforced isolation, mutual aid is a revolutionary act. The illness is alienation, the contagion vector is fear, and the cure is working together. The first step back towards our collective health is the practice of disobedience. Go make some house calls; you’ll feel better almost immediately.