Two axioms run throughout every piece in this issue:
This virus is exposing every fissure in our society.
Things are changing so quickly, by the time you read these words everything will be at least a little different.
Those truisms are the leading between every line, the silence between every phone call to a loved one. They fill the empty streets and are the thrum in every food distribution line.
I started prepping at the beginning of March, before almost anyone else I know. That’s not a brag; I’m a prepper by nature. Shoutout to hypervigilance from PTSD, plus “doomsday prepper” was the most attractive of my limited options as an aging subcultural woman (I’m no good at textile art and I don’t want to do roller derby).
By the time other people were starting to wash their hands more, my apartment had medical grade disinfectant wipes, an array of beans, every OTC cold and flu med, and several liquid scrolls of the Bronner family’s good word. I wasn’t feeling panic. That’s not a brag either; I have one of those deranged personalities where I feel calmest when the chaos around me is louder than the shit inside me. I wasn’t feeling smug, self-conscious, or paranoid. I have an autoimmune disease, so these preparations seemed completely commensurate with the potential threat. Even if this coronavirus disappeared, hurricane season was still around the corner. Is.
When my friends started panicking—which, again, is a valid reaction, a reasonable reaction, a reaction commensurate with the threat—I offered what was keeping me steady: look at all the ways people are organizing to help each other already, look at the way mainstream discourse is shifting to acknowledge that we do in fact live in a society, rest in fucking piss Maggie Thatcher. The third axiom: Every crisis is an opportunity. I started prepping when I was 13, learning about the antiglobalization movement, witnessing a new era of hypermilitarization. Teens of every era believe at one time or another that the world is ending; I was sure of it. By the time I was 17 I explicitly had no plan for when I grew up because I did not believe there would be a future. And that, readers, is how you wind up editing a magazine like this one.
With this plague, the government immediately and predictably exploited the moment to swell xenophobia, militarize borders, consolidate power; it will continue, it is axiomatic. Maybe you’re from here, maybe you’re not, maybe you’ve noticed that in this country and in New Orleans in particular, the powerful will watch you suffer, punish you for it, and say it’s your fault. Your crisis, their opportunity to cry looting. Your crisis, their opportunity to blame Mardi Gras.
About a week after I stopped leaving my apartment I asked my boyfriend to come stay with me. He was still grieving the end of life as we knew it, a reaction commensurate with the loss. I did what I could to ease his way; I told him I was going to start doing my dishes. “Every crisis is an opportunity,” he teased back at me.
Over two weeks into our quarantine, I’ve adapted to this dystopia where daily the City texts me the numbers ill and dead. People can adapt to anything. A fourth axiom. Like the others, it’s inherently value-neutral. It’s a useful survival mechanism. But there are some things we should resist normalizing: interpersonal abuse, martial law, statements like “at least a lot of good art will come out of this!”
A good magazine came out of this. I hate that we had to make it. The virus exposed every fissure in our magazine: our advertisers (our sole source of funding) closed. Those are also our distro spots. By the time you read this you’ll be living in a different world than the one in which I wrote it. I don’t know what the crisis will look like by then. But powerful people—people who would bill you for your own death—know it’s an opportunity. If they know that, you’d better know that too. You’d better adapt to that.
There are people right now working their seventh 12-hour shift in a row for poverty wages and there are people right now writing their seventh “12 Crazy Things You Say To Your Dog In Quarantine” listicle in the comfort of their homes. A fissure. I am not a fundamental oneness-of-humanity person, I’m not a universal triumph of the spirit person. But there is a common thread that stitches through that fissure, a unity: we have all been sold the lie that we are individuals, responsible, liable even for our own outcomes. That falsehood has been laid bare by the revelation that health is, in fact, collective.
The knowledge that our wellness is tied up in the commons does not inherently foment revolutionary thinking. In fact, it can be deployed to keep us frightened, docile, compliant. It often has and maybe it will continue to. But things are changing so fast, by the time you read this maybe you will have decided that actually this revelation demands a fundamental restructuring of social relations. Maybe you’ll be prepping for that. Maybe you already are.