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Colonialism and Coronavirus
This may be a bit off topic (and by a little I mean a lot) but I've been thinking a lot about this social response to the pandemic going on through the lense of colonialism. There have been a lot of people referring to coronavirus as the Chinese Virus (or Kung Flu or other various names, etc) and it makes me think about whether these types of names would be happening if the virus originated in the US or in the UK. No matter where the virus originated there would be jokes and memes because that's just how our generation seems to cope with crisis, but what would the jokes and memes be about if coronavirus didn't originate in China? When I started thinking about it actually, if it originated in a previously imperialistic country such as Britain would there be a bunch of jokes and memes about how Britain is “taking over the world again” or references to imperialist nations bringing diseases to their colonies (like how Belgium brought European diseases to Congo)? If it originated in a predominantly white populated country, would there be xenophobia and racism towards white people in the same way Asian people have been subjected to recently? Would there be a similar attack on race and ethnicity because of the virus or would it just be a virus that just so happened to originate in a nation? There’s no real way to know the answers to these questions but it’s just interesting to think about since we’re discussing the consequences of colonialism seen in Heart of Darkness. Sorry for being so off topic but I wanted to discuss this, and I’m very curious as to what you guys think. Hypotheticals like this are the things I find are interesting to talk about.
This question also crossed my mind in a slightly different way, but you made some points that interested me even more. There is an intriguing parallel here between Europe and China in terms of both colonialism and bringing disease elsewhere. It is not common knowledge at this point, but before the outbreak both China and Russia were working to exert influence over parts of Africa with economic incentives for things like urban development, airports, and the spread of technology. In return for this, China has gained a certain political and economic sway over many countries in Africa, such as Kenya. To be clear, I would never draw a parallel between colonialism being the cause of global pandemic, but I do think it is a very interesting coincidence that this time period in history and our present day situation are so similar. I also think that China's situation in Africa shows the evolving definition of colonialism that our society should develop, but still has not latched onto. Colonialism in the world today is taking on a more and more economic tone in which influence is bought in dollars over other developing countries. To answer the question you originally posed, I feel that there would still be a fair amount of fear mongering no matter what country the virus originated from. However, since we are already so equipped to hearing about the blatant xenophobia that is exercised towards the Asian community, it is much easier to identify it. Discriminatory tendencies would simply be harder to identify and properly target if this virus came from a predominantly white country. However, I do think that it is interesting how there is no distinction between different Asian American communities facing discrimination from white people based on simply Chinese decent. This makes me wonder if the white community, had the virus originated in Europe or the United States, would have the capacity to turn against themselves in the same way we have seemingly turned our backs on everyone of Asian descent in the country.
I think you and Zoe bring up very interesting points. It seems there is a very high degree of selfishness with the coronavirus outbreak connecting with the idea of colonialism. It's truly heartbreaking to see young college kids partying at beaches for spring break while doctors are working around the clock to ensure the well-being of others It seems the greed and constant desire of man to go out and take what they want is too overwhelming to acknowledge the global pandemic going on around them. This can also be applicable to people hoarding food items and toilet paper. The greed is so immense that people are starting to hurt each other so they can gain every last advantage in this troubling time. It is going to be interesting to see how people evolve over time as change is going to be necessary if we are going to last out and thrive during this time.
I also though about savagery when writing this. People who are forced to live in isolation with "social distancing" at this time is very reminiscent of Kurtz in the Congo. Although we aren't slowly losing our insanity to that extent, being cooped up inside definitely is showing it's effect on a consumerist generation that always needs to be entertained by some means. Also the kind of "savagery" that is seen with people fighting over goods in grocery stores is kind of showing the primal nature humans can have when our situation isn't always the prettiest. i find it interesting that people claim they are ready for things like this, but human nature is never revealed more prevalent than in the moment of danger with fight or flight. It will be interesting to see how this unfolds as we most likely have only seen the surface of what's to come.
I've noticed also that the spread of the virus feels similar in some respects to the spread of disease in America by white colonizers. Many people in European countries or even areas of America seem to have a belief that they won't get it, and continue leaving their homes although they are putting others at risk as well as themselves. It seems as if a lot of people have resigned themselves to believing that it got bad in Italy and China, and that's it. There's a concerning amount of people who believe it won't get that bad here or in other European countries. I see videos of people online selfishly travelling to other countries as if it's not possible that they're putting anyone at risk. The situation in China now is getting better, but that's because the people were taking it seriously. I can't believe that things will get fixed in America or Europe if people continue to think exclusively of themselves and deny the very real possibility that they could contract the virus.
COVID-19 has definitely brought out some of the words more cruel ways to cope with crisis, i.e. the name calling, blaming it on China, and people making this pandemic seem like a joke. I feel like colonialism can be applied to this situation, but with its own limits. Like someone else wrote in an above post, would the racism and xenophobia still be happening if COVID-19 originated in a different country, one more imperialistic? My bet is yes because of the younger generations' limitless access to technology and the fact that no one working in and out of society today has really experienced anything to this extreme. What are some other ways this pandemic can be viewed through social lenses? Can we ever get away from our instinctual ways of blame?
I find it very interesting how the Corona virus has spread so fast, and how it has been handled by the entire world. I'm sure it is no secret that spring break is coming up, or, for some people, is already happening. I know of at least a few friends that, despite all the warnings, are still going on vacation, and despite all the horror stories of being trapped on boats, are going on cruises. It is the same blindness that spread this in the first place, and the reason as to why it continues to spread. Tourism is the reason why, in Italy, their death count is almost as high as China's death count, even though China's population is more than triple Italy's. Just as in Heart of Darkness, it is the Europeans who spread the "disease" of corruption, but in our time now much more literal.
There may not be a lot about the virus that connects directly to the definition of colonialism, however the culture that can be found in the time period could be similar, as others have stated. Colonization was accompanied by racist thoughts and actions. This makes me think of how some people are actually mad and avoiding contact with asians even more so than other people. When the pandemic was first picking up I saw an article about a chinese restaurant that pleaded with customers to keep eating there. People weren’t doing so because they were afraid of the virus. There is also controversy over some calling COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus”.
I see a lot of this, too, as a broader xenophobia that is fostered by a fear of the outside(r). The Other is the enemy, the one different from us, and so we can expect our language acts and behaviors to parallel that difference. Because COVID is largely invisible to most of us, even in its catastrophic effects, we transfer/displace that anxiety regarding the Other onto physical images or symbols of our fear: politicians, countries, dumb social media arguments, etc.
The colonialist discussion seems fitting in this sense, that our language is one of Us against this outside (and less reputable) force. Even those heading for cruise ships for spring break may exemplify this through their defiance (the more we resist an idea, the more power it has over us psychologically). They are living the narrative of the bold heroic Ego who can stride forth against the outside world and stay alive. Most of the defiance I have heard from such persons are in braggadocio and pompous bold assertions of how "nothing can stop me!" Silly in its psychology, but there it is.
What I am equally concerned about is how our thinking about neighbors and the world will be adjusted following the crisis. We have an opportunity to reframe our thinking about a lot of things in our country and elsewhere. But what language acts will we use and will they allow us to think in transformational ways?
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