Today is Good Friday April 10, 2020. The latest modelling shows that although Australia’s COVID-19 curve is flattening, talk of its suppression seem as a glimmer of optimism from the hopeful days of this year’s Ides of March and St Patrick’s Day.
Schools and universities are both closed and not closed. Happy social gatherings are a memory of an uneasy past summer.
In regional Australia, towns and communities which courted high hope of an Easter bounce in the aftermath of the Great Conflagration, are deserted. Packs of starving wild dogs roam ruined streets, nosing through debris, looking for scraps. Rural police patrols are perfunctory. Glock pistol shots scatter the dogs, and in some locations act as a warning to looters and strangers, sneaking into communities in search of empty holiday houses in which to squat.
Native flora rebounds with each autumnal fall of rain.
The air above Australia clears of carbon emissions.
Fungi devour rotting timber, scenting the air with a fusty odour.
Passing interstate truckies watch for neon lights around familiar bends, but find their favourite petrol stations-cum-diners shuttered. Menacing graffiti throw-ups disfigure timber hoarding put in place by business owners to save expensive plate-glass windows from vandals.
Crack cocaine is in short supply. Users are edgy, often violent. The rural elderly and frail remain indoors.
As winter’s chill begins, speculation mounts power supplies might become unreliable.
While toilet paper remains a coveted item, all types of batteries are sold at exorbitant prices. Methylated spirit and petrol and containers to carry both, are traded on a growing black market, as is soap and rodent poison. Rats roam city streets day and night with impunity.
Commercial radio stations increasingly play pre-recorded programmes, but the ABC remains true to its charter, providing a rolling coverage of news about COVID-19. News Corp attacks the ABC because of its perceived bias in coverage of a significant High Court decision.
City offices are forensically cleaned daily as are hotels used to quarantine cruise line passengers. And while debate rages over which authority allowed the Ruby Princess to dock at Sydney’s Circular and disgorge plague-infected citizens, little thought is given to the fate of foreign seaman who staff these white-painted floating RSL clubs.
Local councils consider disinfecting streets, especially around sites where rough sleepers congregate. As temperatures drop, night time jogging becomes a fad, as does cycling and skateboarding; anything to break the tedium of home isolation.
Remote and regional Australian towns and hamlets struggle with ailing Grey Nomads, many of whom are stranded by floods or border closures, and seek shelter in caravan parks now deemed COVID-19 hot spots by edgy local coppers.
Workers on non-essential building sites seem to believe wearing a high-visibility vest is a guard against COVID-19, and that social distancing does not apply to them. Meanwhile the management of those workers go to extraordinary lengths to prove their business is ready for the vaunted Snap Back. The Big Australian BHP, reinforces the stereotype with an inane advertising campaign seemingly aimed at currying favour with the Australian Government in case a potential bail-out is in the offing.
And as global capitalism teeters Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg persist in characterising the pandemic as an economic issue.
The Great Drought finally releases its grip. And as farming communities celebrate the promise of a seasonal bounty,their spruikers in the National Party fail to grasp the reality of a diminished foreign and casual labour force. If backpackers and seasonal workers from the Pacific are sent home, unpicked crops rot.
As millions of believers in the religions of The Book prepare to celebrate a sanctified time, many among their ranks ignore the pandemic’s potency.
Despite a ban on driving beyond one’s home, a certain prince of the Catholic Church George Pell embarks on a road trip which crosses the New South Wales border from Victoria, to take up residence in palatial accommodation on Sydney’s outskirts.
And as Ultra-Orthodox Jews fail to observe social distancing rules in Israel, Muslims around the world come to terms with the need to cremate their mounting dead.
In the United States of America hundreds of thousands of devout Christians switch on televangelists in a vain attempt to ward off the ravages of their nation’s catastrophic response to the worst outbreak of illness since the incubation of the Spanish Flu in Kansas.
And as the Arts mourn the loss of many from its ranks, the actions of a buffoonish NSW Minister for the Arts diminishes the efficacy of art in a time of crisis.
And so the last words of my Easter story come with an apology to my favourite artist and poet, T.S. Eliot:
“This is the way the world ends, not with bang but a” … virus.
Henry Johnston is a Sydney-based author. His latest book, The Last Voyage of Aratus is on sale here.
Like what we do at The AIMN?
You’ll like it even more knowing that your donation will help us to keep up the good fight.
Chuck in a few bucks and see just how far it goes!