“What is this thing that has happened to us? It’s a virus, yes. In and of itself it holds no moral brief. But it is definitely more than a virus.”
This is an excerpt of an essay called “Pandemic Is a Portal,” a selection from author Arundhati Roy’s forthcoming book Azadi: Freedom. Fascism. Fiction. (Haymarket, September 2020). The Man Booker Prize-winning Indian novelist (The God of Small Things, 1997) is a longtime activist for antiglobalization movements and an outspoken critic of U.S. foreign policy.
“Some believe it’s God’s way of bringing us to our senses. Others that it’s a Chinese conspiracy to take over the world.”
“Whatever it is, coronavirus has made the mighty kneel and brought the world to a halt like nothing else could. Our minds are still racing back and forth, longing for a return to ‘normality,’ trying to stitch our future to our past and refusing to acknowledge the rupture. But the rupture exists. And in the midst of this terrible despair, it offers us a chance to rethink the doomsday machine we have built for ourselves. Nothing could be worse than a return to normality.
“Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
Roy has released text of the full essay here.