Santiago de Chile. Corona Crisis. What’s happening? Which voices find their way through the masks? What’s happening to the ongoing revolt? Is COVID-19 actually a lifeline for the Chilean government? I will try to capture moments; my view is European. The voices are anonymous. Many voices are missing.
18.03.20 The mood is loaded with hate and fear.
“In times of the revolt, cracks showed up in the economic system and we felt the empowerment of the people. Then came the virus and saved Piñera’s butt. He declared a state of emergency for 90 days. The constitutional referendum is delayed from late April to late October.” Anonymous
The state of emergency in Chile began at midnight and is supposed to last 90 long days. 15 minutes after the state of emergency began: the military forces remove indigenous Mapuche monuments on Plaza Dignidad. For months, this place has been the center of the revolts. Since the very first day of the fight, indigenous people were integral to the protests.
The monuments are gone, maybe destroyed. Their idea of a life based on respect and tolerance for every individual and the Mapu (Earth) itself stays in my head.
Which highly globalized flight-service caused us to be locked away in our apartments? What kind of civilization allowed the rapid circulation of COVID-19 all over this planet? I feel shame. The terrible stench of this city sticks in my nose.
“This state made the decision a long time ago that economic growth is more important than our lives. As if those who were killed or tortured during revolts weren’t enough to show us the real face of this state.” Anonymous
There is little trust in the state and the politicians. According to a survey, less than 6% of the population supports the current government. How can you trust when you’ve only just realized that you have been oppressed for at least 30 years? How can you believe the politicians or the state-controlled television?
“We find ourselves in a war, a war with the media as its weapon” Anonymous
The first step in fighting for your own liberation is often to realize your own oppression. You can then acquire tools to destroy it. You will feel the self-determination and liberty to make use of those tools.
20.03.20. Officially, there are about 400 cases of coronavirus. I am close by Plaza Dignidad. Protests are continuing. I see a burning barricade, come closer and place two big cardboard boxes in the flames. Then I push my bike on the sidewalk, to stand still for a moment and get an overview of the situation. You say “Hola” to me. We saw each other many times in the last days. I respond your greeting; we start a conversation. I did not want to bring it there, but it doesn’t take long until the conversation shifts to coronavirus. You tell me you do not believe in its existence. Your friends don’t either. I ask you: but what about all the people who are dying every single day in Italy? You hesitate but say, no this virus is invented. The government wants to suffocate the protests. They want to lock us up. I feel that what you say makes sense in your context. Still, I cannot let your position stand. To firmly persist on my view of reality revealed a weird pedagogical streak of mine. I want to keep up with your anti-governmental idea of the situation. But slowly I’m realizing that the privileges I enjoy stem from more than my passport or skin color. Our daily actions depend on the information that reaches us or does not reach us, or information that we do or don’t want to accept. In the end this knowledge will determine our survival. As individuals or communes, we are not in the position to access that information in a self-determined manner. On a scale from 1-10, how much do you trust in your government?
Maybe one day the virus will transform to a nice person, said the Chilean Minister of health Jaime Mañalich.
22.03.20. It is 10 pm and I listen sirens outside. I am sitting on my bed and tears are running down on my cheeks. What does freedom mean for you? Twenty minutes ago, I left the house for a walk. I met a homeless person we talked for a moment. I told him that I want to help but don’t know how. Now this person is illegal, forbidden. They set a curfew for the whole country from 10 pm to 5 am, for an undetermined amount of time. When I first heard about this restriction, I thought it was a joke: does the government really thinks the virus is a vampire that only strikes at night? During the day I realized that this effort was only meant to safeguard a specific health: that of the Chilean economy.
“The economic expectations lead the Chilean state focus entirely on the instrument of fear; thus, the majority of companies and business are open as usual. Workers have to be present – all that after the government has proclaimed state of emergency and the military is on the streets again.” Anonymous
Despite everything, I try to perceive and appreciate the power of those who continue to stick together in times of social distancing. It was not too long ago that this system started to fall apart.
“This virus let us feel afraid of fellow human beings. All of those who might be infected are seen as criminals. Our task is to destroy this fear. Together we are strong.” Anonymous
Taste of fear and loss of consciousness? Who am I to judge about other peoples’ fears? In your most fearful moment, there exists no objective truth; all that remains is your exposure to a pure and real fear.
I see a powerful revolt getting blind and dumb by a fear controlled by authority. I guess one thing that I learn is that oppression dynamics in this system we are living in and we are confronted in our daily lives is strong and all of us are more or less involved in its continues existence. Would fear dominate us when we would be existing in self-organized communities that does not base on oppression, that allows us to create trust? Listening to our fears, remembering our hopes, supporting one another, reflecting on all acts of restriction and not stopping to fight the oppression is the only way we can resist the rising authority in these days.
The roots for something new are growing. “The alternatives that we create right now will help free us from the capitalist system and destroy it.” Anonymous
Do the newly formed grass root structures from the revolt strengthen solidarity within the corona crisis? Alone in Santiago, hundreds of neighbourhood-assemblies have evolved. How do they confront the crisis? On social media, voices are calling for compassion with our vulnerable comrades, older generations, oppressed peoples and those who are suffering violence at home. Feminist groups are taking on a big role. The call for a total curfew is in line with an anti-governmental opinion: ” The government does not care about our lives.” Again, I notice that female-associated people are taking on the task of caring and worrying about others in this society. Nothing new.
Still, there is solidarity and no Corona crisis will be able to destroy it. I see people are planning, thinking and speaking about food-cooperatives, collecting donations for the needy in prison and on the street, and putting organized looting in action to distribute the materials. In indigenous and rural communities, practical solidarity has always been there. There is no need for organization and propaganda via social media. A few hours southwards on Chiloé Peninsula, inhabitants collectively block access with burning barricades. They say: “The state does not decide here, here the Chiloé decides.” Until the water cannon arrives.
Maybe there has never been trust in the state here.
Back to Santiago. People are calling for Cacelerazo on their balcony, drumming on pots with spoons as protest. Some join in on the balcony or through open windows, others join in on the streets. The rhythm is known. Sometimes I participate as well. I like to knock with a lot of noise and I pick extra-large stones; I never bring a pot. It is some time ago since I and some friends beat against the fences of the Moneda (government building in Santiago). We used some huge stones. It was just us three. Still, I had to laugh about the noise we could produce. When we left, I became thoughtful. Isn’t beating a fence an act of desperation? Is there no other way of voicing our opinions and wishes? I guess I understand that there is no chance to have an open dialog with those who oppress us but I do not want beating fences to be my only form of protest. Now, in times of Corona, we are locked inside and start beating against our own four walls. This frightens me.
The whole world is looking at Europe. The whole world is looking at the US. Nothing new here either. Looking at the crisis through the eyes of Abya Yala (indigenous word for so-called Latin America) let me feel what has been analyzed and described in many different context before. Truth is reclaimed so much more true coming from western civilized scientific based states than from Abya Yala. Why do we measure the impact of the virus with the same tools when the circumstances differ so much? The numbers are falling, rattling. The infections, the deaths. I feel contempt towards those who infected the whole world by traveling from metropole to metropole. I listen voices showing their greatest respect towards those states driven by authority seeming like maintaining the control over the situation. I listen voices declaring their fear of the chaotic and dirty reality on streets of Abya Yala. I listen voices communicating distaste towards western-civilized advice. The western reality judges according to Corona death numbers. But how many deaths must be added in this territory on one person dying because of corona? Hunger. Repression. Priority of corona patients in hospital. Clarifying the harsh differences between the different territories might be a slightly tendency of liberating from post-colonial structures. Anyways, I feel ripped between national borders that I wish didn’t even exist.
At the same time, the foreign service is conducting an unprecedented recall action to bring all true Germans back home. Human sorting.
25.03.20 Beginning tomorrow, there will be a total curfew for 7 communes in Santiago. Leaving the house will be only possible with a permission, which must be filed for online. In the evening, we meet for an assembly with 16 people. We are sitting in a public park. Passing people are confused, how can we justify meeting with so many people in these times? I cannot respond. I only know that I need to see you in person. I need free dialogue. Talking to a technical tool takes away our ability to look each other in the eyes, to feel our most intimate wishes of freedom and liberation. How can or should we continue the revolt via social media? A stranger takes seat in the assembly circle, listens our words and asks for our zodiac signs. Then he leaves us with these words: “I wish you the best, the community creates power.”
One day in the beginning of April, a comrade will come home from labor work with a feeling of emptiness in his chest. Someone had told him that their relatives are already suffering hunger caused by the corona circumstances. He tells me that the bosses are greeting him with the same smile, while they send person after person back home. Later, on his way back home, my comrade passes a house being stoned by some peoples. He finds out: the stones are flying because the inhabitants are supposedly tested positive for COVID-19.
Towards the end of April: Time is flying. Days are passing. Do we exist in a lack of social pressure regarding productivity in these times? I’ve heard rumblings that the Chilean government plans to return to reality, calling it normality, starting on the last days of April. In my opinion this situation is real/normal already. Their vision of reality/normality includes open and fully-working malls. We plant edible plants on flowerbeds in front of our house. From time to time, I fill up for-free seed packages and attach them to an info board about gardening. In my mind, I see them being carried to their new homes to be sowed. They will grow and fulfill the future reality/normality of someone else and maybe be part of an alternative to the re-opening malls that in their concept of reality/normality seems to be essential.
While we are waiting for the plants to grow, voices are shouting out to proclaim and implement another reality/normality that has been dominant until a few weeks ago: the revolt. The street has been taken over by sanitizing cars and military trucks. If they their perversions of capitalism in malls is continued, the answer will be protesters taking back the streets.