Alex is an Irish mother to two children under four, living in Barcelona. This week, as her home goes back into a lockdown of sorts, she asks why the economy is being looked after when the people of her adopted city are not?
On July 18th my husband turned 34. Not a particularly special age, but given the day to day that we have been living, we decided to make an occasion of it. We decided to return to Barcelona for a single children night - a wild and uproarious plan. I should preface this story by saying that in the 3 weeks leading up to the aforementioned birthday, we escaped the city and have been living a glorious country lifestyle at the house of my very patient in-laws.
how fortunate (and wise) they are to have chosen years ago to absent themselves from the city and surround themselves with the beauty and bounty of nature.
We prepped our children of our plan, mindful that after 5 months of spending every single waking minute of the day and every sleeping night with them, they might object (to put it mildly) to the change in routine and dispute our proposed absence. We were not wrong.
We survived volcanic protests that eventually melted into temperate complaints, which were themselves resolved by whispered plots of swimming in the lake and visiting neighboring horses with smuggled carrots by my valiant mother-in-law. How lucky we are to have them and how fortunate (and wise) they are to have chosen years ago to absent themselves from the city and surround themselves with the beauty and bounty of nature.
Haven’t you seen the news?
Children placated and grandparents prepared, we packed ourselves and our toothbrushes - essentials only - into the car and enjoyed an hour and a half drive of voluptuous scenery and silence. How blissful and fleeting the savory moments of a car drive without children. The roads home were virtually empty and our triumphant return to Barcelona was greeted without herald.
And just like that, I learned that on the 34th celebration of my husband's birth, Barcelona had been condemned once again to lockdown
We parked below in the subterranean parking lot and were surprised to find it at well below minimum capacity. A pleasant but disquieting change. Our first stop, naturally, was to our neighbouring coffee shop - masks on, hands disinfected on entry, floor marked with distance lines, many seats removed to maintain distance - for a quick pick-me-up. But upon seeing my masked face the girl behind the counter, who knows me well and can recognize me even behind my grey-and-white- double-layered mask, gave a sharp inhalation and exclaimed “You’re back? Haven’t you seen the news?”
And just like that, I learned that on the 34th celebration of my husband's birth, Barcelona had been condemned once again to lockdown. Yikes. Back down to village life and river walks and slow evening talks with my in-laws, please.
It is true that this lockdown is "different" from the previous. It is “voluntary”. It is "asking" people to stay inside their houses apart from urgent cases; food shopping, medical emergencies, caring for those in need or at risk. The parks are once again closed, sports facilities are closed, beaches are being policed with a never before seen stringency and bars and restaurants are under extreme duress to remain open. The only true difference to lockdown round 2 is that the government cannot (yet) enforce it.
For Barcelona to once again go into enforced lockdown, the government needs to raise the situation from a “state of alert ” to “a state of alarm”. And given that we were only recently in a state of alarm and full quarantine, and given that this state was only reduced when the government realized it could neither maintain the economy during lockdown nor pay the unemployment benefits promised and required during that lockdown, and given that it would be against the rights of individuals to be put back into a state of house arrest, it has “requested” that individuals behave responsibly and stay at home.
When did the wellbeing of the state become more important than the lives of the individuals it claims to represent? When will we stop putting money and earning above health? Why were we allowed out of lockdown so early and why were we told it was safe and manageable when it was clear to everyone that it was everything and anything but the truth?
I am angry that our government insists on returning to any version of normal, if that version involves the glorification of economy over the health and well-being of people.
Why are our hospitals now filling up again with a second wave and when will our governments admit their stupidity and avarice? When will governments stop expecting people to live in stringent lockdown conditions and at the same time continue to pay their same bills for rent, food, electricity, water etc?
I am angry. I am angry about people being put at risk and I am angry that our government insists on returning to any version of normal, if that version involves the glorification of economy over the health and well-being of people. Of all people; young, old, workforce, parents, families, singles, at-risk, elderly, and ex-pat alike.
I am not naive. I don’t think building a new world from the ground up is easy. But better building anew from the ground up than sitting pretty up top and watching the foundations crumble from underneath you.
Barcelona is my adopted home. I am angry to see her being so carelessly trampled underfoot from within.
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