It started innocently enough. China and the coronavirus seemed so far away, almost like on another planet. Then I flew to the UK and I was a bit more anxious because Venice and Heathrow are huge airports, after all, with thousands of people passing through every day. Then Italians started falling ill, and still, it seemed like something that couldn’t affect us. At the time, there were school holidays in part of Slovenia and hundreds of Slovenians went skiing to Italy.
And so it began. The first case of Covid-19 in Slovenia was detected on 4 March. That weekend, my children celebrated their birthdays with all their friends and classmates – 20 plus children and their parents. Four days later, my son’s guitar teacher called to tell me she was no longer allowed to enter the school premises because of the virus to teach him guitar and she could come to our place or I could take my son to hers to practice. While I was sorting out our schedule on Thursday to let her know what we decided, the news came: schools will be closed for two weeks.
On Friday, 13 March, most children already stayed home and a new government came into position in Slovenia. Until then, it was the Minister of Health who kept us abreast with the developments and new measures being taken to stop the epidemic. From Saturday onwards, it is the Defense Minister and the Minister for internal affairs and the Prime Minister himself who address the public. They started off by blaming the previous government for not doing enough to stop the spread of the virus although our country had been criticized by the EU for closing our border with Italy too early. They announced stricter measures and that they would do everything in their power to save the people. Pretty heroic, don’t you think?
If only they hadn’t raised their salaries five days into their reign because they work in dangerous and taxing conditions. More dangerous than doctors and nurses and police officers and cleaning staff? More taxing and stressful than self-employed people who had to close businesses and are left with no income and stacks of bills to pay? Surely not. But no one can bring them to task since yesterday they passed a ban on journalists attending their press conferences because the presence of too many journalists could help spread the virus. Interestingly, the new Interior Minister is also director of the right-wing news station that is allegedly sponsored by Victor Orban.
The Commission for the Prevention of Corruption does not receive information on financial transactions since 17 March and until the reversal of the decision. This effectively means that no one knows how and what the public finances are being spent on.
The Interior Minister’s next move is to try and pass a law that gives the armed forces the same powers as the police currently have. Supposedly to protect our southern border. Really?
So you see, it started with coronavirus. I don’t want to fall ill or infect someone else, particularly if it’s someone risky. But I’m not afraid of the virus itself. I’m afraid of everything that’s been going on under the guise of protecting us from the virus and of what that is going to do to our country and our future. I’m afraid of how tightly they’re going to protect our borders and how suspiciously they’ll peer at every foreigner crossing them (and at every Slovenian pointing that out). I’m afraid of every next measure stripping away another democratic right, of making us prisoners in our own homes and then blaming it on coronavirus.
I’m afraid of the right-wing extremist virus that has infected enough people for them to vote the current political leadership into position.
Žižek was right when he said, “Undoubtedly, horrible things are happening” (in this virus-infected new world order)*.
*https://www.rtvslo.si/zdravje/novi-koronavirus/slavoj-zizek-z-muko-bomo-morali-zgraditi-drugacno-normalnost/517879 (my translation)