“The luxury of isolation”

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So I find myself thinking, if there’s this group of people, who are being labelled “essential”, but are being treated as sacrificial, [and] then there’s this other group of people, who are at home – like us, right? – who have the luxury of isolation. So what are we, if we’re not essential? [laugh] Are we superfluous? Are we being kept like pets? For who? What is our role?’ ~ Naomi Klein

(in conversation with Arundhati Roy, A Global Green New Deal: Into the Portal, Leave No one Behind, 19 May 2020, Haymarket Books, 26:15–26:44)

What are we? We are not separate from those others. We are also essential, vulnerable, precarious and sacrificial people. Only not yet or not so much. We are the ones whose number has yet to come up. Perhaps we are essentially the pets of the sacrificial order, tame, domesticated, kept. But let’s not fool ourselves. When any one of us is conscripted to hard labour or treated as dispensable, then every one of us lives under the threat of the same hammer, the same machine logic. We are them and they are us. This is both a natural (I mean ethical and spiritual) and a political truth. We could acknowledge that.

Those of us who do have “the luxury of isolation” and those of us who do not are distinguished only by luck. I ask you, what manner of luck is this? Let’s be clear. Whether one conceives of it as chance or fate or karma, to have been born into the “haves” or the “have-nots” is hardly an achievement that one can take credit (or liability) for. But the existence of such a world to be born into, a world of haves and have-nots – rather, of those who have taken or received and those who have not – this is an ongoing matter of design, of will and consent. Which means choice.

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