The Human beyond the Virus

Reflecting on the Coronavirus with Camus

All the events of recent days that are related to the Coronavirus have brought to mind one of Albert Camus’ most important works: The plague. The novel was written in 1947 and tells the story of the situation that the inhabitants of Oran were forced to live. Like any plague, it all starts with dead rats invading the streets, then the Algerian locality is quarantined by forbidding anyone and everything from entering or leaving. In short, a humanly tragic situation, a story that does not hide the human traits characteristic of similar tragedies.

There are many passages in which the author narrates the loneliness and discomfort that grips people who are unable to meet their loved one, their family. In this masterpiece, you can read of: deaths, irreversible separations, friendships, sadness, but above all of so much humanity.

“The worst part is that they have been forgotten and that they know it. Those who knew them forgot them because they think of other things, and it is understandable. As for those who love them, they have also forgotten them because they are busy dealing with the calculations and customs rates to get them out”.

We run the risk of forgetting the humanity that suffers while we are, frantically, in search of administrative and technical solutions that can lock up death in the confines of a quarantined city. We risk being engulfed by the bulimia of news that console us for a death that is “far away” from our daily places. But we must not forget that we are called to be men who do not allow injustices, such as diseases – as Camus’ plague is called –, to take possession of our heart. This does not mean leaving for China with the presumption of saving lives, but it can be realised by staying in our country without discriminating the Chinese who have lived within our borders for a long time and who have never run the risk of coming into contact with the virus.

It is sad to go around our capital and see that many wear the now famous masks, which even the street vendors have equipped themselves with, selling them (they are really fast on the take: when it rains they are quick to try to sell you an umbrella, and now with the Coronavirus…) . Also many are those who dedicate “sweet” and “free” words of love towards this situation and the Chinese in particular. Without forgetting the stone-throwing against the students of Chinese nationality of the Academy of Fine Arts in Frosinone. In short, it seems that Camus’ work has taught us nothing.

We, in the comforts of our Boot (Italy is often affectionately known as “the Boot” or “lo Stivale”, due to the shape of the Italian peninsula), cannot remain blind to the suffering (not just physical) that many people are experiencing because of this new virus. Perhaps the author of The plague wanted to convey this to us: those who find themselves facing such a disease have a heart just like ours. “There is one thing that one can always desire and that one can sometimes achieve and that is human affection”.

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