Victoria Jelinek


Covid-19 March 17, 2020

President Macron addresses the nation for the second time in a week

To my family,

TelecommuteWe allowed S to watch the address too. This virus is a huge thing…the first of its kind in a century (Spanish Flu 1918), and President Macron notes this (like the Humanities and Classics man he is).

It was a beautiful and sad speech. He candidly says that it is the beginning of the “onslaught” of this virus, that it will accelerate in the coming weeks and months, with a “second wave” that will effect younger people.

He calls on us to prepare for this. He calls for solidarity. He calls for “brotherhood” (the whole “liberté, egalite, fraternité” reference to the French Revolution that is noted on the side of every mayor’s office in every village and city throughout France)

He says that we must trust the experts who are guiding the decision for a lockdown – scientists and healthcare professionals who are on the front line of this crisis.

However, he notes, despite this context and the seriousness of the threat, the protocol to help first responders (healthcare professionals, police) by slowing down the spread of this disease enacted last Thursday, the public has not respected the guidelines. So, 100k army and extra police will be deployed across the country to enforce the ban on our movement as of tomorrow at midday. From then, we must have a written explanation downloaded from the government’s site (or handwritten for those without printers) explaining why we are out. We are only allowed to get food, medicine…to exercise, walk our dog, but not to meet with friends and extended family, “in the streets” or in our homes, or we will be fined 38e and “there will be repercussions.” I’m not clear what the repercussions would be. Perhaps it’s the 38e? (it was in French after all).

Borders across Europe/the Schengen Area have now collectively been closed to all foreign nationals for 30 days as of midday tomorrow also, with extension after that if needed. There seems to be some lenience with UK citizens, though I’m not sure exactly how this works given that they are now out of the EU, but it’s, perhaps, because it’s a recent ‘divorce’ that there is this allowance? I’m not clear on this to be honest…

President Macron referred to what French citizens must now face as “life in slow-motion,” but he called on us to spend this time “reading, reflecting on what is essential,” and said the nation would “prevail” in this “war.”

(I hope Netflix and our internet doesn’t somehow go down. That would TRULY leave me desperate).

There are many measures to help businesses and the economically vulnerable, and there is (subsidized by the government as usual) childcare for those who are first responders and necessary governmental workers.

He called for solidarity and courage.

He closed his address with the classical, “Vive la France. Vive la République.”

Which S kept saying afterwards to himself as he was brushing his teeth and getting ready for bed. After he went to bed, I heard him ask his father, who was was sitting with him, “Daddy, what will happen if you or mommy get the virus?” To which M said, “We’ll be fine honey…we’re strong.” He then asked why we have to stay indoors and not see friends if we’re not sick. To which M said, “To protect others, honey…to protect those that aren’t so strong…to make sure that we help the nurses and doctors who are dealing with this each day by not spreading the disease further…”  It was quiet after that. He was probably asleep after that long winded response (as you might be now with my long missive – I type quickly. Perhaps, M, you can use it for your morning ‘private time’ reading?).

Gods hope all of us we will be protected and fine. Particularly as we can’t get to one another easily if there is a personal crisis.

We have been and will continue to, respect the guidelines. But, I have been appalled by the numbers who have not (the weather has been extraordinary, but it’s rather surreal to see so many over the last three days not taking this seriously despite national directives). I’ve also been perplexed and hurt by friends who have castigated me for self isolating: “I wouldn’t have thought YOU would be like this!” and “It’s a bit mad, don’t you think, to just stay at home when the weather is so gorgeous?!” and, “Drop by for a coffee – don’t be like that.” And, “I feel as though you’re judging me for continuing to live my life!” And, “It’s hysterical behavior if you ask me.” And, “It’s no worse than a really bad flu for most of us, stop being such a worry wart,” sorts-of-things. (The fact that I am a worry wart isn’t the point).

I suppose crisis brings out a variety of responses in people. I, too, didn’t take it seriously till last Thursday and had been mystified, incredulous, and somewhat disdainful when a couple of my friends were ‘banging the drum’ that it was time to lockdown everywhere asap. Then it hit me. I read something the other day about coming to terms with this virus socially is akin to the six stages of grief, so, perhaps, we are at different stages in this, just like the outbreak is in different stages of development in different countries?

I know for us, like many, we are worried about the future for our son. As M once said, “Having a child is like having your heart outside your body.” I love that. It’s so true. And mine beats heavily now…

And, like many, we are worried about money. Unlike the huge amount of money that is being put out there in France to alleviate the stress on businesses (the French government is paying salaries for workers while businesses are closed, rents and mortgages for those that are “poor” are being paid by the government, taxis, hotels, childcare for first responders, subsidies to hospitals and army tents to be set up in the hardest hit areas in order to support hospitals, all courtesy of our government). We freelancers, however, receive little or nothing. And, we won’t receive regular assistance because we have a bunch of money in our bank account from the sale of our previous house that will be used to build our new house. But, it doesn’t look as though our new house will be built this summer because if things remain, the wood/build will not get here and the workers can’t build it/be on site, and then we’ll be stuck paying our exorbitant rent! But, we’ll see how this all goes.

Things are changing daily.

There are so many in worse positions of course. I was told by a friend who had lived in Nigeria for 15 years, that most people in Africa live with this type of fear and uncertainty all of the time. You ‘just’ learn to cope.

Though, thankfully, in France, our poorest are given help with food, housing, and health, so there are not these types of desperate situations for the most part. Isolation is an issue.

And, of course, we could be ill. The impotence and fear of S’s recent illness is still fresh in our minds (the 40+ fever for five days in which he couldn’t eat and it would not go down! I’m so glad I insisted his blood was tested or I’d have thought it was Covid-19!).

And President Macron suggests that instead of visiting our elderly family members and neighbors, we offer to support these people in our communities by offering to get groceries and do errands for them (he actually said this! Makes me chuckle how he considers everything), and, of course, we would have “justification” for doing this (but we must fill in the form for transit! Goodness knows the French LOVE their paperwork).

Trying, terrible times. My dear friend E (S’s “nou nou” from three months old to three-years-old) who is now a neighbour, and who is normally a stoic, humorous, Welsh woman who regularly chides me to “take off my ‘big girl’s blouse’ and just get on with things,” texted me after the televised address and said she was despondent, that “The future seems bleak.” Rather alarmed, but figuring immediately that it made sense that it’d take something of this magnitude to shake her up, I suggested she bundle up warmly – it gets cold at night here – come over in ten minutes and meets me on the back porch – that I’d make us both very large whisky sours (washing my hands first of course) and, adhering to the security restrictions, we’d sit outside in lawn chairs two meters apart and talk. It was poignant as we sat on our respective sides of the porch quietly talking. The sky was bright with stars. There was a rock slide on the mountain that was SO loud it sounded as though Thor was smashing rocks together. We heard the sound of an owl and foxes (perhaps the owl was caught by the fox?). J chased a big deer away (which I soundly – though softly – scolded her for).

Oh my. What a world we live in.

So, it seems we have no choice but to spend this time at home, “reading and reflecting on what is essential,” as le president advises.

Though tomorrow I start teaching online classes. I’m advised that it’s “very important” that we “model peace and serenity” for the students.

Sleep is best for that.

Bon courage a tout.

Please keep in touch virtually. How lucky we are to have email and cell phones! (They wouldn’t have had those things during the last pandemic!).

Keep safe. 

Love, Tori

Photo is courtesy of the link below (via friend) on Reddit and someone with the handle u/krinosh:



Covid-19–March 12, 2020

Light-07My morning started with an ex colleague of mine at an international school in Geneva sending me a very long article that was ‘end of days’ in theme, with graphs and statistics, about how Covid-19 was going to kill us all unless governments shut societies down and put people over money. She and I got ‘into it’ ’cause I didn’t take it that seriously. I sent her an article from a prominent sociologist discussing the phenomena of social hysteria historically up to today (it’s compelling!), and she flatly told me I was negligent and irresponsible.

Driving up to work that day, the roads were eerily quiet. It was like a Danny Boyle film. But, work was wonderful: my colleagues were calm and informed, the day was sunny, the school did not want to close due to social pressure, life was good. Again, however, driving back to France, I had a foreboding and stopped by the grocery store and bought ingredients for two meals (and wine!), put some money in my bank account, got some cigarettes. President Macron was set to give an address on Covid-19 that evening. I suspected that he would suspend all educational institutions in France. The Italian experience was becoming alarming.

It was a superb speech, as usual. And it was also the beginning of my realization that this was a serious situation. He did, in fact, close all nurseries, schools and universities “indefinitely.” He urged people not to use the virus as an excuse to distrust or hate “other,” because viruses “do not have a passport or a nationality.” It stunned me (and my husband gave me due credit for predicting this next step, even as I wish that I hadn’t been right).



Covid 19 – March 16, 2020

Aperol in Les Bossons 2020A friend wrote this to me when I responded, simply, to her text about what I was doing in my self isolation, « Drinking in the sun : »

« I take the opinion that if washing your hands with a hydro-alcoholic solution keeps germs away, then filling your body with alcohol will do the same…’Tis a noble sacrifice you are doing for the greater good of la république! »

Indeed. Vive la République! Yes, I’m a regular a dame de la résistance when one considers my coping strategies…

(Though I did write a note to both Emmanuel Macron and Édouard Philippe about what I saw today going in to vote and at the voting station, so that’s something (she tells herself)…).



Covid – 19 March 15, 2020

The Ides of March…

Self InterestJust went to vote. No one taking legal closures and governmental advice seriously…folks were kissing, standing in small, tight-knit groups. The high street pedestrian area was teeming. Two restaurants (of two) in the one km stretch from my home and the voting location open and folks inside eating.

A ski area was open in Morzine and there were lines snaking around the lift station.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what Édouard Philippe said: people are ignoring safety procedures and thus things will get more serious and we’ll end up locked down like Italy! What is wrong with people?!

Went to the local grocery store and saw folks with TWO grocery carts stockpiling. THAT will cause a problem for everyone, but “fuck it! I’m (me, mine, etc.) sorted.”

Now, they’re talking about rationing on the news – not because like the war there was a shortage of food, but, quite simply, because of the mine, mine, mine attitude of people.

This selfish, individualistic, greedy behavior is so stupidly shortsighted and individualistic I could scream. It is, arguably, the source for all the problems in the world today (climate change – overpopulation, habitat destruction, consumer orientation, airplane travel, etc., PM of UK, “prez” of USA, poor public education, evasion of taxes for the welfare of all, etc.).

If I spoke better French, or was a confrontational person, I would have said something to the twats at the voting site, and in the grocery store, “Shame on you!” As it is, I’ll do as the boys sang in “The Book of Mormon” and suppress all the pain of it.

 

 

 

 

 



Covid-19 March 14, 2020
March 16, 2020, 10:06 am
Filed under: Corona 2020 | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
ClaustrophobiaÉdouard Philippe, the Prime Minister of France, has declared that as of midnight, France will shut down everything non essential. Only grocer, newsagents, petrol, chemists, banks will remain open. We are told to only go out for supplies, light exercise, and to vote in the municipal elections tomorrow. The closures are “indefinite.”
They will pay businesses to pay their employees if they must shut, otherwise they must work remotely, taxes due in march will be delayed. (Nothing mentioned about we freelancers who aren’t paid when we don’t work).
This is when the gravity of the situation hits me. They wouldn’t do this unless it was truly serious. This will be a huge, financial hit for the French economy – an economy already drained of its coffers, with an aging population, a lot of social benefits provided to its citizens and not enough tax income.
This is when panic sets in.
I’m claustrophobic – always sit on the end of a theater or movie row, or the outside of a bench in a restaurant, or the side of the bed not against the wall, etc.
We can’t leave.
There is nowhere in the world we could go to avoid this.


Covid-19–March 13, 2020

FondueMy son was thrilled to discover that his school would be closed “indefinitely,” even as we attempted to discuss – in a child’s terms – that it wasn’t ‘good.’  The day was gloriously sunny and the drive up to Geneva was gorgeous and quiet. My school had resisted closing down, feeling it was alarmist and that there was money to be lost – social distancing and staying home if ill or afraid seemed okay. Finding and containing worked in China and Korea, so why not in Switzerland? But I knew that now that the USA had banned Europeans from entering the USA as of midnight Friday the 13th, France had closed all educational institutions from Monday (indefinitely), Belgium, Germany, Spain to follow, and the alarming rate of infection and the consequent lock-down in Italy, Switzerland would have no choice politically but to shut down.

We had a meeting. The head of the school spoke. We would move to online teaching for the high school for the following week and re open the week after. I was devastated. I’m a substitute teacher – at one school, granted* but there can be time between gigs. For me, this was a five-week stint due to an accident, and I was loving being there every day in the classroom teaching literature, and among people who are interested and knowledgeable about books. To close it now was devastating for me personally. Moreover, I wouldn’t get paid if I wasn’t in the classroom. My husband, who runs a touring company, was struggling with the looming threat of Covid-19 hanging over travel and holidays.  We’re building a house and renting an over-priced one next to the land. Ostensibly, the teacher who had had an accident could teach online, so I was out of an income for the moment.

But, what could I do? After classes, I went for lunch with a friend and colleague and it was great. Later, upon return to Chamonix, I went to our local bar to meet friends for a drink while the kids played. It was hopping. I felt a sense of relief and hope by the fact that so many folks were out despite the threat of this disease, even as I also felt slightly anxious and it felt surreal with the jocularity and close quarters when the ‘plague’ seemed to be at our door. After a couple of hours, my husband, son, dog and me left and went to dinner. The local restaurant had some customers, but everyone was sitting at a distance from one other, and we were near the door, so we felt fine and it was a jolly meal of fondue.

And, I began ‘speaking’ to two dear friends I’d known since the 1970’s and early 1980’s, respectively, in Oregon, and who I had just spent my 50th birthday with, about what was going on here as well as there. I believe our text conversations will prove to be the saving grace at this time…

*We were called “floaters” at the literary agency that I once worked for in Hollywood. Floaters were ‘vetted,’ employed, but didn’t have a desk/’master’ of their own, and would help out or stand-in at a given desk or office as was needed.



XV: Cancellation Culture

My brief response to a recent event in France in which, “…the entire board of the César awards, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, has resigned two weeks before its gala ceremony amid growing controversy over the French-Polish director Roman Polanski, whose film An Officer and a Spy leads the 2020 nominations. ‘The French film academy says unanimous resignation was to honour the film-makers and ‘regain calm’ of the festival.’” https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/feb/14/leadership-of-french-oscars-resigns-amid-polanski-controversy

“Liberalism is totalitarianism with a human face.” Thomas Sowell

Femme and fierce - hand drawn lettering phrase about feminism isolated on the white background. Fun brush ink inscription for photo overlays, greeting card or print, poster design.If I disagree with your brand of “feminism,” am I no longer a critical person? If I don’t believe a woman’s claim over a man’s denial, am I no longer a lifelong feminist? By being skeptical about the “Me Too” movement, or French subsidiaries such as Nous Toutes (All Of Us) and Osez le féminisme! (Dare Feminism), am I immediately branded as an unwitting stooge who has been blindly indoctrinated by the global patriarchal system? If so, doesn’t it define those that would judge me thus as narrow-minded, illiberal, and non-progressive?

With the inalterable definition of what it means to be “liberal” in mind, how do many women (and some men) think boycotting a retrospective of a body of work, or a film by Polanski, or ‘banning’ songs written in the 1950’s, or admonishing folks not to look at art that has breasts on display, is going to change the power dynamics between men and women in the workforce, in political representation, even in domestic models? As Johnnie Tillmon once declared: “Every woman is one man away from welfare.” Social systems in which women have to fight to be educated, are judged differently than their male counterparts, are paid less for the same job, are called derogatory names for the same traits men are lauded for, do not form at least half of our representatives in public governance, or on corporate boards, are held to traditional standards as a mother (by both men and women), are expected to be both a mother and a worker (in that order), are the societal elements that need to be challenged and changed. Not the filmmakers, artists, and writers who are generally the first to be killed by a fascistic regime. Nor does forcing the resignation of an entire board of an organization which celebrates excellence in filmmaking going to make a real difference other than to headlines and articles, for the moment.

To be absolutely clear for the more zealous or obtuse: I am not defending the fact that the most of the voting membership for the Cesar’s (or the Oscar’s) are men and that’s not fair. Nor am I defending Roman Polanski the person. I am, however, defending Polanski the filmmaker, whose body of work includes several modern masterpieces. If it’s necessary to attack the cultural industry in order to receive more media attention in the name of modern feminism, could these movements not focus on, for example, why it is that the heads of departments on almost every film (with the exception of hair, makeup, and wardrobe) are invariably men? Or why, even as there is an overwhelming amount of women in publishing, most publishers are men?

Infighting about art and culture is what the capitalistic white men who dominate the world want. They do not care about national boundaries, much less culture, while they play their geopolitical power games. Division, scandal, and media sensationalism decreases the credibility of these feminist movements. Moreover, boycotting films, art, and books is akin to censorship. Does this suppression help or hinder women’s movements that claim to be fighting injustice? Art and the humanities are meant to enlighten us, provoke us, trouble us, entertain us, and inform us. To broaden our minds. To create space inside us that invites redemption, hope, possibility, and reflection about what it means to be alive – even if it’s uncomfortable. Familiarizing oneself with and having a general appreciation of culture develops critical abilities (the basis of democracy and why public education – and the arts – are always under attack). Art celebrates humanity with all of its foibles. The film, the painting, the book is not the same as the person who created it. The person who created it forms part of the context in which the ‘product’ is created, but the operative idea, here, is to have a sense of context.

By fighting over the personal lives (based on hearsay) of filmmakers, artists, and writers, one denigrates their works, many of which are fine and deserve to be honored by us, the public, by both men and women. Otherwise, we risk destroying excellence in film, literature, and the fine arts, and in my opinion, these fields make the world more beautiful, arguably more complicated, and definitely worth living in. By jumping on bandwagons with pithy and/or emotive “handles” because of our justifiable frustration, one is operating within a mob mentality, rather than with judiciousness.  Is it okay to believe a woman over a man simply because of gender? Is it fair to try a man in the media first rather than a court of law? By publicly destroying the careers of those who have brought art into the world by slandering and censoring them in the name of ‘justice,’ are we not also undermining art, artists, culture, the rule of law, and, ultimately, ourselves as rational women?

Just as it’s advisable to “follow the money” to get a sense of bias in politics, I ask you — who does this censoriousness of culture ultimately serve?