Wuhan-based writer 方方, who has been a formidable force in Chinese literature, has been writing blog entries illuminating the tragedy left in the wake of the COVID19/coronavirus. I translated a paragraph in which she lashes out in anger at people that consider the city’s anguish under COVID19 crisis overblown. —Rui Zonh; translator
Wuhan is in the midst of a catastrophe, but what is a catastrophe? It’s not just something that makes you wear a mask, that shuts you inside for few days, or seals off your neighborhood except to passholders. A catastrophe is when a death log that took a hospital months to fill completely now takes several days; catastrophe is when a car taking bodies to a crematorium carries away body bags instead of one body at a time in a coffin.
Catastrophe isn’t one person dying in your family, but an entire family perishing within a few days or within a fortnight; Catastrophe is you dragging a sick body in every which way in the cold and the rain, trying to find a sickbed that will take you, and finding nothing. Catastrophe is you taking a number in the hospital queue first thing in the morning to dawn of the next day. Maybe you get called, maybe you don’t, but you already collapsed. Catastrophe is the hospital telling you a bed is free, but you’ve already taken your last breath waiting. Catastrophe is the when moment a gravely ill person enters the hospital, and realizing that if they die, that that moment is the time of farewells to the family, and the last moment they’ll ever see each other.
Do you really think that in these times there are funerary arrangements that can be made for the family? That there are wills to be written, or if the dead can have the dignity that they deserve? No. The dead are the dead. They are hauled away and then immediately burnt up.
During the early days of the epidemic, there was no man power, there were no hospital beds, and there were no protections in place for medical personnel. Infection was widespread, and there weren’t enough people to staff and transport bodies to crematoriums. There weren’t enough cremation ovens. Yet the bodies carried the virus, and needed to be burnt as quickly as possible.
Are you aware of this at all? It’s not a lack of effort from the people, but the arrival of a catastrophe. The people have given their all, even overworking themselves, but still there is nothing to stop chatterboxes from saying otherwise.
Inner peace is impossible in the time of a catastrophe. There is only the unwillingness of the sick to die, only families worried sick, and the struggle to live by those close to death itself.