Almost a year has passed now since we started living this life in pandemic limbo. “Unprecedented” is a word that has been thrown around, just as metaphors comparing the virus to a war waged by an invisible enemy have become ubiquitous. Through language, we are conditioned to think of militarism as positive and necessary in combating this crisis—unconsciously consenting to draconian security measures because they are done under the name of public health. Not only is the war metaphor dangerous and wrong, it also reduces the complexity of the problem into something as simplistic as ‘beating the virus’, without first examining the systems in place that allow its proliferation and the catastrophic impact it brought along. The only thing this pandemic has in common with war is what it has in common with other collective crises: it exposed all the ugliness and inequality of the society which we participate in.
Definitely, there are other metaphors. And while they might seem lacking or imperfect, too, they can help us rethink this crisis. In Arundhati Roy’s provocative essay, she likens the pandemic to a portal: