Love in the time of coronavirus and the internet
"Takeout only" sign at Cook's Tortas restaurant in the wake of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, March 18, in Monterey Park, Calif. California governor Gavin Newsom said that all California restaurants should close their doors to dine-in customers with takeout service only. Kirby Lee | AP

Introductory note: The capitalist economy has produced a type of human being who, in moments of crisis such as these times impacted by coronavirus (COVID-19), is capable of buying everything, leaving others who need the same items with nothing. Dagoberto Gutiérrez

No one was prepared for these difficult and complicated times. Overnight, not just one country, but the whole world was thrown into crisis. Now, it is not a war that is causing it, as in so many epochs in humankind’s long history, no. Now it is a virus, not the type that infects a hard drive, that turned into an epidemic and now is a pandemic. Now, what is whipping the human race on a global scale is not the specter of communism, so vilified by the owners of everything. This time, it is a virus, bringing markets to the edge of collapse and making the capitalist system tremble, and not the constantly imagined “red scare.”

Collective xenophobic hysterias, plain craziness, and panic are leading governments to close their borders, schools, universities, churches, beaches, movie theaters, hotels, casinos—in a nutshell, the most prestigious places of entertainment and amusement have had their doors shut. A new recession is coming that could turn into a worldwide economic depression. The nature of the capitalist system is now laid bare; its absurdities and injustices are in plain sight for anyone who will take the time to see them.

Among all the places that are closed, restaurants have had the restriction of social distancing imposed on them, and as a result, expressions of human interactions have been extinguished. Gone are physical contacts and embraces among friends. Almost all contact is now impossible due to the fear of contagion, and the pall of fear is absolute. The virus has one notable characteristic: It does not respect either the poor or the rich, the 99% or the 1%.

This dishwasher recalls something similar that happened in his mother country, during the civil war in El Salvador in November of 1989 (when the Revolutionary cries rang out: Ofensiva al tope or Ofensiva fuera los fascistasOffensive to the Finish or Offensive Out with the Fascists). However today, in the exaggeratedly individualistic country of the United States, the situation is more complicated.

The governor of California ordered the closing of all bars, night clubs, cafeterias and, of course, restaurants, places where thousands of undocumented people (those sin papeles“without papers”) work. So now the places are closed where honest and good men and women worked, those tireless workers and producers of other people’s wealth.

Not working is a major problem that impacts family financial commitments: food, health, house or rent payments, or tuition for their children’s college education. And these only begin to name the expenses, since there are other needs and expenses on which life depends: gas, water, electricity, telephone, cable, auto, and internet.

Since we are under quarantine at the moment, the internet is not a luxury anymore. It is one of the most secure and instantaneous means of contact, more powerful even than the telephone. These days that are stretching into weeks and months can be compared with the title of the novel by Gabriel García Márquez, Love in the Time of Cholera. Just by changing the name a bit, these times could become known in a future history book as Love in the Time of Coronavirus and the Internet.

In some instances, people are sacking the supermarkets—using their credit cards, so to speak. Toilet paper and water lead the list of items, even ahead of food. People fight over these products so much that stores have increased their security.

It is a tragedy to witness restaurants selling food for take-out only, a situation which means that a dishwasher is only washing pots, pans, and kitchen utensils. The dishwashing machines have gone silent. The chefs have little work, and no waiters are needed. Those who worked twelve hours before are now lucky if they work six at most. Many are working half-time, others are completely out of work. For tens of thousands, the economy at the household level is collapsing.

It occurs to this dishwasher that this is the moment for the deepest expression of love—not romantic love, but the kind that finds expression in solidarity with family, friends, and community. It is the only way we will survive the crisis brought on by this pandemic.

Now may be the best time to take advantage of the opportunity to see our fellow humans as brothers and sisters and to make our best sentiments flourish by lending help to those who need it. People most at risk are those over 65 years old, many of whom have mobility issues that do not allow them to go out to make purchases. They need our help.

While the coronavirus is ravaging every continent, collapsing health systems, while the big pharmaceutical corporations reap juicy profits, it seems that workers and people of average means in general once again will bear the burden of the crisis brought on by the virus which, I repeat, does not respect people because of their socioeconomic status.

This dishwasher thinks it is time to organize ourselves to help our loved ones, especially the more vulnerable. At the same time, however, it is the ideal time to raise awareness about the failures of the capitalist system that dominates the globe, and the time to fight to transform it into one that promotes solidarity, is more humane and more all-embracingly human.

There is no doubt that we are living in the period of Love in the Time of Coronavirus and the Internet.

Translated from Spanish by Jacques LaPere. The original Spanish-language version can be viewed here.