Serial Novel “The Sorrows” - November 20

I slept and slept and slept.

And awoke still a little raspy around the edges but hopefully Covid free.

What a nasty disease. It seems to feed on grief, lying in wait until your immune system is stressed or compromised. Until your body second-guesses itself. Then it attacks, seeping into your cells until you recover. Or don’t.

It feels like my mind and body are scrambled and reset, ready to accommodate some new disease paradigm. More voracious and deadly than any previous virus, all the more volatile in modern urban environments. Human congestion acerbates disease congestion.

We’ve designed the perfect environment to bolster and spread viruses. Sitting in my hotel room beset by hotel air conditioning, I feel like a microbe surrounded by hundreds of other microbes. Such mordant thoughts.

I’ve just taken a nasal swab to see whether I’m still infected. Slipped the swab into the vial, rotated and squeezed. Put two drops into the test well and watched it bloom pink across the nitrocellulose membrane.

It’ll take ten to fifteen minutes for the Covid result to reveal itself. Might as well take a look at the newspapers slipped under the door. The Australian has a front page picture and story of some retired climate activist (with incurable cancer, no less) glueing her hand to one of Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans” paintings at Australia’s National Gallery.

Is she protesting processed food? American hegemony? Earlier in the week climate protestors from Extinction Rebellion glued their hands to Picasso’s “Massacre in Korea” at the National Gallery of Victoria. Others splashed a black oil-like substance onto Klimt’s “Death and Life” at the Leopold Museum in Vienna. Threw soup at Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” at the National Gallery in London.

It’s ridiculous. These stop oil activists are losing public support with every action they take. Have we been astroturfing some of them? Deliberately steering them wrong?

Are they drawing a comparison between consumption and climate change? Between culture and climate change? Between public art and climate change? I’m confused by their stunts.

If they were serious about messaging they would choose landscape paintings and glue their hands to the frame, rather than the canvas. Then all the images in the media would be of someone standing up for the environment. Make the content the context. And vice versa.

Still people seem more horrified by the apparent destruction of a painting than the destruction of our planet. Odd to see the depiction of life valued more highly than life itself. The simulation more valued than the reality. Jean Baudrillard was right all along.

Do you ever feel guilty for our hand in all this? Responsible in any way? For me, it was always a bit of a game. Of course we had to help our clients. That’s what we were paid for. But I never expected some of our tactics to become so ingrained in modern life, in modern politics. In business as usual.

Take carbon footprint. That was your idea. I still remember the gleam in the eyes of the BP executives when you first presented it. Their sense of relief was palpable. The idea of shifting the responsibility of carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel corporations to individuals was a godsend.

Shifting the blame onto consumers altered the dialogue and took away regulatory pressures while BP continued to pump out 2 million barrels of oil a day. What could consumers do? Invent new means of transport? Introduce new forms of plastic.

BP. British Petroleum. Beyond Petroleum. Yes, I admit that deft renaming was mine. But at the time I believed they were serious about looking for sustainable, green energy sources. Little did I know.

Time’s up on my Covid test result. Let’s take a look.

Two red bars, I’m afraid.

Still infected.


Thank you for reading this chapter of “The Sorrows”, an experimental serial novel about the end of the world written in real-time by Stefano Boscutti. Subscribe now to receive new chapters for free via email.

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