‘Armageddon bored with this’ - why I want to hit fast forward on the pandemic

PUBLISHED: 06:30 06 April 2020

The coronavirus outbreak is spreading across the UK. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images

The coronavirus outbreak is spreading across the UK. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/PA Images

PA Wire/PA Images

Shining humour on to dark times, comedian MITCH BENN says if this was The Walking Dead, he would skip ahead.

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First of all, I hope this finds you safe, well and still relatively sane. I know the waggish thing to do at the moment is to draw satirical comparison between our current plight and the various post-apocalyptic scenarios that film and TV have treated us to in the last few decades.

I’ve made the occasional such observation myself; I noted the other day on Twitter that if you’re able to take your daily government-sanctioned constitutional then it’s definitely worth it if only to soak up the Walking Dead Without The Zombies vibe.

But let’s face it, if this were in fact a zombie movie we’d have hit fast forward by now, having grown bored with this deceptive lull and gotten impatient to see the bit when they storm the good guys’ compound and start biting people.

And I’m in a bit of an awkward situation (uh oh, here comes the Poor Me bit – don’t worry, it’s an incredibly minor gripe and I’ll keep it brief) as a satirist, a professional sender-upper.

It’s still very much my job to poke whatever fun there is to poke, even if I’m having to do it from home these days,
and I’m aware that this leaves me walking a bit of an ethical tightrope in a situation which started with tragedy and is only likely to get more tragic as it goes on.

On the other hand, there’s plenty about this crisis and the way we’re reacting to it both institutionally and individually which is richly deserving of being, at the very least, discreetly giggled at.

For a start; in many of the aforementioned post-apocalyptic dystopian future melodramas, the plot revolves around bands of survivors doing battle for control of the last dwindling supplies of some vital resource. In Mad Max 2 it’s petrol; in its belated sequel Mad Max: Fury Road it’s water; in Waterworld it’s land; in The Road it’s food, and so on.

Now, here we are, facing our own little Armageddon, and what’s the precious resource we’re all fighting each other for the last scraps of?

Toilet paper.

I’m sorry, but if you can’t see anything funny about that then I don’t know what to say to you.

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I’m very aware that I’m in a better situation than most people. For a start, where I live I have access to lots of open green spaces, so not only is my daily walk very much worth taking, but it’s relatively easy to maintain two metres distance from passers-by when I do.

And I’m under very few illusions that satire, for all that people tell me they find it cathartic and relieving, is in any way an “essential” occupation.

One positive I think we can already glean from this crisis is the fact that we’re all being forced to re-examine what our society has, and has not, considered “essential” work in these recent decades.

Smug media types like me have been brutally disabused of any notion we might have had that the world revolves around, or indeed really needs, us.

The people we need are the people who do the things we need; the ones who feed us, clean up after us, the ones who keep the lights on and the water running, and most essentially of all, the ones who treat us when we’re sick.

The very public outpourings of support for the NHS have been heartening; it remains to be seen if we remember that feeling as and when we emerge from this siege and continue to treat the service and its workers with that sort of respect and awe when times aren’t so desperate – and, crucially, require our leaders to do likewise.

And I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved to see anyone as I was last Tuesday morning when the binmen turned out as usual.

It would be nice to think that a post-Covid-19 world might pay more respect – perhaps even more money – to those who do the actual work.

There are those in the media decrying any attempt to “politicise” this crisis, as there always are in any such situation (what that usually means is, “how dare the other side politicise this crisis
while I’m trying to politicise it against them”).

But this crisis is already a political one, as are all crises in a world governed by political considerations. Politics may not have initiated this outbreak but politics, both here and abroad, has determined its progress by determining the reactions of the various institutions charged with containing it.

And while I’m here, I’d like to wish a full and speedy recovery to both Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings.

I don’t wish disease upon anybody, and besides, I’m not finished with either of them yet.

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Almost four years after its creation The New European goes from strength to strength across print and online, offering a pro-European perspective on Brexit and reporting on the political response to the coronavirus outbreak, climate change and international politics. But we can only rebalance the right wing extremes of much of the UK national press with your support. If you value what we are doing, you can help us by making a contribution to the cost of our journalism.

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