Anthony G. Reddie
Extraordinary Professor, Theological Ethics, University of South Africa
Director, The Oxford Centre for Religion and Culture, Regent’s Park College, University of Oxford
Vulnerability: Embodied resistance during Covid-19?
The current Covid-19 Pandemic has led to an apocalypse like existence as much of the world has ground to a halt and ‘normal life’ has ceased to exist. As the usual neo-liberal economic has been postponed and social distancing as seen the near collapse of our usual embodied and embedded social, cultural and economic routines, we are increasingly seeing a marked tension between those who want us to return to our existing normal as soon as possible. While some want us to return to our existing normal in order to preserve the old world order, often at variance with any scientific evidence to justify such a return, others are cautioning against the politics of return, feeling that a ‘pause for thought’ is necessary at this troubled time.
This paper, written under the aegis of the ‘Protest’ motif, seeks to explore the nature of protest against the prevailing clamour for a return to the old normal. At the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic it was often asserted that the deaths of people from across strata of society represents the virus as ‘a great leveller’. However, the disproportionate deaths of Black people and those at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder has shown us that the Covid-9 pandemic is a ‘great revealer’ than a leveller. Covid-19 is a revealer in that the disproportionate deaths poor Black people has shown us the iniquitous nature of global, neo-liberal capitalism that has rendered the primary victims of this pandemic as disposable, collateral against a system that has been rendered as normal. This essay argues that the Covid-19 pandemic has provided us with a painful moment of pause; an opportunity to stand back and reflect on the kind of world of which we want to be a part. The essay argues that the necessity of protest, grounded in the substantive theo-ethical commitments of justice found in liberation theologies, is one that is needed if we are to challenge the knee-jerk desire to return the ‘same old, same old’. The depth of inequality of our present world order has been laid bare by the Covid-19 pandemic. The disproportionate deaths of poor Black people have shown the brokenness of the existing world order. We cannot and should not go back to the existing normal. This paper argues for such a change.