Facebook Statuses in the Shadows of Corona (20 )March-20 April

20 March – Full curfew in Jordan as of 7am Saturday. No duration is given but some think it will be eased down in 3-4 days.

22 March – Enjoying the curfew #Corona_in_Amman

29 March – (long note on walking in the shadows of Corona)

The air raids’ sirens are blaring out continuously. Loud, ominous. But nobody is running to bunkers. We have no bunkers in Amman to start with. The ceaseless wailing tells us that the sun will set within one hour and that the few hours given to us every day to walk around and outside our homes, to buy our food supplies, medicine, bread and see other humans are over. Now, until 10 am, tomorrow morning, we are home and subject to a strictly enforced curfew. 

I got to drive today around town in a diplomatic car and passed one checkpoint after the other. Sometimes hooded soldiers with machine guns checked whether you have a special permit to drive under curfew. How do you fight a virus with bullets?

Streets that used to be crowded in this daily rush hour are eerily empty. It is like humans have been snuffed out. All faces are serious, most of them partly hidden by masks, even if loosely worn and hanging underneath their lips.

I do not know how to describe my feeling. This feeling I have is new. It is not fear. I have several times experienced cold fear that paralyzes your internal organs and let one feel his heart pounding inside his chest. I have also lived through extended periods of high risks and unpredictability to the extent that I got inured to living on the edge or to precarious conditions over shifting sands, but never ever had I thought of being in such a dystopian reality. Neither fear nor dread but a sense of a non-dramatic end of the world as we knew it. I lived through wars, violent street protests, terrorist attacks and such trying circumstances and then often I crossed to the other side with new stories to tell, more humility, some anger and a bit of wisdom (I hope), but I have absolutely no sense of what the other side looks like now and cannot think it could be similar to what we had before. 

The calendar will forever change to denote BC and AC years; Before and After Corona. And these AC years will hopefully be different and more hopeful than we now think as much as the BC years no longer appear as depressing and menacing as we all thought!

30 March – The imposed public or self-confinement is forcing many people to open old books and settle unfinished business. For Facebook in the Middle East and probably beyond, this seems to translate into searching many pages for many years back and sanctioning people based on algorithms that punish posts which may have words such as resistance, bombs, protest, etc., or talk in a certain way about complex political issues like Israeli occupation or violent protest (by anybody), etc. Can #Facebook_MENA fix their algorithms? They will claim that they are fighting fake news but they are now behaving like the thought police on a free commercial platform…

30 March – It is really way past bed time, I said. “If you do not brush now and go to bed you are grounded over the weekend”. Then me and the children looked at each other and burst out laughing till our tummies hurt!

3 April – In the middle of this global existential crisis, Lockheed Martin continues a $29Bn contract for new fighter jets. Maybe they can equip the killing machines with anti-viral guns and COVID-19 sensors! Long live the military-Industrial complex in a country where 40% of the population can raise only $400 in the case of a sudden emergency!

5 April – “I am actually doing fine and getting lots of writing done,” I said. He sounded sarcastic: “you are in denial, this confinement will get to you, stop fooling yourself, you will see!” A WEEK LATER. “I am a bit bored and unfocussed today, also unmotivated,” I admitted. “Ha, you see, I told you, it is just going to get worse.” With people like these, Corona has no business pulling us down! Both the self-righteous pessimists and the naively optimist will have a special place in hell shackled together to serve as part of a reciprocal psychological torture arrangement.

16 April – Could not comment on the US defunding of WHO for two days as I was laughing non-stop. So UN agencies render services to strong member states or are manipulated or put under pressure by them!! Really!! NO?! In the winter of 2002, four whole months before the US invasion of Iraq, I saw firsthand a full proposal by a UN agency that was sent to the US government to help provide food aid for all Iraqis after the planned Americans invasion of Iraq. Washington DC would have to pay the whole cost of the programme or about USD800 million. I and several other people in the organizations were shocked and some of us were smart or principled enough to talk the American head of the organization out of this proposal. We did that out of concern for appearing publicly as a part of the US overall military strategy. Later in 2003, the UN food aid organizations carried out this very operation which was largely funded by the US but as a multilateral aid operation. I have a ton of stories on the complex relationships between strong member states and senior management of UN agencies in which both connived and conspired for corporate or political gains. This is a complex challenge but to do what Trumps did with WHO is outside the realm of reason, and even below dirty politics, it is just simple and pure insanity!

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