There are many cruel ironies about the situation we are living through.
Being forced to stay at home, yet looking increasingly homeless as one’s morning constitutional is reduced to rolling out of bed and grabbing the same pair of sweat pants for a month.
We have all seen the meme of the exponential rise in time spent looking at exponential graphs.
That to ensure social distancing and force everyone to run and walk simultaneously results in the whole of Sea Point converging on the promenade resulting in a flash mob of the type last seen when the newly announced president of the ANC decided to get his tenure off to a good start by taking an early selfie with his core support base in his electoral heartland around La Perla.
But viewed from afar, by the most tragic and profound irony has been the social and economic effects of the measures to control the spread of this frustratingly stubborn virus.
If there is one thing all economists agreed on BC (Before Covid-19) it was that we live in a far too unequal world. Since the Halcyon Days of 1990s, increasing inequality has been a global quandary.
South Africa, as we all know, vies with Brazil for the top spot in the Gini Coefficient league table.
But just when it looked like things could barely get more unequal, when it seemed that we had reached peak-neoliberalism and surely some kind of Ramamagic would help the downtrodden without affecting the lives of those in Sea Point, corona comes along.
Because one of the very most insidious things about this crisis is it affects people in a way that is inversely related to the size of the balance sheet you entered with. If you’re Germany, no problem; test the entire population, bail out Lufthansa, helicopter money on all and sundry, and it’ll be back to Oktoberfest by September.
This is no ordinary recession.
Even Italy, where I am sitting, only seems particularly concerned about the fact that churches are still not opening for Mass and parents who have been dealing with the reality of children cooped up in Milanese apartments, will not be able to go back to school (or – horror of horrors – summer camp) until September.
Even when the debt to GDP of the Eurozone climbs exponentially (once again, there’s that word again) it is not too much of a problem because “Mevrou” [Christine] Lagarde in Frankfurt will just be forced to buy all of it.
But when you’re a country with an economy that has already been in freefall for five years, when the piggy bank is empty, when your unemployment rate is already around 30% and when the government has been managed for one purpose only – extracting value for a home renovation in Dubai – then all bets are well and truly off.
In developing counties which do not have high standards of living, where household savings are not substantial, where social security safety nets are questionable, which do not have “hard” currencies and which already run budget deficits, the economic and social costs of a lockdown are perhaps greater than the benefits. On this I am not sure, but I am starting to think that might be the case.
The most cruelly ironic effect of this crisis may be to widen the inequalities in an already horrifically unequal world.
OPINION: Natale Labia