Representations of Home Creative Journal

ROAM - Winter/Spring 2022 - ROAM 2

The Virtual Classes

Margarida Vale de Gato

The romanticization of the quarantine is a class privilege and so is social distancing. The personification (or, worse, the personalization) of the virus is disgusting misanthropy. Agreed, but moving on: framed inside the house, I "met", due to having recently subscribed to Instagram, more people in the last twenty days than in the previous twenty months. I have started following writers and other artists who I realized were my contemporaries far and near, and I now see their photographs, their screens bursting with creativity within my squares, their heart-drawn messages at the window, certainly more uplifting than what their nerve-wrecked imaginations must be contriving, from which an anxious art will perhaps emerge in due course. I correspond, I participate in this streaming palpitation, I share my steps around between the house and the back stairs, mimicking a meta-dance, fake it till you make it.

I am followed by people and follow back people with amusing, foreign, gaudy nicknames, which I have no idea who or what they stand for, even if they, too, share sparkling swan lakes against the plague.

The ongoing colonization of zoom-school, however, takes me away from the virtuoso "lives" to make me wonder whether it's worth shortening the program or replacing content with other more engaging and/or current matters, such as – it seems they're really asking for it – social networks and participatory popular culture. About this, I remind myself: networks increase – as should be evident by their non-abashed advertisement of “filters” – the social divide. Anyone, in theory, can "publish" his or her story, but the windows follow the condominium standard. It is very easy to privatize them and to admit only those who are condoned or recognized as members of the same club. And there is a kind of scorched earth policy: each new network seeks to attract the most gifted (read, wealthy) vanguards and leave the previous performers-aka "opinion makers" for "the people" and for the outdated (this is what happened, according to sociological data, in the transition from myspace to facebook, or from facebook to twitter and instagram).

And yes, we commiserate, we even get emotional and wreck our nerves with "those who don't have our luck", who are going to get much worse in this unprecedented crisis, we hear about them in the footnotes of the viral curve trends, we know about their numbers increasing as they pilgrimage the doors of a place with the beautiful name of "Casal Vistoso," or "a cottage with a view", the Lisbon shelter where the homeless were herded, like a barracks without troops.

Meanwhile, in this "emergent state", I have started following people who I don't know if they have any living flesh. I stopped following those who daily incarnated in front of me, without their seeing or acknowledging much less "liking" me: in public transportation or even sitting on cardboard in front of the supermarket where I continue to physically shop. I don't know if they disappeared because they were persuaded to protect themselves in that shed (and thank goodness for the amazing courage of the volunteers), or if they chased them away out of panic that the virus would spread exponentially with poverty, or if they stopped coming simply because coins were discouraged. Ah, the metal is finally vile, and we are all, as we are requested to be, public health agents, incarcerated customers of surfaces with controlled access.


Margarida Vale de Gato, March 30, 2020


P. S. As I finish this text I see that at 00:16 I received an email from the "virtual school team" that calls me by name and gives "tricks and tips for online teaching". Among them: "don't take more than a day to give feedback to students." This is true. This is all connected and it's not even a plan: overprotect, infantilize, overcharge, de-autonomize, acephalize, insensitize — the virtual masses.

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