Pandemic fatigue: a communist perspective

10 February, 2021

Suddenly, a presumed psychological syndrome, pandemic fatigue, is all over the media. Public TV stations give advice on how to curb it, private ones tell us that 60% of the population is suffering from it. In the newspapers, opinion columns are coming one after another, with varying degrees of wit. The characteristic barrage of all media campaigns never stops, it goes on and on and reaches the fashion magazines and professional newsletters. It’s not innocent and far from helping, it aggravates the situation.

What’s the message

The main message is that all our anxiety, our pain, even our resentment, are the product of the inevitable, a fact of nature that no one can be blamed for. The second is that, although our efforts are useless in the face of the pandemic, they can reduce pandemic fatigue. And, in order to tell us how, legions of psychologists pop up ready to encourage us to accept the new normality and get ready to put the focus on the kind side of reality, verbatim.

Psychology as a trap

Psychology, like all forms of social knowledge, is ideology first and foremost. In theory it confronts problems that are created by the system and that grow as it becomes more anti-human, destroying hundreds of thousands of people in its wake. But psychology willingly limits itself in its response to an individual basis, so it can only offer paths for their adaptation to social conditions instead of solutions.

The supposed help offered to us by Psychology is nothing more than a discourse of internalizing conformity, and in this context, of accepting the political imposition of an infamous slaughter.

Pandemic fatigue is an extreme example: there is no doubt that the anxiety, helplessness and frustration growing these days is a social phenomenon, not an individual misfortune, and that it is caused by the ongoing slaughter. It is necessarily distressing to fear or grieve every day over the disappearance of family, friends and acquaintances; to spend the day engaging in obligatory interactions that are necessarily risky — commuting to and from work, working, attending classes; and all this while not even knowing if we will keep our jobs for long.

The obvious solution is…put a stop to the slaughter. Ultimately, we know that stopping the slaughter is possible. But no. For our media psychologists, the issue is not the causes -evidently social and political- of social distress. Their function is to look for individual triggers and limit themselves to them. The point is to prevent them from affecting us to the point of making us dysfunctional to work and for us to comply, without getting involved in politics. So this supposed help is nothing more than a discourse of internalization of conformity, and in this context, of acceptance of the political imposition of an infamous slaughter.

A different way to understand pandemic fatigue

Accepting our powerlessness as individuals without stepping out of it, conforming without seeking a collective path to transform reality, is no less destructive than denying the problems and pretending they don’t exist.

In reality, pandemic fatigue is nothing more than demoralization. And as with any social problem, the individualistic approach is not the way out, but the way to lock oneself into the problem. Any social problem can only generate impotence -and in the medium term demoralization- if we pretend that it can be confronted at an individual level. The false alternative offered to us by Psychology, accepting our impotence as individuals without getting out of it, conforming without seeking a collective path to transform reality, is no less destructive than denying the problems and pretending they do not exist.

Destructive for every individual, of course, but very useful to power, whose objective is precisely to maintain social conformity in order to impose, without that dangerous obstacle that we call class struggle, the interests of capital: to keep companies billing and accumulating profits no matter what.

How can we overcome demoralization during the pandemic?

Outside the periods of struggle the working class is nothing more than an atomized and powerless mass of individuals trying to survive an increasingly anti-human system. Our only and minimal line of defense exists at the communitarian level: family, close friends… the few human relationships that remain decommodified and in which basic solidarity continues to operate despite the suffocating cultural and ideological environment that individualizes us and separates us from our equals. Condemned to so much loneliness and little refuge, conformity – whether internalized or feigned – is a survival strategy.

Under the conditions of the pandemic, the familiar, the communal, is wounded and threatened; and conformity will not allow us to catch our breath: in order to keep investments going, governments do not want to stop the pandemic

What changes has the pandemic unleashed? First of all, the communal, communitarian aspect is wounded and threatened. The grandparents who took care of the children, now that schools remain open, have become an at-risk population and are no longer an active part of the family. Many have died. With friends, social distance has prevailed. At work, there is no longer even the consolation of a conversation over a sandwich and coffee. Atomization has become even more brutal, even more isolating than before.

Also, it has become evident that compliance does not help one not to drown when what is imposed on us is to keep going on like this, to endure from a given sales campaign to another sales campaign, from summer to Christmas and from Christmas to Easter… Thousands of people are being taken away -and with them the little life they left us- for the sake of businesses that do not even offer us the minimum security of keeping our employment contracts. And the death toll keeps rising. Because governments have no desire to stop it.

Only through battle against anti-human capitalism can the promise of a truly human life be found.

During the old normal only a few, very few, would rally together and try to move beyond the communitarian level into the political. Instead of going with the flow to make it easier to stay afloat, they tried to swim against the current: they formed small neighborhood groups, groups of friends that grew in order to obtain something for everyone or to discuss certain things. Even fewer were those who went another step further and aimed openly at communism. It is not easy. They need to equip themselves not only with clarity of purpose and study the past and present experiences of the working class, but they also need to equip themselves with a new morality in order to achieve it. But that is precisely why it works: only through battle against an anti-human capitalism can the promise of a truly human life be found.