With only a handful of stories away from publishing the 100th on their platform, the team behind 'Spread stories, not the virus' reflects on contributions we've received the past weeks - and how sharing lived experiences and alternative perspectives inspires global solidarity.
As Covid-19 continues to spread, our physical lifeworlds increasingly shrink. From New York City to Lagos, we’ve witnessed how major cities go into lockdown, resulting in one-third of the world’s population finding themselves in quarantine.
Social distancing has become the norm for more than 2 billion citizens around the globe. It’s a new reality that should never be considered normal. However, it is an experience that encourages us to either look outward through circulating events and political acts, or reflect inward through introspection and the arts of everyday practices. Since the publication of our piece “Why we spread stories in times of Coronavirus” last week, Spread stories, not the virus has received more diverse perspectives and voices from a variety of regions and contexts. We’re only a handful of stories away from publishing the 100th on our platform.
We’ve shared stories from Prishtina to Brussels where citizens mobilise themselves against injustice; from Wollongong to Rotterdam where communities turn themselves into families; from Venice to Tbilisi where individuals let their reflective thoughts wander. With our mobilities limited and our bodies contained, a new proximity emerges: it is a sense of proximity among us when the physical adjacence disappears. As citizens from cities around the world show, this human proximity encourages us to empathise with struggles we tend to overlook (Antwerp/Iran), acknowledge our privileges (Italy), care for vulnerable groups in society (the Netherlands), make some fun in times of despair (Kolkata), and think about our differences and similarities (Seoul). Such a sense of proximity encourages individuals and initiatives alike to make change possible as we are given the premise to feel others. Click on the links to read last week's highlighted articles.
Picture collage of pictures of stories published on our website.
Nevertheless, this much-needed proximity has been absent in political leadership dealing with Covid-19 so far. Parliaments around the world have gotten bogged down in short-sighted thinking and nativist instincts - there’s far from a consensus on which guidelines to follow, measures to implement or best practices to adopt. Against the backdrop of the reinstatement of national borders across Europe, its leaders have clashed over how to pull Italy’s and Spain’s economies through this crisis. In the US, the Governor of New York Andrew Cuomo pushed back hard against the idea raised by President Donald Trump of easing restrictions from mitigation efforts in an effort to revive the national economy.
Yet, in some of the places where this consensus is found, the protection of human rights is at stake. In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro contradicted his own health ministry by urging people to return to work and schools, risking the reinforcement of precariousness and urban segregation in many ways, a concern which was shared with us in a story from Rio de Janeiro. The measures adopted to stop the spread of the virus in Shanghai, China has advanced the implementation of surveillance technology, as raised in another story we received.
Across the globe, we see local, citizen-driven actions promoting human dignity sprout. Italians are taking to their balconies to sing patriotic and uplifting songs, people across Spain open their windows to applaud and call out "Viva los medicos" – long live doctors. However, societies can also learn from practices originating from the Global South on how to cope with Covid-19 based on past challenges. The SuSana Distancia cartoon character from Mexico is an example of such a local initiative. Originally developed for the 2009 swine flu, the campaign is still successful in encouraging solidarity and promotion of social distancing more than 10 years later.
Local and national efforts seem to lack the international connection and coordination that our initiative is trying to foster and that citizens around the world seem to be reaching for. As a result, ideas and practices do not succeed in traveling beyond city limits and country borders. The pandemic doesn’t stop at borders, but so far many of the efforts to cope with it do. That’s why it is a critical moment for us to pursue global solidarity.
'The pandemic doesn’t stop at borders, but so far many of the efforts to cope with it do'
Global solidarity has been at the core of our initiative from its very start. We strongly believe that this crisis won’t be solely solved in laboratories or through conference calls between world leaders. Global solidarity does not only require the commitment of political leaders on the international level but the exchange and harmonisation of local actions and initiatives as well. Therefore, we provide a space for the interaction, connection and promotion of narratives from across the world: stories that present lived experiences and alternative perspectives from different cultural and geographical contexts.
The stories shared on our platform not only inform, expose and educate us about alternative and inspiring actions and practices; they promote solutions for resilience and recovery as well. It is one step towards building such a space of encounters and promoting global solidarity by fostering interaction, connection, and promotion of acts of humanity, big and small, in communities and across borders.