Locked down in Sydney

My managed flight for my original return was cancelled at the last minute and since then I have noted, along with others, the confusion of the promised repatriation effort. Originally we were told the airlines and the government were working things out, based on how long people had been waiting and that the airline would get in touch. Already there were three sites to keep an eye on: AirNZ, the Covid response site and a Safe Travel government site, all of them working through algorithms and all with a huge waiting time at their call centres.

And then, out of the blue (I found out through a Stuff article), there had been repatriation flights available on a first come first served basis, which had been gobbled up in fifteen minutes. How anyone knew about them I have no idea. Then it became a matter of people applying on compassionate grounds. But normal AirNZ flights were once again available from July 26th. Why? Their call centre operator didn’t know. The agency processing compassionate applications suggested it was thought (by whom?) that things would be sorted by then. These people couldn’t manage a primary school classroom. The only parameters they understand are the market and consumerism. Cuba would have shifted two and a half thousand people in a week. Algorithms talking to each other create a muddle of the worst order.

And then the matter of quarantine. Those stranded have been here mostly for family reasons, want to get back home, and would be only too happy to self isolate. But self isolation was rejected early on because some backpackers in Queenstown insisted on partying. But this is a different situation entirely. I’m fully vaccinated, had a negative Covid test, could be picked up at the airport by my partner, Caroline, also full vaccinated, driven to Blackball for us both to hunker down, along with the required testing; at no expense to anyone. But how to suggest that? It would require a political party.

As well, during this Sydney experience, I have the realisation that the digital world is now dominant, the ‘real world’ of presence is simply an accompaniment, supporting this dominant sphere. Whatever I do requires registration, user names, passwords, permissions, all faithfully recorded by Chrome and will feed into algorithms. All interactions with the state and with the corporate sector requires this compliance. Individual praxis disappears, to be replaced by irritation growing to anger and then despondency at the endless going around in circles that is characteristic. It is oppressive to realise that the working class reproduces itself, no longer to form the next generation of production workers, but instead to form the next generation of digital consumers. I suspect it is time for a counter cultural reaction, where compliance is rejected, presence is considered vital and relationship restored.

In the midst of this, we watch a remarkable documentary by David Attenborough, A life on our planet. As a ninety year old environmentalist he can trace, through his adult working life, the continuing and fatal degradation of the planet, noting the moments when world leaders could have done something – and mostly didn’t. It’s a tragic and intensely moving documentary. ‘Man shall have dominion…?’ At the moment man is having great difficulty establishing dominion over a tiny virus.

When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?