What is to be done? The question is asked whenever humankind confronts a new crisis. And the answers, whether from biblical sources, Tolstoy, or Lenin (or indeed Barry Jones in his imminent book, What Is To Be Done?), must confront universal moral quandaries at the same time as they address local needs, hopes, and aspirations.

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Listening to the science: Coronavirus and climate change

David Holmes
Thursday, 22 October 2020

If the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it is that there has never been a better time to respond to the climate crisis than now. The global nature of Covid-19 has made it clear that global issues need a coordinated response and can easily affect the welfare of every human being on earth. The virus has shown us that it is absolutely crucial to listen to the science. Governments, in responding to epidemiological forecasts, have rapidly spent hundreds of billions of dollars on welfare subsidies, enforcing social distancing, protective equipment, mental health services, and vaccine research.

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Bodies in motion: The pandemic, the economy, and the dictator

Paul Muldoon
Thursday, 24 September 2020

‘Healthy People Gather for Your Freedom.’ So read the sign held proudly aloft by a young woman at a protest against coronavirus restrictions on ‘Freedom Day’ in Melbourne. Drawn to the Shrine in a symbolic gesture of solidarity with those other ‘diggers’ who defended Australia against the threat of authoritarianism, she was part of a small crowd with a big message: ‘Freedom is under threat’. A bit like coronavirus itself, perhaps, ‘Freedom Day’ was an accident waiting to happen – not least of all in Victoria. No democratic government can expect to curtail freedoms without stirring up the civil libertarians (both the sane and the crazy), and the restrictions devised and enforced by the Andrews government have been more severe than most. If one is to believe former prime minister Tony Abbott, the premier of Victoria now heads up a ‘health dictatorship’ that holds five million Melburnians under ‘house arrest’. Daniel Andrews, though in truth a champion of social justice, has of late acquired the disagreeable moniker of ‘Dictator Dan’ for putting a plague city into lockdown.

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What's it like losing a parent amid a pandemic? How do we mourn and celebrate when Covid-19 has made all public gatherings problematic? In her highly personal essay 'Contested breath', Sarah Walker explores with wit, humour and an unforgettable poignancy her experience of her mother's death during the coronavirus pandemic, and how to find the space to grieve when the world itself is shaken.

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Coronaspeak: Tracking language in a pandemic

Amanda Laugesen
Tuesday, 26 May 2020

The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all our lives, and little else has featured in the media for weeks. Unsurprisingly, this has led those of us who work with words to track the language of the pandemic (coronaspeak) closely. Here at the Australian National Dictionary Centre (temporarily WFH, of course), we have been compiling a database of the words emerging from the pandemic; from anti-lockdown protest to zumping (being dumped via Zoom), the Covid-19 isolation lockdown has generated its own vocabulary.

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There’s a script for everything. Someone, voice wavering, says, ‘She’s dead’, and you say, ‘What?’ They say it again, and you say, ‘Oh, my god.’ You ask the usual questions, and then hang up and everything is incredibly quiet. You tell your boyfriend, and you both walk around the house trying to pack useful things: a sleeve of Valium, warm socks. You call your brother in London. He texts to say it’s five am there, can it wait? You call back. Before he even answers the phone, he knows.

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'Notes on a Pandemic' by Hessom Razavi

The ABR Podcast
Wednesday, 13 May 2020

In his first article for ABR, 'Notes on a Pandemic', Behrouz Boochani Fellow Hessom Razavi offers a powerful reflection on the current Covid-19 crisis. Dr Razavi, an ophthalmologist, reflects on his own clinical experiences and interviews with senior medicos (including Dr Nick Coatsworth, the Deputy Chief Medical Officer) to provide a nuanced and compelling portrait of our changing lives. He examines the ways in which society has responded to the pandemic and questions what kind of world his daughter (due shortly) will be born into.

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I was operating when it arrived. Between patients I read the email hastily. It concerned an article from surgeons at Stanford University. Along with colleagues in the United States, Italy, China, and Iran, they were reporting an increased risk of death from Covid-19 among otolaryngologists, neurosurgeons – and ophthalmologists, like me. Surgery around the nasal passages or other mucous membranes of the face seemed to release a potentially lethal aerosolised load of the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Among the casualties were surgeons in their thirties.

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On living in a time of Covid-19

Robyn Archer
Monday, 27 April 2020

Closeted but not isolated, everyone will have a story, so there’s nothing special here. But the common difference is clear. When it’s about Brexit or Trump there, it’s us to them; when it’s bushfires here, it’s them to us. We have been globally entwined for decades, but the economic and political truths are mostly covert. It’s taken Covid-19 to put us all overtly at the same risk at the same time.

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'The Golden Age of Television?' by James McNamara

The ABR Podcast
Wednesday, 22 April 2020

During the Covid-19 crisis, many of us are surfeiting on television drama from Netflix, Stan, and the rest of them. Back in 2015, we published James McNamara's Ian Potter Foundation Fellowship essay 'The Golden Age of Television?', which considers the ascendancy of television drama and its cultural significance. Listen to James reading his essay, which appear in ABR's film and television issue in April 2015. 

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