By Christopher Norris, with images by Martin Gollan and James Gillray
No we’ll never go back to the bad old days,
To the days of corporate greed,
When the bankers thrived on their bad old ways,
And the poor folk went in need.
For when viruses strike they don’t care who pays,
Who’s the bit-part or who plays the lead,
As the thing goes into its critical phase
And the leveller gets up to speed.
Oh we’ll not go back to the years we spent
Being told that the set-up was fine,
Though the good things went to the 1%
And the crap to the 99,
While they tried to muffle the discontent
Among those at the end of the line
By treating the Coronavirus ‘event’
As just that: not for us to repine!
But we’ll not go back to their crafty tales,
To their trickery, scams and lies,
To the nincompoops raised as alpha-males,
And the hedge-fund hiking guys
Whose idea of a game-plan that never fails
Is to chase the brown-envelope prize
Till the plan goes tits-up and a long spell in gaol’s
The just sentence that never applies.
For we’ll not go back to that time before
The Coronavirus struck,
Though it struck all the harder if you were poor
Or temporarily down on your luck,
And not raking it in like those devil’s spore
Soon competing to make a fast buck
From the plagues of the time, whether sickness or war,
With us plebs as their sitting duck.
No we’ll not go back to all that again,
To the age of executive jets
And the time when we thought you could hop on a plane
And then life would be good as it gets.
For it’s now clear as day if you’ve half a brain
That the present’s no time for regrets
If the skies show blue through the windowpane
And the Sun gleams bright as it sets.
No, we’ll not go back to the days of old
When those racketeers ran the show,
When our lives were wrecked by the lies we were sold
And the rip-offs they had on the go,
While their government lackeys did what they were told
Or picked up on the quid pro quo,
And the huddling masses, left out in the cold,
Were the last ones who got to know.
Yes, I grant you, the worst time we had to get through
Was the time when that plague hit its peak,
When the doctors and nurses did all they could do
But a vaccine was still far to seek,
And we suddenly knew, as the death-figures grew,
That for many the prospects were bleak
Since we all, nervous sailors and medical crew,
Were headed up Corona Creek.
But know this: if there’s one bit of wisdom we learned,
As we fretted lest months become years,
It’s that even the worst of events can be turned
To good ends as our retrospect clears;
For there’s strength to be had from those lessons hard-earned,
From the hopes intermixed with the fears,
And the new life discerned as we lock-downers yearned
To make good on those lives in arrears.
So there’s no going back to how matters stood then,
No regressing to times gone by,
When the captains of commerce were masters of men
And their whims could decide: live or die!
Yes, we lived through the virus and told ourselves: when
This thing’s finished we’ll want to know why
The old fixers and fraudsters had done it again,
Screwed us over and wrung us out dry.
Now we’ve made sure their schemes and devices won’t come
Back and bite us, like last time around,
That the billionaires won’t get us under their thumb
Till we end up six feet underground,
That their mansion won’t tower over our little slum
Where the viral infections abound,
And that never again shall they do zero-sum
Calculation of lives to the pound.
A Voluptuary Under the Horrors of Digestion, by James Gillray, 1792
Christopher Norris is Distinguished Research Professor in Philosophy at the University of Cardiff. He is the author of more than thirty books on aspects of philosophy, politics, literature, the history of ideas, and music.