It begins, as it always does, with a lie. By tracking the virus that caused global havoc at the time, its spread could maybe be slowed down. The Tracing App – TA – was announced at that helpless and panicked moment. But for people in particular areas, without access to test kits and prevented from Intensive Care, soon enough the TA approach defeated its own purpose.
The TA was never meant to help flatten the curve for them. The working classes and racially mixed communities were among those designated to be sacrificed in preventing the virus from getting to others, to the more deserving. De Pijp, an old part of Amsterdam, was demarcated as a space to contain this so-called “herd.” Imagine: Your role is to make sure others get immune, by getting ill or dying yourself. It was the pivotal insult to an immense injury.
Meanwhile, critical reports had already revealed the drama unfolding. Some scientists urged society to prepare for a possible pandemic. Some even warned that certain viruses would mutate with new microbial threats. This was ignored by politicians, many of who were on the payroll or in kinship with the military-pharmaceutical-IT corporations. As the pandemic spread, these companies were invited to special “public input” government consultations, almost salivating to sell lab and tracing tools. They were shameless; it was a gory glory. It was too much.
This was an eerie time, and in retrospect it was the point where the scale tipped. Some people thought the pandemic was mektaab, destiny. Many believed it was a sign of God. Some thought it was the Apocalypse. Depending on where your religious outings took you on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, it was Yawm al Qiyama, Judgement Day, or Yom Kippur…
They all shared an intense hogra, a humiliating kind of hurt. But there was an additional force, a shared intuition that something was going to happen, shaped by that hogra. And a kind of courage stemmed from the sense of being expendable, of having nothing to lose. This is the backdrop to how a few years ago, a moment of incredible serendipity was born during the worst ever pandemic in living memory.