«Culture means assistance from person to person and from nation to nation.»
Like other countries, France suddenly found itself confronted with the COVID‑19 pandemic. The draconian curfew, the rules of hygiene, the extreme restrictions on all freedom of movement were quickly accepted and implemented by the population as a whole, although there were severe penalties for the few dodgers. Now is not the time to dwell on polemics or the various conspiracy theories currently circulating on the Internet; we must face up to the situation.
Forms of solidarity
The generations that currently have both feet on the ground have not experienced the war and its hardships, while older people can still remember the restrictions very well. And yet everyone is now on hand to show solidarity, to care for people cost-free, to do voluntary work, to be attentive and understanding. The restrictions induce some people to rediscover family life; others enjoy good reading or rediscover old recipes, so as to cook for others.
Gestures of attention towards the poorest and those who are particularly affected by the situation are increasing. We encounter generosity everywhere, and this is like a balm for the soul, since we feel care and fellowship in the face of this difficult situation.
Since the curfew came into force on 17 March 2020, many people throughout the country are in an even worse situation then before, although their lives had sometimes already been difficult previously: the elderly, the disabled and the homeless. They are particularly and directly affected by isolation.
The schools are closed, but the teachers are ready to look after the children of the medical staff there.
Many volunteers are getting in touch with farmers seeking help.
Since the outbreak of the crisis, there have fortunately been repeated expressions of solidarity in people’s immediate vicinity, such as offers to take over shopping for the neediest neighbours. In order to support these small but no less great deeds, the government has set up a platform (jeveuxaider.gouv.fr.) where you can register as an individual or as an association to provide this kind of help.
An expression of gratitude
It is touching to see how every evening at 8 p.m., in big cities as well as in villages, people step out onto their balconies or go to their windows, and there either sing the national anthem or make other music to express their gratitude to the doctors and nurses who are in the front lines of this health war.
In Paris, the Eiffel Tower remains illuminated throughout the evening, displaying a large MERCI to honour the nursing staff and all other emergency personnel.
It must also be emphasized that many people working in the health sector (professors, doctors, radiologists, anesthetists, nurses, etc.) have put aside their social and financial demands because of the current crisis in their hospitals. Instead, they are on the spot and persistently and courageously care for their patients.
At the request of the bishops, the bells of all the French churches rang for ten minutes at 7:30 p.m. on 25 March, i.e. on Annunciation Day. This was to be in support of the grieving families and the nation as a whole.
China has not forgotten that France helped them by supplying five million protective masks during the growing epidemic. In return, planes from China have now landed in France to distribute parcels of masks.
Because a gardener from Plergier had to close his shop, he was left with several thousands of flowers that he was unable to sell. He decided to use them to decorate the graves of the municipal cemetery. His gesture was well received by many people, and some florists have since emulated him.
The emergency personnel at the Lapeyronie hospital in Montpellier were in for a pleasant surprise: a restaurant in the city delivered 60 pizzas in support of them, as it had been forced to close.
Three production plants of the luxury group LVMH, which normally manufacture perfumes and cosmetics (Dior, Guerlain and Gucci), are producing large quantities of disinfectant gel which they make available to hospitals.
At the insistence of the public authorities, the SNCF (French Railways) has had to drastically reduce the service of its intercity trains and TGVs. One train, however, has served as an infirmary and brought the necessary medical equipment, nursing staff and 20 COVID-19 patients to the hospitals in Angers, Le Mans, Nantes and Roche-sur-Yon.
The hospital of Saint-Brieux in Brittany has provided a template for a do-it-yourself fabric mask for nursing staff and for all others also needing a mask. All dressmakers, even beginners, have taken out their sewing machines and their own fabrics at home and started sewing the mask, the instructions for which you can download on the internet. Even if these fabric masks do not correspond to FFPP2 masks, they are still helpful, provided you wash them daily at 60 degrees.
Return of businesses and national sovereignty
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we are experiencing an explosive revitalisation of local products, especially in the agricultural sector. Common sense seems to be returning! For whatever reason should we buy garlic from Chile, when Provence is the area par excellence for growing garlic, which is also widely used in the regional cuisine.
Many companies with branches all over the world are seeing their turnover plummet due to the borders being closed, and are therefore considering distributing their products locally and within their own respective country! Common sense seems to be returning here too!
On the occasion of an appointment with a mask manufacturer in a suburb of Angers, Emmanuel Macron, in a speech, renounced his usual liberal statements and instead expressed himself clearly in favour of state sovereignty. To be precise, our Head of State demanded “the complete independence of France” concerning the production of masks. By the end of the year, France is to be independent in the production of masks, whether they are FFPP2 masks, surgical masks or category 3 or 4 masks. “Produce more and thereby restore our independence”, those were his words.
Taking curfew with a touch of humour
During the time of the corona virus and in view of the pandemic, laughter is a real challenge. The French love to laugh. So there are many posts on the subject of “Stay home!” Let us here quote a modified entry from the famous Routard travel guide, which suggests: “A new destination in 2020: your home! Your essential guide to discover the most extraordinary corners of your habitat!”
Since curfew began on 17 March, we have been inundated with videos, drawings and parodistic messages. Some of us laugh and send them to our loved ones via Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, etc. Because humour is good to keep a bit of light-heartedness and to keep in touch with your relatives, family, colleagues and friends, when you have nothing new to tell about the days that are slowly becoming always the same.
And after all, isn’t it said that “humour is the polite form of despair” even though most of us don’t have a relative who was killed by COVID-19?
Internet users are talented, and children are not spared either: there are ironic entries about their begetters, who in a closed world are now discovering who their children really are: “thinking of all parents who are beginning to realise that the problem may not always lie with the teacher.”
Taking things with humour is a survival strategy in such scary situations. Humour is the drive that allows us to experience a situation less dramatically.
Given what life has planned for us, we have no choice. What we can very well decide on, however, is how we deal with the situation. To approach this historical situation in the most constructive way is the attitude that must be cultivated so that goodwill and solidarity can spread in this one world of ours. Creating and re-establishing connections is the top priority in a society that tends to allow itself to be quickly divided. •
(Translation Current Concerns)
In face of the corona pandemic, Pope Francis is calling for a worldwide ceasefire. At his Angelus prayer on Sunday [29 March 2020] he joined a corresponding appeal by UN Secretary General António Guterres.
He invited everyone to follow it by “ceasing all forms of hostility,” the Pope said during the prayer that took place in the Vatican without outside participants because of the coronavirus crisis. Francis also promoted for the “creation of humanitarian aid routes and the opening of diplomatic channels”. It was now necessary to focus on “those who are in situations of great vulnerability.”
“May our joint fight against the pandemic bring everyone to recognise the great need to reinforce brotherly and sisterly bonds as members of a single human family. In particular, may it inspire a renewed commitment to overcome rivalries among the leaders of nations and the parties involved.”
“Conflicts cannot be resolved by war”
Guterres had called for an end to all fighting in New York a few days ago. “End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world,” he said in a video message. “That is what our human family needs, now more than ever.” The United Nations Secretary General offered the assistance of the United Nations to negotiate ceasefires. These are necessary for humanitarian aid and for new diplomatic initiatives.
Conflicts could “not be resolved through war,” the Pope warned. “Antagonism and differences must be overcome through dialogue and a constructive search for peace.”
(Translation Current Concerns)
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