How’s the self-isolation and quarantine going?
Going out of your mind trying to juggle work, bored children, your own existential impeding sense of doom and anxieties? Staring at the forbidden outside for so long your eyes have started to tear up? Missing hugging your friends and your loved ones, having a newfound respect for walks in the park, smells of the spring?
Or is it just me?
Regardless of how miserable this confinement is making you feel, remember that each minute you stay at home you’re helping not overburdening health systems, straining nurses and doctors and a medical workforce who was already strained to the point of breaking before the COVID19 crisis. You’re supporting the absolutely crucial workers who are making your confinement possible and comfortable by continuing to go to work (and who are not being supported by governments, or given any protections, or additional raise). And remember that some women are staying home, when home, to use Warsan Shire’s image, is the mouth of a shark, facing domestic violence and isolation. I’m not trying to make you feel bad for feeling bad about this mess, just sharing a reminder that we’re not all equal in this situation, and the reason why is because capitalist interests and neo-liberal policies have worked hard to dismantle social protections, marginalizing scores of individuals.
Most of all, remember all of that when this is over, and vote and support parties and candidates who will not slash health and public service budgets, who will give a fucking raise and meaningfully value workers and stop supporting bankers and their ridiculous bonuses and salaries. The communists do that quite well I’m told. Just something to be looking into.
Stares in Marxism.
But I digress. We were talking about confinement and your mental health.
If there is something that diasporas know how to do, is to alleviate the soul-crushing effects of exile by maintaining connections across oceans and time zones. We are good at social media, good at using every tool under the sun to keep in touch with friends and families, good at finding ways to make the sour taste of isolation and loneliness a little sweeter. Come to think of it, we are also quite good at anxiety, having been raised in often volatile contexts (again, maybe that’s just me?).
It’s therefore no wonder that we put these skills to good use when a massive mutant virus came knocking at our doors and forced us all back into our homes.
Enter the tale of the two brothers.
Like all good stories, this one starts in a kitchen.
Frustrated by Whatsapp’ limitations (‘we were more than four’, ‘we wanted music’, you know, just your usual men moaning about the world not being exactly crafted to suit their needs), Farès and Karim Damien decided to move their friends’ virtual hangouts to Zoom. It allowed for more people. It worked fine. They could play their music. All was well. As Farès puts it ‘if whatsapp had allowed for more people to participate in calls, we might not have had the parties at all’. Thank apps limitations I guess.
Then their friend Emile Sfeir, a DJ, started playing his set just for fun. Split between Switzerland, Germany, Lebanon and France, the group of friends just got into the habit of meeting up, sharing music (with the notable hindrance of Lebanon’s adorably quaint yet are we done with this shit yet power cuts around midnight), and started sharing the links to their calls with friends.
And friends of their friends.
And friends of their friends of their friends.
Until it kind of took a life of its own and The Quarantine Parties were born.
Now boasting sets from DJs like HEAR, and with significantly increased participation, the parties are open, kind of come as you are. Some dance their asses off, others listen to the music and read Gloria Steinem books (who, me? What can I say, I’ve always been useless in clubs) and others just enjoy everyone’s presence, cutting into the quietness and monotony of confined lives.
Great ideas often seem to originate with groups of friends just hanging out. This idea is one of them.
It can seem evident in its simplicity, yet at a moment where every piece of news seems to level up your anxiety, where uncertainty has never been more tangible, where we miss holding close the people we love, sharing music and laughter the only way we can, virtually, seems like a pretty fucking decent way of passing the time to me.
Expressions of solidarity come in multitudes: they can be a whole neighborhood singing Bella Ciao, an older Italian man in a wonderful velvet dressing gown singing opera, people cheering medical personnel on with clapping and pots and pans. They can also come by creating virtual spaces to come together. Music has this power: sharing generosity and humanity when everything else seems to be crumbling. Music truly is magic, it’ll break your heart open.
Join me there if you will, I’ll have a book in hand but I’ll wave and smile. Who knows, I might even dance.