Quarantine ending again.

Our second quarantine is ended more early than we plan. Nobody uses the isolation rules anymore, there is no point to pretend we keep them. We have no time or energy to dig the graves now, and no plastic to carry the dead to them. We wrap them in sheets, but some have already too much decomposed. We bring the remains of our friends to the stinking meadow where we once lay in the sun to read and talk and kiss, and we throw them onto the bodies of our other friends, and we run from that place, coughing and puking, and wash in muddy water from the lake. I think when we finish cleaning the rooms, there will be little detergent left for washing ourselves. There will be more death – not just from the Flu, but other diseases.

Our immunity is weak because we have little food. Li is sick, and the medical team has much work to do. We all fear another raid, but those who refused the quarantine went outside and they say the army camp is worse than us. We outnumber them now. The vaccination did not work – many who had taken it died of the blood flu after the fighting. Now, we think, the soldiers have no more anti-virals, and they are all infected. There will be no backup for them, no new orders. There is no command, no government, no CCP outside the campus. The Party try to keep order in the meetings, but their authority is gone. So is the Quarantine Movement. We must start from the beginning, with nothing. I try to start a new forum app. It is developed by the student occupations in Greece. You can set a time to discuss a topic, and when the time limit is reached, the conversation is frozen, the five posts with the most “up” votes becomes a poll and everybody can vote on a decision. I post about this three times, and I think there is a fault on the forum, because my post is deleted after five minutes each time. Then the forum has a power cut. Then Party members start a thread to say the forum is not reliable, and we cannot use it for decisions.

Many do not want to stay. It is not a safe place now, there are gangs in the campus who steal from other students, and there are gangs outside who will kill us and take the campus if they do not die of flu first. Li says it is because we lose Zhen. Even though he could do nothing anymore, he was a symbol that kept us together. Jian says I should stand for the new leader, that I was always far enough from the committee to not be blamed for their mistakes, that everybody knows I do the hard work, I make sure what we need is done. He says people respect me. But what else will they say to him? I do not think I am special. Those of us who still meet in the democracy building, we are just one more gang, we stay together for protection and because we are familiar. We begin to speak of leaving the campus. It is not our place anymore. I will wait until Li is well before I decide what I will do – I want to stay with Jian and Li, whatever happens. I will miss my cat. I have not seen him for a week. I think he leaves the campus, too.

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Back in quarantine

No time for a meme this month. Now, I am in a quarantine again, only it is not so organised as last time. We avoid close contact, but have to leave our rooms all the time, there are so few of us and so many extra duties – tending the vegetables, gathering the animals, keeping the watch and guarding the little food we still have.

We at least hold the campus. The soldiers fired warning shots and many of us ran, but more stayed and fought them. We thought they would not aim to kill us, but they no longer care about killing. They do not shoot a lot, but we now know this is only because they have few bullets. Many students and staff died beating them down from the walls with broom handles and petrol bombs. This distracted us from the few who came in without uniform, and took much of the food from our stores, and also destroyed the runs for the rabbits and guinea pigs. We caught some of these, but too late. We capture many weapons, and in the middle of the fighting, with people in panic and grief, the few soldiers we caught were shot. We did not want to do this, we wanted to be better than them.

Even during the fighting, the Party leaders keep asking the Quarantine Movement committee members: where is Zhen? Where is our leader? After the fighting, when the army retreat from the walls and we begin to list the loss and damage, we find the answer. He is in the committee meeting room in the Democracy Building, hanging from the light fitting by his neck, leaving a note saying only: “I am sorry, I must resign.”

We have fought up close with the army, so our worst fear now is that many will be infected. We go in teams of three to minimise contact amongst ourselves, and bring the dead to the burial place, by the Jing Yuan memorial. We have no time to dig more graves. We pile up the bodies, including Zhen, and throw on the remaining petrol, but the fire does not take well and there is nothing we can do except leave them, and abandon the meadow and the Yuan buildings.

We gather the little food that remains from a few hidden personal stores of those who died or ran away. There is not really enough to feed us for another quarantine, but we have no choice. We do not even decide if those in the inoculation experiment need to join the quarantine or not. They each decide for themselves. This is wrong and frightening, how we cannot make a decision anymore that everybody will follow. How can a quarantine work if everybody makes a different rule? But we must try.

Recipes for disaster

I cannot think of a good meme for this month. I think only about food, and trying to make sure we have enough to eat, because little comes from outside anymore. So I will do my meme about this. Tell me your recipe for disaster: What are you eating and how do you cook it? Perhaps we can help each other with some ideas.

I will give my answer, but first I must tell you something about me. I am an art student, you all know, but you do not know I could be a medical student. I am very good at biology and other sciences in school, but I do not like to dissect the animals, so I choose to study art. This is because one day in school we have to dissect a rat. We are three girls and one rat, and nobody wants to put in the scalpel. When I am tired with arguing, I say “I will do it.” I get ready, and a boy behind me pushes my arm, so the scalpel slips in the gut of the rat and there is rat shit and bad smells coming out, so we jump back and we are screaming, and he is laughing, and that is biology class – boys laughing, girls squealing and waving hands in front of our faces, and covering our mouth to look around and see which boy is laughing at us the most.

I always love animals, and my cat loves me too, because he brings to me a present – a big present – adult rat, almost 30cm! Now, I feed you, he says. We have very little protein now in our food, with only noodles, rice and some little beans in the store, and sometimes a stew with the lab animals and vegetables we farm, but not much to go around. I am very hungry. The rat smells bad, but looks healthy (except dead). I know it can have many bad diseases and fleas. I wear a mask and gloves to pick it up, and I put plastic on top of the table, and get a sharp knife. If you see me, you will think I am a vet doing a surgery. I think of the dissecting lesson at school, and when the knife touches the skin I am squealing a little. Then I get a feeling, like I am two people, and one is squealing and the other is standing next to her and says: “What is the matter with you? You organise a quarantine. You sit all night with a dead girl in the next room. You bury a hundred people. This is just a dead rat.”

This is when I know I can do this. I am not scared, and I am not squeamish. Truly, I never was. At school, I am squealing because the other girls are squealing. But I am not that girl. Maybe the others are not that girl, too. That girl is not real, and now my life is too real, I cannot pretend to be that girl.

So I am skinning and gutting and washing and cooking my rat with a little cabbage in a little water on the tiny stove in my room, because I cannot go to the big kitchen with private food. I know others do this sometimes, but even though I no longer go to the meetings, I am seen with the committee and must be an example. I put a little in a bowl for the cat, and then I eat everything to the bones. It is not the best, but when you are hungry, everything tastes good. The cat does not agree; he looks at me to say, “I expect better from you.”
“You are right,” I say. “I should be a medical student.”

Maybe if we are still here next year, if lectures begin again, I will transfer.

Building for the future

Whenever we get used to our lives now, there is a new threat to us. The government want to make student campuses into a base for the army. They offer us money, food and electricity in return for this, but we provide these things ourselves now. Our first crops are ready to eat, and science students breed their laboratory animals for some meat – rabbits and others that eat grass are easy for us to keep. The cat is very pleased about this because I can feed him some small piece of rabbit or guinea pig, but I hope he will stay away from the rodent runs. Somebody on the forum says they have seen cats on the campus – I did not say I have been feeding him, as many would see this as a waste, and maybe think the cat is dangerous or can spread disease. I say cats should be allowed to live on campus because they kill the rats and mice, and these spread disease and will eat our food stores.

We wait for as long as we can, but today, we send our answer to the army – we say no, we will keep control on the campus. Soldiers may join us, but they must give up their weapons when they come in, and we will search them for anti-virals and put them each in a quarantine room for 28 days. We wait for their answer, and prepare for what they may do next, but their numbers are small now – many have died in the uprisings in Southern and Eastern provinces. Zhen spoke in favour of refusing the army at a general meeting, and we voted with him. The party members resent that he wins the election and refuses to join the party. They start to say it is weakness that Zhen cannot make a big decision without a vote, that he is not confident in his opinion without the students behind him and will not act like a leader when it is what we need. They begin now to campaign for allowing the army to take over the campus, and say we will have a better organisation this way. Most do not listen to them – we never have any problems with organisation so far – everybody does their jobs well, or tells us if they cannot so we can find somebody else. I say “we”, like I am one of the leaders, and I think many see me this way. I am not in an elected position like Zhen and Li, but I am always with them and do so many organising tasks, and they talk to me about their decisions and respect what I say. They say I must stand in the next election, and I feel more confident now, but still I don’t think I want to do this. I almost want to be back in the quarantine, when all the decisions happen on the forum and everybody is just trying to make the campus work, not to win against another person.

I do not worry about the Party. They fall in many provinces, and they do little now for the people in Beijing. Food growing and delivery is run by local people as much as the army, and is more efficient and a better quality. There is a will to resist, and in the past weeks many speak of 1989. Normally, we cannot commemorate our past resistance, but there is nobody to suppress student protest this year, and so we honour our parents’ resistance and celebrate our own, with hope for the future.

Thinking about hope for the future, there is another quiz from the person who did the disaster meme. Which Utopia are you Building? My answer:

Anarchist Communism in a scarcity environment, e.g. Annares in The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

Anarchist Communism in a scarcity environment, e.g. Annares in The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin

You know that society will never be perfect, but you also know that it can be a lot better than it is now. You can’t eliminate human fallibility, but you can put processes and fail-safes in place so that a society can weather a reasonable amount of petty-mindedness, self-indulgence and indolence, without resorting to the hierarchies that make vices or privileges of them. Most importantly, you recognise that the revolution is never over, and a utopia is not a stagnant society but one that’s free to change and develop its ideals, its processes and its technology towards ever greater freedom for all.

See the story behind this quiz at http://badinfluences.org.uk

Take the quiz: Which Utopia are you building?

Celebrating Youth Day

Today we have a small and strange Youth Day celebration – no parades, but much singing and there were deliveries of food to the occupation, some official, some not. There is a lot of pride and gratitude in what the Quarantine Movement have achieved. Young soldiers and emergency volunteers are also celebrated on public newsnets, and this makes us angry, though I do not think our new leaders will say anything. Zhen wants to criticise them, but he has to think of the party members – he needs their support, to keep us working together.

We are in a difficult place. Students have been talking to soldiers, from a distance, since the end of the quarantine. They are mostly young people like us, and we have the same worries about our families and our future. We know that communications with their commanders are less often and less reliable the last few weeks, and their supplies are not always so reliable, too. They still bring food when it arrives, and when it is low we sometimes give some back to them if we have enough, but we always refuse them to come into the occupation because we know that they have taken the anti-viral drugs. Now we are worried about running low on food for ourselves, and our relation with the soldiers here becomes less friendly. They say we must feed them, because they keep infected people out of our quarantine. We did not ask them to do this, we are always prepared to defend ourselves, but of course if we tell them to stop, they will come in and we will have to have another full quarantine. Requests and favours become threats and demands. We have a safe place and power from our sun, water and bicycle generators, but they have guns and bullets. It is a terrible thing to hope, but I hope they will run out of anti-virals before we run out of food.

Food is very much on my mind now, and I cannot help thinking of food all the time. This meme for the month is also for Elaine, always calling people by food names. Tell me, what food are you like, and why. Not “what food do you like to eat” but what is the food that is most like you. Elaine always calls me “Sugarsnap” or “Beansprout” because she thinks of me and she thinks young, sweet and Chinese. I do not see myself this way. I have discovered, since the quarantine, that I am a mango – yes, there is sweetness in me, but I have a thick skin and hard at the core. I am tougher than I knew. I think, when this is over, when we meet again, I will be a very different person than you knew in Vietnam.

Low on many things.

I only write a short update today, because there is now little electricity from the mains and I must save the battery of my workset. Worse, water supply is also cut off for days. There are rotas now to collect and chemically sterilise water for each block. This is another difficult duty for us, on top of many others – the water collectors must get up at 5 am and each make five trips, carrying 40 litres each time on a bicycle trailer from the lake.

Today, there is a dust storm, so I make the journey each time with a scarf wrapped over my face and dirt in my eyes. These storms are not so bad for the last few years, but we think the “Great Green Wall” must not be tended to this year. I don’t ever remember storms this bad inside a city, though many say it was worse at one time.

Much food is growing, but not yet ready to eat, and supplies get low. I still have my cat visitor, but no longer enough food to spare for him. Still he comes, just to spend time with me. Then he disappears for many days. I wish I could know where he goes to.