A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 88

You could look it up!

Sunday, June 7

From the Encyclopedia Prosveshcheniye, 2050 edition

COVID-19—An infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-COV-2) at the center of the 2020 pandemic that killed at least 1.5 million people after spreading to over 300 countries across the globe. First thought to have reached humanity after originating in Asian bats or pangolins, it is now believed to have started among a West Texas (U.S.A.) evangelical cult that eschewed all vaccines created after the year 60 A.D., when the apostle Peter is said to have founded the Roman Catholic Church.

There were major outbreaks of the pandemic in China, Western Europe, and the United States during the spring and summer of 2020. The virus seemed to be on the wane in June, then returned in force in the fall of that year in South Carolina, Missouri, and Florida, where U.S. President Donald Trump (see Celebrity Apprentice, Mar-a-Lago) held a series of late-summer campaign rallies jointly sponsored by major police unions. The President’s putative electoral opponent, the Communist former vice-president Joseph R. Biden, also had plans to hold a series of rallies prior to the Department of Homeland Security’s cancellation of the election in the interest of national security. Biden was tried, convicted, and imprisoned for attempted election fraud in January of 2021.

A number of popular 21st century celebrities are thought to have succumbed to the COVID-19 pandemic. Country singer Pecos “Heartbreak” Medvedev and pop artists Ariana Warcraft and Angelina B were all probable victims, as were three members of the steampunk revival band Wehrmacht. FOX News on-air personality Gretchen Marie Kosciukiewicz was quarantined but recovered, something she attributed to to her mother’s home remedy, a mix of Rebel Yell whiskey, Hydroxychloriquine, and Calvin Klein’s Eternity.

There were no cases of COVID-19 in Russia or in North Korea. The countries are widely respected for having charismatic and visionary leaders.

Although a number of pharmaceutical companies such as Moderna, Gilead Sciences, and GlaxoSmithKline worked to create vaccines, no successful vaccine ever emerged to put an end to the pandemic. Instead, COVID-19 is still raging around the world, with seasonal outbreaks still the norm.

Dinner: leftover broccoli stir-fry with chicken and mushrooms, cold noodles with sesame sauce.

Entertainment: episodes of the Netflix series Traitors.

A Journal of the Plague Year 2020–chapter 70

Norwegian Vidkun Quisling along with SS head Heinrich Himmler.

Monday, May 18

If you have been reading this blog, you can’t have missed the fact that we’re seeing plenty of streaming video. One show that we’ve watched a lot—two and a half seasons’ worth—is the Netflix Norwegian political thriller Occupied.

It’s like The Sorrow and the Pity as penned by Greenpeace.

And it’s a bit hard to watch because of its length and also because you are forced to ponder whether you can believe what any of the principals say or even understand what motivates them.

Here’s the idea. Norway, which controls a big portion of the North Sea oil and gas reserves, elects a Green Party government, which says it’s going to turn off the carbon-fuel taps to the rest of Europe.

Immediately, the Russian army takes over Norway’s oil and gas fields. They kidnap the Norwegian prime minister, Jesper Berg—and you see him quickly back down on his campaign pledges. Crucially, the Russians have the support of the European Union, which worries about the effect of a fuel shutoff.

Russian apparatchiki, working out of that country’s Oslo embassy, assert more and more influence over Norway’s affairs. Russia’s strong-willed, manipulative, and wily ambassador enlists the head of the country’s secret police as an ally. She bullies various members of the Norwegian political establishment and E.U. governmental leaders, always seeming to get her way.

A Norwegian resistance movement appears. Its initial rallying cry is “Free Our Soldiers,” since Norwegian coast guardsmen who attempted to liberate one fuel installation were taken prisoner by Russian troops. A more formal group that includes much of the Norwegian military appears: Free Norway. Jesper Berg joins with them.

But a lot of the show’s Norwegian principals collaborate with the Russians. Some believe they have no choice–and invent idealistic reasons for their behavior. Others do so to avoid outright war against the formidable Russian army. Still others simply follow the path of least resistance while also feathering their own nests. Compromise and collaboration infect the whole society. Before long, Free Norway appears subjugated. An opportunist politician becomes the new prime minister.

But just as his life seems in peril, Jesper Berg escapes, first to Poland and then to France. He rallies support from a number of Eastern European countries and begins making his way back to Norway aboard a Polish ship. Russian warships establish a blockade—but he refuses to surrender and the Russians give way. He returns to Oslo, appears to negotiate a coalition government with the puppet P.M.—and then, she is assassinated.

Except for the last part, doesn’t this sound a lot like Nazi-collaborationist Vichy France—and the sharp-elbowed, egomaniacal Charles de Gaulle? Or perhaps like Norway’s own experience with Nazi collaboration: the regime there was headed by Vidkun Quisling, whose very name has become synonymous with collaboration. Many of the Occupied characters see themselves as being motivated by lofty ideals—but we can see that everyone is actually motivated by base self-interest.

The Sorrow and the Pity is Marcel Ophuls’ lengthy 1969 documentary about the Nazi occupation of France and the Vichy regime. That film obliterated the notion, commonly held in France, that almost no French people collaborated with the German occupiers. But in Ophuls’ film, the many collaborators come across as wormy and cowardly. Occupied is actually more nuanced, allowing viewers to see things from the collaborators’ self-justifying points of view. 

Tonight’s dinner: pasta with roasted red peppers, goat cheese, and toasted walnuts along with a lettuce and cucumber salad.

Entertainment: two more episodes of Occupied, plus one installment of Our Planet.