The strange thing about COVID-19 is that those who have it have suffered from extreme fatigue and exhaustion. The illness seems to have triggered the core fatigue. There are an increasing number of reports from patients who have recovered but continue to suffer from severe persistent symptoms, one of which is “chronic fatigue.” The phrase “battery can no longer be charged” describes this situation very well. People with COVID can no longer work or perform. They had to put all their energy into just pouring a glass of water. When walking, they often have to stop to catch their breath. They feel like the living dead. One patient recounted: “My feeling about myself was like a cell phone with only 4% battery left, and this 4% battery lasts all day, it can’t be recharged anymore.”
But the virus doesn’t just make people with COVID tired. It causes even healthy people to fall into this condition. In the book Pandemic! Covid-19 Shakes the World (Pandemic! Covid-19 shook the world), Slavoj Zizek devoted an entire chapter to the question “Why are we always tired?” Zizek has clearly felt the fatigue the pandemic has plunged us into. In this chapter, Zizek argues with my book The Burnout Society, arguing that exploitation by others has not been replaced by self-exploitation but has only translocated to Third World countries. never mind. I agree with Zizek that this move took place. The Burnout Society is primarily concerned with Western neoliberal societies, not Chinese factory workers. But through social media, neoliberal forms of life have also spread to Third World countries. The rise of solipsism, atomization, and narcissism in society has become a global phenomenon. Social media turns us all into producers, businesses whose egos are our businesses. It globalizes a solipsistic culture that has rotted community, all that is social. We manufacture ourselves and put ourselves on permanent display shelves. Self-production, the state of “self-examination” of the ego makes us tired, melancholy. Zizek did not notice this core fatigue, which in my opinion is characteristic of the present day and has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Zizek, in a passage from his book on the pandemic, seems to want to heat up the topic of self-exploitation, writing: “They [who work from home] may have more time to self-exploit. strip yourself.” During the pandemic, the labor camps of neoliberal society had a new name: the home office. Working from home is much more tiring than working at the office. However, this cannot be explained by increasing forms of self-exploitation. What causes fatigue is also related to loneliness, having to sit constantly in pajamas facing the computer screen. We are constantly faced with ourselves, driven constantly to think and reflect on ourselves. This core fatigue is, after all, a type of ego fatigue. Working from home has exacerbated this situation as it pushes us deeper into ourselves. Others, who could help distract us from our egos, are gone. We are tired because we lack social contacts, we lack hugs, we lack physical contact. In quarantine, we begin to realize that the other person may not be “hell”, as Sartre once wrote in the play No Exit, but healing. This virus hastened the disappearance of others, as I described in The Expulsion of the Other.