I’m reflecting on what I think we can learn from this time of pandemic, social distancing, lock-down and quarantine.
Many Invisible People Are Essential
We love to talk about nurses and doctors as heroes, and they no doubt are. But so are the health aides and hospital custodians. So are the EMTs and lab technicians.
So are the cashiers and food handlers and truck drivers. So many previously invisible people are now the ones we depend on for our lives. Many working in healthcare, especially health aides, do not themselves have affordable healthcare. The cashier at the grocery checkout is risking their life for what falls far short of a living wage.
I hope that when we have these conversations again about universal healthcare and raising the minimum wage and even universal basic income, we remember the time when we depended for our lives and our loved ones lives on people we normally ignore without a second thought.
Many Visible People Are Unnecessary or Worse
So many large companies are going to distribute billions to stakeholders while laying off their work forces, or refusing to provide hazard pay and basic safety gear. There have been dozens of outbreaks literally caused by the greed of those in corner offices.
Many of Us Can Work from Home
So many chronically ill and handicapped people have been told they can’t do a certain job because the job can’t be done working from home. I have heard this story so many times, over and over. And yet it turns out that many of us can in fact work from home. Yes, it sucks sometimes. But it is definitely possible, and if someone spent more time learning how to work from home really well, they could do a great job in many situations without having to be able to come to the office.
Investor “Risk” Is A Lie
When someone makes an investment – say, in a rental property – it is said that they are taking on a financial risk, and because they are taking that risk, we do a lot of things to help them in a capitalist economy. We definitely favor the investor over the worker, the owner over the renter, and so on, time and time again. Businesses serve their investors, not their workers. It is far easier to evict a renter than to fight a landlord. And when push comes to shove it is clear that the investor is not the one who is risking at all. It is the worker, the renter, who is actually taking on all of the risk. Risk flows downstream, not up.
The landlord risks losing some income – the renter risks losing a home. The owner risks some income – the worker risks their livelihood, possibly their access to healthcare. Our economy values ownership over pretty much anything else. It is not the investor who risks, when the risk is real.
Nature Flourishes When Left Alone
So, it turns out there weren’t dolphins swimming in Venice’s canals – but there were fish, and it was possible to see the bottom for the first time in I don’t know how long. All around the world, air pollution is diminishing. People in India see the blue of the sky for the first time in a generation. Confused animals are wandering through cities, wondering where all the noisy primates go to.
Stories like the dolphins swimming in Venitian canals speak to a deeper desire in us, I hope, to see nature flourishing around us. Not to just drag ourselves through disposable lives, anesthetizing the pain of watching the world around us die however we can, but to live and see life around us and be happy about it. Can we do that? Maybe?
We Can Consume Less
My family is learning this on our individual level, and what some describe as “economic collapse” I can also describe as “slowing our hysterical plunge into ecocide.” The fact remains, if we all just sort of decide to, we can consume a lot less. We can eat out less and drive less and fly less and garden more and cook more and do more with the things we already have. COVID-19 has done what 50 years of environmentalism wasn’t able to accomplish. All it took was some existential fear, I guess. But I hope we learn from this, and come out of this pandemic time having gotten a taste for not ruining the world at breakneck speed.
Pay A Living Wage
Everyone deserves a living wage. Everyone. Don’t think so? Go to Hell.
When a crisis comes, we find out that some people are more essential than we thought. This will probably surprise us with each crisis that comes. So just to be safe, let’s pay everyone who works enough to live as a result of that work. That means food, shelter, education, healthcare, safety. Other countries do it. Why can’t we?
Universal Health Coverage
Everyone who thinks it’s OK to be too poor to go to the doctor needs to sit down and shut up, forever. Even if you are a selfish narcissist, you have to acknowledge that universal healthcare would be great for slowing down a pandemic and swiftly responding to it. Instead, we get to play the life-and-death guessing game of “We have nowhere near enough tests so we have no idea who is sick.” I hope we survive this fun game we’re playing, instead of caring for each other.
Ignore the President
Never, ever, ever, listen to Donald Trump. Don’t read his tweets. Don’t listen to his words. Don’t read the chyrons beneath his words. Don’t read his letters or go to his websites. Don’t read his name on the side of his ugly buildings.
The sounds that come out of his mouth and the sounds that come out of his anus are of equal value, and the right response to both is to gag, cover our noses and mouths, and leave as quickly as we can. Period. He is a vile, narcissistic, ignorant, inveterate liar. He will never not lie. He will never say a single wise, intelligent, or helpful thing. He never has in his entire adult life, and he never will.
Listen to Experts
Some smart people go to school to study One Thing very closely for years and years. When these smart people talk about their One Thing, sit down and listen. You can ignore their opinions on Other Things if you want, but not that One Thing, and definitely not when that One Thing means life or death for millions of human beings.
Anything else you’ve learned from your ‘rona time?