Posted on April 30, 2020
The existential dread is real and some days you feel it more than others, especially when you have to leave your house to run some errand and find yourself in a crowded space where no one but you is wearing a mask.
Probably the best encapsulation of how connected and yet simultaneously dissociated we are would have to be the trip my wife took to Lowe’s two days ago. She had her mask, but the hardware store was crowded, which confused and agitated her, and to make things worse, people weren’t keeping their distance. They didn’t have the paint she was looking for so she headed out to the next nearest place, only to get lost and for her phone to simply quit working.
She couldn’t get GPS, couldn’t call me, was lost and already in a heightened emotional state because of her experience at the store. By the time she got home, she was in tears.
On the day our country’s losses to COVID 19 surpassed those of the Vietnam war, my wife and I got stir crazy and decided to drive up the 101 just to get out of the house. We’d heard how empty the roads were and thought it would be a nice change of pace from the usual Southern California driving.
However, it was a nice day, a Sunday, and we weren’t the only ones to have this idea. The beaches were closed which pushed all the people off the sand onto the bike lanes of the highway. Most weren’t wearing masks. No one was social distancing. We kept our windows rolled up and looked past them to the empty beach.
We try to order food once or twice a week to break the monotony and to help local businesses. This week it was pub burgers from Peabody’s and BBQ from Phil’s. The burgers were great but it’s hard to feed a Texan BBQ and not have him be disappointed. It was serviceable.
Tyson foods has said there will be disruptions to the meat supply chain as their processing factories are rapidly becoming C19 hotspots. They failed to mention all the things they did to create this situation, so I’ll list them here as a note for future historians wondering why capitalism died out after it had been going so strong for so long.
- They instituted a “responsibility bonus” paid to workers who didn’t take time off. This brought sick workers into the factory.
- They got cheap about hand washing stations which helped the sick infect the healthy.
- They didn’t adjust work spaces for social distance requirements.
- They don’t provide healthcare insurance for their factory workers.
- They don’t pay enough for their workers to buy their own insurance.
I still believe capitalism, heavily regulated to rein in corporations and close the wealth gap, augmented by a robust social safety net to be the best possible economic system. We’ve seen capitalism work in the past. What we haven’t seen since Reagan pressed his corrupting influence into the Baby Boomer generation is anything that concerns itself with the rights or welfare of people. So it’s no wonder wealth inequality is now worse than when robber barons roamed this country.
My concern is that the upcoming generations who didn’t see capitalism work well, will simply throw the baby out with the bath water and switch to pure socialism. Now, socialism is a charged word that can mean many things, but primarily it means a political system which is primarily concerned with people rather than business. We’ve never actually seen that work, but we have seen if fail quite spectacularly.
Does that mean it can’t work? No, but as mentioned above, a hybrid solution would be better and easier to transition to.
What will the future look like? That’s the question that haunts me. We are a social people. Even homebody grumps like me need to get out to a restaurant or farmer’s market or movie theater every now and then. Sports! Theater! Concerts! Everything we do, in some sense, we do together. It heightens the experience. But all those theaters, arenas, and eateries are closing now and there’s no hint as to win we might be able to visit them again.
Everyone pins their hopes for this return on a vaccine, but it’s looking like C19 may not be susceptible to a vaccine. No one has been able to conjure one for any of the other coronaviruses. There is tangential evidence for reinfection coming out of Wuhan which means the human body’s immune response may just be too weak for a vaccine to work.
The only other hope we have is a cure that works fast added with adequate testing. We won’t get the testing until the Republicans are out of power and, let’s face it, scientiss still don’t have a cure for AIDs. So what will the world look like if the new normal involves six feet of distance and a high quality mask?
Virtual Reality will probably have something to do with it. But the question remains, even if you could slip on a VR set and find yourself in a “crowd” of people whom you could see and hear and look up at a “stage” and see a performer who could see every face in the crowd reacting in real time as well as hear them, would that be close enough to the shared experience we crave?
I don’t know. We did a Zoom conference with my daughters and grandson the other day and, while I was so glad to see and talk to them and hear their voices, it didn’t really take the place of being able to hug them or to sit in the same room and talk about all kinds of stuff. There’s a formality to a Zoom conference that robs it of some of the emotional feedback of actually being together.
Who knows? Maybe someone will figure that part out, too, and then we can all just stay home all the time. But I have to say, as much as I love staying home (only canceling plans is better than not having any), I miss the world.