COVID-19 and the Paradoxes

COVID-19 and Paradoxes

These are such strange days. We all learn that, although we may be alone, we are in no way an island.  Without our nurses, doctors, and hospital staffs we would lose people who we are not ready to lose. Every day we know our highly trained caregivers risk getting the COVID-19 virus and many of them have been infected. Fortunately the virus doesn’t kill all its hosts. Many people barely realize they have it. But without hospitals and first responders, our loved ones could die at home or in a nursing home gasping for breath while we stood by helpless. Most of us do not have access to oxygen, and almost none of us can access a ventilator. If you catch the virus you put yourself in danger. The disease makes life and death a gamble, seemingly based on genetics and bad habits.

Without our truckers and our essential industries where workers take a chance every day and go to work (probably without paid-sick-leave) our grocery stores and drug stores would be emptier than they are. So we are not an island. And we are not all making the same sacrifices, which is difficult for some of us to accept, that almost the only ways we can help are to stay home, order in, and donate to a few hard-pressed causes. Lately, on Facebook, the folks who bought out all the toilet paper and left our store shelves empty, and bought up masks needed at hospitals have been putting up ads to sell their ill-gotten merchandise and charging exorbitant rates ($35 for 10 rolls of toilet paper and they had all the popular brands; $65 for a box of masks). Tempting, but we know we should not buy at these prices and encourage price gouging.

It’s spring. Our senses are blossoming. There is more light, days are getting long. We can go out and see our lakes and rivers and oceans, but we can’t meet our family in these places unless we stay 6 feet apart. Now they are saying that the very air we breathe can spread this disease so don’t even walk in someone’s draft. But we are thinking of soft summer evenings and gardens, flowers and smiles, music and conversation. And yet our reality is on display each day. There are refrigerated trucks, long semis collecting bodies in New York City and these lives are left uncelebrated by all but closest family. This shocks me, these long white trucks. It is almost as if someone actually did kill people on Fifth Avenue, and I cannot help blaming the very person who said that he could do this and still get elected.

Speaking of elections; we should be drowning in unwatchable political ads, and voting in primaries and our candidates should be stumping all over America. How can we get rid of a President who fired so many civil servants and changed so many rules that govern national emergencies if the only 2020 candidate we see day after day is the Bumbler? How can we hope to vote out the miserable GOP when half the country, for some inexplicable reason, sees this entire bumbling administration as somehow efficient and effective at handling this national emergency? Half of America follows religiously Trump’s every utterance, regardless of the whiplash engendered by decisions that change moment to moment, that are given and retracted day to day. Despite the white semis lined up in New York to receive the dead.

There have been such touching stories. The brides who go in their wedding dresses to visit a grandparent through a nursing home window and the new moms who make the same trip with their babies. The mom and dad who almost lost their 29-year-old son for no apparent health reason. The reporter who spent 49 days away from her child because she kept having to go into quarantine and the joyful reunion with her little son. All the American children taping hearts in their windows for passers-by to collect. And then the reality hits us once again as someone hears that a loved one has died and they were not even there when it happened.

People are losing their businesses, which made our lives seem full of elegance, friendship, light and love. All the restaurants where we love to linger at table and just chat. All the sidewalk cafes and fresh air dining. Days spent shopping with friends and speaking of bargains and fashion and decorating. Will our restaurants and shops come back. All the unemployed with no resources to get them through the anxious days. If only the whole unemployment process was better equipped to get money to workers-without-work right away. Will jobs come back? I cannot recall a time when the entire global economy basically had to take a time out and neither can anyone else or we would have some strategies for dealing, even if the best strategy of all was just to do nothing. This is different from even the Great Depression. We cannot have a WPA in times that require social distancing. There is no way to discuss in one small essay all the many, many areas of our lives that have been affected. And although I read an article which said that life returned to normal very quickly after the influenza in 1918, it is difficult to believe that is possible this time.

These are very strange days indeed, surreal even, these days of novel coronavirus. The paradoxes are ripping us apart and putting us back together each and every hour of every day. We have to be strong. We have to make it through with as much grace as we can muster.

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Can We Create a Fair and Just Society?

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I think it is entirely possible that we could have a world that would run smoothly and that everyone could enjoy, a fair and just society. It would have to be a world without poverty; we would have to figure out how to be sure that everyone had enough resources to get through their lives in comfort. Everyone would have to have sufficient supplies of food and water and health care, and at reasonable cost. Housing that was adequate and hygienic and large enough to accommodate the group to be housed would need to be available. The ability to provide everyone with plentiful light, heat, and cooling would also be important in such a world. Transportation of some type would be available to all and some forms of entertainment. Waste disposal in all its forms would have been worked out and functional. Everyone would have access to as much education or training as they needed in order to find employment and jobs would be plentiful. There would be a guaranteed minimum wage for people who are unable to work or who need to take time off from work for their own needs or those of their family. People’s right’s would have to be respected.

There would be some form of instant repercussions for bullying, cheating, conning and trying to make an easy buck at the expense of others. There would also be instant repercussions for anti-social behavior detrimental to other members of the society. I believe that we are creative enough to make such a world as this and to do it in a way that governance is not overly intrusive. A society like this would have to be somewhat regimented. Given our natures that seem to value independence and even a bit of chaos more than regimentation could we live in such a culture? Switzerland has managed to do something like this. Would we all be happy living in Switzerland if the country had enough space? Is it easier to govern smaller nations than it is to govern larger nations? Is a one-world umbrella government possible and what would it look like?

While it is true that we are flawed and we often let our worst selves out into the world; we are also sublime and inspired. We love to solve problems. But we would need to solve the problems of letting our flaws rule the day because they seem more interesting than the peacefulness of getting our economies, governments, and social spheres right. Somehow we have come to believe that eliminating our bad behaviors will make for really boring lives and might even squelch creativity. Would our lives be too commonplace if there were no poverty, if everyone had enough of everything, if no one was homeless. Could this come to be recognized as simply the baseline infrastructure of a rational world?

We each have to choose moment by moment to opt out of those 7 deadly sins (Pride, Greed, Lust, Envy, Gluttony, Wrath, Sloth) and try to stay true to the 7 virtues (Humility, Charity/Generosity, Chastity, Gratitude, Temperance, Patience, Diligence). In a world that rewards innovative and creative behavior people often get confused about what is brilliant and what is criminal. Sometimes people get away with criminal behavior and then the confusion is even greater. We all know the Golden Rule, but can we design a world where people truly live it. The Golden Rule is open to interpretation. It is pretty general. People could disagree about what doing unto others means. People could have different tolerances for what they will let people do unto them. We have already seen the problems with a Constitution that was deliberately left open to interpretation. Even the Bible (and books holy to other religions) leave lots of room for various factions to claim that the same passages back up their actions. We know, however, that it would be too restrictive, controlling, and, in the end, impossible to try to make a law about every single cultural exigency.

Since everything we do tends to have two sides, the good and the bad, is it even possible, within the cosmic rules we seem to be stuck with, to choose to live in a society that provides enough for all? Or would even that state, that seems so proper, turn out to have new down sides that we have never thought of? For example, what would we do with people who get greedy, or people who abuse children, or people who exploit power for sex, or steal for income, or kill in anger, and on and on through the whole sorry roll call of human anti-social behavior. We would have to find a way to correct these behaviors that would not betray the goals of our fair and just society. Would imprisonment fit the tenor of such a world? Would we develop drugs that correct bad behaviors? Would we make a prison island to get these people out of circulation? That sort of worked in Australia, but we are fresh out of Australias. If solving the problems of society would simply produce new problems we have not imagined, then it seems futile to even bother.

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Still, I would go with the globalists – not to get rid of nations necessarily, but to set minimums for comfortable lives for everyone on the planet and to decide how to husband our resources as populations in some places explode. What is to stop those overcrowded nations from eventually looking around for places that are more sparsely populated with reasonably plentiful resources; from beginning a new era of imperialism? Will every nation be surrounded by walls and life become a police state and a life of uncertainty, of trash and garbage, both animal waste and human psychic garbage.

We could pretend that Earth is a new planet we have just found in space, the Earth B that everyone is always talking about these days. We could pretend that we are starting over to set up a plan for how we will govern the planet. We could set up such a strong planning body that everyone would stop acting like the power of certain nations, not already ruled by dictators, is up for grabs. What would we want Earth B to be like? If we don’t learn soon to actually go to space, we may have to consider our Earth Planet B and start from scratch if we hope to survive out here at the edge of space.

Or perhaps you are with the imminent apocalypse crew and we go down slugging it out, thugging it out, and letting strong men call the shots for our everyday lives. Perhaps, because of our grievous faults that is all we deserve. Memorial Day offered a good chance to imagine a world where well-trained soldiers could stand down unless we were attacked by aliens. Could we create all this?

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