We’re afraid of everyone
Afraid of the sun
The sun will never disappear
But the world may not have many years
– John Lennon, “Isolation”
I ask this with all due respect to the medical gravity of what we are facing with this current Covid-19 pandemic, but, honestly, how long do you think we can pull this social distancing off? How long do you think we can continue to stay in our homes, work remotely, do without social interaction or distractions like sporting events, concerts, restaurants, bars, etc? How long can we endure curfews? Restrictions? Isolation? Never mind the absolute tanking of our economy for the next month, two months, three? There will be no coming back from this. Store owners, small businesses, people relying on humans to pay rent and eat – waiters, barkeeps, attendants at events or places of social interaction. Shit, what about musicians and comedians, actors, and the like? They will never be able to replace each day that is missing to earn and survive. And what about our collective sanity? How long?
This is weighed against fear – always a biggie for Americans. How long did it take before feeling safe and secure traveling on an airplane after 9/11 turned sour about getting there an hour early, waiting on extended security lines, taking our shoes off, having strangers rifling through our personal stuff, and having a body scan? How long did it take before the shock and dismay of the 2008 economic catastrophe before we started getting pissed at banks and the auto industry and expected the housing market to return? Fear only goes so far. Eventually things like eating and paying rent take over. Normalcy is very underrated. People long for excitement and fantasize about the out-of-the-ordinary. But most of us deep down hate that shit. We want A to go into B seamlessly and then occasionally on the weekends some C to burn off steam.
I was discussing these things with my brother the other day. He lives down in North Carolina and says people are already wondering how much longer before they just decide “Fuck it, I’m opening my bar, my newsstand, my coffee shop, and deal with the consequences.” My wife has heard from colleagues and friends that they would much rather just get sick, come back, and get to life then all this self-sequestering and having nowhere to go and not being able to buy toilet paper or sanitizing wipes. Oh, and there has been quite a bit of squawking – and not from pundits and the usual rabble – but people like you and me, that the percentage of a couple of thousand people getting infected against the solvency of 320 million makes it all the more outrageous that it’s all coming crashing down around us.
That gets to the crux of the matter – capitalism. This nation, as stated before here, was built on free labor and land grabs. It is not, as some like to brag, a Judeo- Christian construct with morals and higher aspirations. We tell ourselves that, so all the racism and misogyny and monster truck rallies and porn and bling don’t besmirch our better angels. That kind of thing would be a Bernie Sanders country – socialism, or at least, according to the first century Jesus Movement, an egalitarian one. Equality for the lesser among us? Um, no. The reason even liberal Democrats have now sent Sanders and his democratic-socialism packing is no one likes to give their stuff away to the less fortunate. Oh, people love to jam the Jesus thing down your throat to get you to give up control of your body, decide for you who you can fuck, and other sorted activities, but when the man’s main tenant – give up everything you own and give it to stranger – comes up, they are conveniently silent.
And I do not blame them. I mean, they sure took care of Jesus all right. And let’s face it, there is no America without money flowing freely. Freedom? This is what we call buying stuff. And capitalism, like freedom, is cruel. You know those people you ignore lying in the street? Yeah, capitalism. You know those people who die every day because they can’t afford expensive drugs or are ruined because they get cancer? Capitalism. You know the rivers and waterways and the ozone being eviscerated for business concerns, so future generations and to some extent now all of us are left to suffer? Capitalism. There are losers in capitalism, the poor, the prejudiced, the sick and the environment. Eventually if this nation is to survive the Covid-19 isolation days, then at some point, says capitalism, we need to get back to working and buying stuff. Fast. Otherwise it’s sunk. All of it. There is no country for us to return to once this passes.
To wit: Right now Goldman Sachs, who predicted in December of last year that the economy was “recession proof” is predicting a record requests unemployment relief at two-and-a-half million and an almost certain recession.
Before this happened, the president, who is a huge part of the blame here, for many reasons – the first being that he’s the fucking president. Presidents have to deal with the crazy shit like this at one time or the other, and let’s face it, not surprisingly, since everything Donald Trump has ever done has turned into a pile of steaming feces, this has predictably tumbled into crazy town. Another key reason is long before any of the stupidity and misinformation and diddling we covered here last week happened, we learned saving a buck (capitalism) was a key component that has led to what we are dealing with currently.
Two years ago, the CDC stopped funding epidemic prevention activities in 39 countries, including China, after the Trump administration refused to reallocate money to a program that started during the government’s response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak. Remember Ebola? Did you spend a week inside with Ebola? Was March Madness canceled? Did the stock market plummet? Let me answer that for ya: No. And former CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden saw this coming. He told the New York Times that stopping the “foreign” funding (see Trump’s continued childishly bigoted referring to the virus as “Chinese”), done to save money or make a wall the Mexicans were supposed to pay for, “would significantly increase the chance an epidemic will spread without our knowledge and endanger lives in our country and around the world.”
Dr. Eric Toner, who studies hospital preparedness at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told USA Today this week that “we’re two months too late in starting to do this. I really think this is a fundamental responsibility of government to have acted on this a long time ago.”
Awwww, well, here we are, isolated. Soon there will be 20 or 30 percent unemployment. The country is shuttered; our largest cities and all that. And I ask again, how long do we have before people just walk out the door and do what they want? Are there enough cops to stop them? Are there enough hospitals to handle the overflow? Who knows? But these are fair questions to ask. Especially here in Reality Check land. You want kumbaya stuff, call the Billy Graham prayer hotline and spend some money there or pick up bootlegged toilet paper for a fifty-percent mark-up. Capitalism! Because this has a shelf-life, whether scientists or doctors or politicians want it to or not. It is already starting to crack.