Here we are. It’s Saturday, day whatever of the Great Pandemic of 2020. Seriously, isn’t it time for a catchy name for the thing. There was a War to End All Wars, that wasn’t. The Roaring 20s. The Great Depression. The Baby Boom. The Oil Shocks of the 1970s. 9/11. The Great Recession.
I’m sticking with the Great Pandemic until somebody comes up with something better. No wait. “Great”? That sounds too much like something the Orange Clown would say, so we need something else. Please submit your nominations for this crisis’ name that will be repeated for decades and centuries to come.
Anyway … yesterday, I got to participate in a Zoom meeting with a group of friends. Today, another group of friends is doing the same thing. A former co-worker offered short meditation sessions on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons in the break room. She’s now moved her sessions to Zoom as well and those who want can now participate virtually. We do what we have to, right?
My baking took a couple of days off, but I’m back at it this weekend. Just made some pizza dough for use for dinner tomorrow or Monday. I’m refreshing my sourdough starter to make some English muffins tomorrow morning. We just got an Insta-Pot, so that’s a new toy to experiment with. Although looking at the recipes for it, I’m not sure what the big deal is. It may shorten the cooking time a bit, but other than that, I don’t see what the difference is.
Life goes on and what I really want to talk about is this. I see a lot of bloggers and Twitterers and others talking about how the pandemic has shown how fundamentally things need to change in this country. And most of them are of a particular bent. They are pushing Medicare for All, a universal basic income, etc. Yes, it’s the socialists who are pushing the need for fundamental change.
I get it. I believe that there is a need for fundamental change, but unlike the socialists who believe that a governing revolution is needed, I believe the change begins with each of us. I look at it this way.
Generally speaking, we have become an incredibly selfish, spoiled, consumption-driven people. We have to have our Starbucks every morning, our Chipotle for lunch, and take out or dine-in food for dinner. We pay for half a dozen streaming services and companies like Disney create their own service that creates exclusive content that people feel they just have to pay for. So we have to keep adding to what we pay for. We have to buy a new phone every two years. This list could go on and on and on. We are bombarded with endless ads and pressure to buy more, buy more, buy more. Part of the problem is that everybody is doing it and there’s the old fear of missing out. If everybody else gets Starbucks and a new phone and the other NEW thing than we have to have it too. The things we “need” drain our pockets of valuable treasure. And it’s never, ever enough. There is always more.
Instead of being satisfied with the basics and a few luxuries that speak to us, we are in a constant search for more. I’ll never claim to be immune to this or better than others in this regard. I have a Chromebook and a laptop, I’ve purchased four Kindles over the years, and we end up getting a new smartphone every two years (but it’s primarily because they magically seem to stop working right around that two year mark). I have my food addictions as well.
While I was working, I went through phases where I had to get a breakfast pastry from LaBou every day. It would last for weeks and months before I was able to kick the habit every now and then. For years, I had my daily Pepsi at lunch, and all too frequently I got lunch out instead of bringing leftovers from home. And then there’s my beer habit.
So, I get it. There’s some comfort we derive from these things and these products. But what if we changed our dynamic and found comfort in other things. For instance … during the Great Isolation (maybe that’s the name for it?), people are walking and hiking and running more. My neighborhood is filled with walkers these days. And I’ve heard anecdotally that people are baking more. That store shelves are empty of yeast. And cooking more. Why is this happening? Because we have no choice at the moment. And that lack of choice is pushing many us towards more healthy habits that are actually better for us mentally and physically. Habits that are also much cheaper than those we practiced for years without really thinking about it. The inability to do much of anything is doing wonders for the balance in my checking account.
Yes, I’m willing to bet that there is also a growth in unhealthy habits as well — more booze, more drugs, more abuse, for instance. But my point here is not to dwell on the negatives, but rather the options we have to make positive changes in the way we live our lives. How what is happening is showing us a path to better lives in which we don’t focus on stuff. Families are spending more time together, if only because they have to. But there are so many good stories out there about how this is bringing people together.
If I do the math, my breakfast pastry, Pepsi, and lunch out habits cost thousands of dollars every year. If I add in my beer budget, well … I’d be a very rich man. I’m not suggesting that when things return to “normal” that we should forsake these things entirely, but maybe we can begin to recharacterize what we “need” to have. To take a little more personal responsibility over the decisions we make that have both a short and long term effect on our ability to care for ourselves.
I have two sons who are in their 20s. Over the course of the last two weeks, they have both been laid off. My older son lost his restaurant job two weeks ago. My younger son had two jobs. He lost the first a little over a week ago, and the other job a couple of days ago. The good news is that my older son got a new job within a week and starts this coming Monday. My younger son immediately started looking for a new job and hopefully will find one soon.
The other good news is that in recent months, they were able to save enough money that they will likely be okay at least through the end of April, if not a little longer. The bad news? With the federal stimulus money increasing unemployment benefits for the short term, they might actually be better off not working. But to me, that simply isn’t an option. It is far better to work than to not.
The first, second and third person who is responsible for you is you, you, and you. Government assistance should be a last option, not the first thing we turn to. If we would only change our habits and turn away from the way we have been conditioned to keep consuming endlessly and excessively, we just might have more capability to care for ourselves and not expect the government to do it for us.
There are other ways in which there needs to be fundamental change. I do believe our health care system needs to be torn down and rebuilt. But more important than any of this is a change in our corporate culture. Corporations and businesses across the spectrum need to put the interests of their employees and their communities ahead of the interests of their shareholders and their executives. There was a time when this was the case, and we need to return to it. For far too long, we have allowed Wall Street to dominate our country in a way that benefits a few, while destroying the many. As I’ve said in other forums and conversations, the corporate rape of America needs to end. Now. That is where the change needs to happen. In the boardrooms and offices of corporate America.
If socialism and universal health care were the answer to a crisis like we are currently facing, than China would not have been a hot spot. Nor would Italy have been. Some socialist countries are doing a piss poor job of testing and providing honest information about what is happening in their countries.
No, the change doesn’t come from the government. The change that is needed comes from each of us. Are you up to it?