At this point, anyone with a laptop and a social media account or blog has pontificated ad nausea about the current state of affairs caused by the worldwide pandemic, Coronavirus. It has more than disrupted normal lifestyles by bringing our economies to a grinding halt, severely crippling the supply chain and keeping the majority of residents trapped inside their own homes. The agrarian life never seemed so appealing. Perhaps the most palling of all of this tortured experience isn’t the self-sacrifice or the inconvenience of not having everyday life retain any sense of normalcy. It is that our countries and leaders have decided to use this point in history to play global posturing games and local popularity contests. In a more morally stable and responsibly managed world, the priority in times of a pandemic should be the well being of all humanity. Sadly, we would be fooling ourselves if we expected our leaders to lead by positive example. Using the term “rat race” is an insult to rats; humanity is its own creation and deserves its own epithet in our language.
The title of this entry is an obvious play on words, making fun of the point that political analyst George Packer brought up recently in his Atlantic article about the U.S. behaving like a “failed state” in its handling of the pandemic. Packer draws back the ‘failed state’ reference by correcting his claim that our country has not yet collapsed to that condition. But he maintains that by their confounding delayed response to the outbreak and constant criticism of the media that the Trump administration is very much acting the part of a government that has lost its center. Sadly this just compounds the circumstances affecting all of us and instead of offering relief it has farther divided and polarized certain factions of society while failing to provide the essential relief and aid necessary to prevent the fatalities occurring everyday as a result of Covid-19. Instead of a future full of optimism and hope for an end to the pandemic, we instead receive anxiety and fear due to the breakdown of essential services necessary to mitigate the disaster. Our fates could be much brighter, but instead have been “staled” or “stailed” as I put it to emphasize the play on words.
One of the most salient examples of the division that Covid-19 has exposed in handling the pandemic is the stark contrast in its effect on different demographics. After less than 6 months studies are showing that black communities are experiencing higher infection and death rates due to the pandemic. This not only applies to U.S. states with majority African-American populations, but in countries across Europe and Asia. Additionally these statistics can be applied to differing economic backgrounds as those with lower income often have less available resources to quality healthcare. Reports from Native American reservations cite much higher infection and fatality rates than the average of U.S. cities while financial aid is virtually nonexistent.
The pandemic has demonstrated many failings in America’s health industry, not only in preparedness for this type of situation but also for comprehensive coverage of all citizens affected by the crisis. It has also seen the rise in public infection cases as strained medical care facilities in large cities are pushed to the limits. As we all know, America is the only developed country in the world that does not offer affordable health coverage for its citizens. The results illustrate a stark difference in our classes that distinguishes the haves from the have nots. The U.S. certainly is not the only country that is reeling to deal with the sudden health crisis, Covid-19 has exposed serious flaws in health systems in countries on every continent. Developed and third world nations alike have been ravaged by the virus and many have imposed conditions of lockdown enforced by martial law. In the southern hemisphere where the warm months still prevail, the worst may still be yet to come and many there are vulnerable members of third world countries with poor health and social resources to begin with. The virus has exposed the weaknesses of every system the world apart. Our prejudices, social stratification, arrogance and division are the perfect foundation to sacrifice the weakest members to the death it brings. But this isn’t a biblical parable and sacrifice will not save our societies. As the growing threat gains momentum it will tear through our communities with impunity to age, rage or income tax bracket. We will all die the same way.
This has not been lost on social media which may be the primary source for outrage or ignorance regarding how many have dealt with the age of Covid-19. Demonstrations from coast to coast have prominently featured angry, white citizens demanding states and cities to lift restrictions on businesses so “American can get back to work”. Conversely, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and the like are filled with daily memorials to deceased family, friends and popular public figures which demonstrates the scope and seriousness of the virus which others declare to be “false” and “fabricated” by various sources. It does not help that the skeptical and dismissive approach by President Trump and other leaders delayed and possibly allowed the pandemic to spread in early months. Now the U.S. firmly leads the world in confirmed cases and deaths, which Trump has predicatably blamed on Democrats, the media and anyone else but himself and his administration. It is no secret that he is more willing to sacrifice lives to start the wheels of the American economy turning again. The bottom line is that it is an election year and he is beholden to the corporate forces that will reassure his appointment as President of the most powerful country in the world in a few short months. Our lives will be sacrificed for his power for four more years of “leadership”.
As citizens of our countries, we have decided to agree to participating in the control of whatever governmental or state-structured institution that defines a given nationality. These political systems were originally designed to protect and shelter us from natural and mutual threats. As societies grew larger, wealthier and more stratified, the dynamic between citizens and leaders changed. Gradually heads-of-state became more invested with outside societies and their own appearance as leaders and citizens were forced to develop more structured systems to address the growing disconnect between regular citizens and state representation. America is not the only guilty party as the results of Covid-19 are indicative of the breakdown of the relationship between governance and overwhelming public opinion. In Donald Trump, you have a leader who is the result of years of political-corporate corruption and malfeasance. The past two decades of legislation has allowed corporate interest to demolish the thin protection that existed preventing the influence of outside money from directly affecting the political decisions made concerning citizen’s welfare. Amid the pandemic crisis, calls to start our economy are essentially a death knell to many of those in the underserved middle and lower classes who have no choice other than to return to work in order to provide for themselves or else face starvation, homelessness or worse. Many other countries are up against this same conundrum and responding in accordingly similar fashion. The spectre of capitalism has never loomed darker at a time when we need social services more than ever.
The silver lining, if there is one to be found in the disaster that is now 2020? In the absence of the safety nets that so many find themselves challenged to receive services and basic needs filled are supplied by others. Every community is finding its “helpers” and good samaritans. Whether it is a food pantry donation, clothing drive or those sewing masks for care workers. Average citizens know what must be done and many are more than willing to fill the gaps left by systems burdened by mismanagement, oversight or underfunding. In America, “socialism” is a dirty word, vilified by an increasingly material invested society. The Coronavirus pandemic has destroyed the myth of the dangers of a robust democratic-social approach and reveals many of the weaknesses that result from reckless capitalism. Although leadership may be lacking for many, activism is alive and well; humanity always has a cause.