The good of COVID 19 

NOW is the MOMENT,  May 12, 2020
Now is the moment to change the world,
writes Rutger Bregman in Time magazine. He quotes Milton Friedman:
Only a crisis . . . produces real change.
 Bregman strengthens my hope that this crisis may be a catalyst for changes that help heal the planet and its inhabitants.

The coronavirus pandemic is laying bare grotesque inequities, making a return to the “normal” before it unlikely. Like a forest fire letting sunlight reach the forest floor, it shows the rot of injustice and inequality preventing the whole of society from flourishing.

It exposes the craziness of our economic system. In Bregman’s words, “the more vital your work, the less you are paid, the more insecure your employment and the more risk you are in the fight against the coronavirus.” I add that performers of the least vital work—hedge fund managers, multinational elites, Wall Street financiers—control the most wealth.

Among changes needed, Bregman mentions autocrats “suffocating democracy.” Kim Jong Un, Victor Orban in Hungary, Maduro in Venezuela, Duterte in the Philippines, Bashar al-Assad in Syria come to my mind. When I fret over conditions in the world, I include the president of the U.S. denying climate change.

But beneficial effects from crises in history give reasons for hope: The Great Depression brought the New Deal, overturning control by the monied class and spreading money to many more. World War II produced Germany’s economic miracle and lasting peace in Europe.

The Financial Times, “the world’sleading business paper,” according to Bregman, published an editorial,
Virus lays bare the frailty of the social contract.
It endorses taxing the rich, a basic income for everyone, and increasing the size of government. Imagine the world’s leading business paper saying this!

And, says Bregman, the beneficial changes we want depend “on the ideas that are lying around.” Majorities in developed nations favor climate protections, and majorities favor taxing the rich. Two-thirds of Americans, including 53% of Republicans, think the rich should pay more taxes.

Showing how “the ideas lying around” shift, Biden’s “tax plan is twice as radical as Hillary Clinton’s tax plan of 2016. His $1.7 trillion climate plan includes 30 times as much clean-energy commitment as Clinton’s did in 2016, and is even more ambitious than that of Sanders four years ago.” According to Bregman, “. . . ideas that used to be dismissed as unreasonable or unrealistic have moved into the mainstream.”

That a new normal will develop is assured. Bregman reminds us that it’s already happening. There’s been an explosion of altruism and cooperation.
Whether more good change comes is up to us. He advises, “We need to assume the best in one another.”

How can we go on if we’re visited by misfortune or even despair? I find spiritual guidance gets me through when I feel helpless. Collectively. we can harness spiritual power with our minds and hearts to guide us. During a shattering moment in my life. I got through it by chanting, Accept, Surrender, and Trust.

Robert Frost

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

March 19, 2020, The Good of COVID 19
When faced with an overwhelming concern—now the COVID 19 pandemic—I look for the silver lining. In the face of realistic fears—economic fallout, hospitals overcrowded and short of supplies, health care workers at risk, and, I believe, the less serious fear of dying—here are silver linings I see coming with the COVID 19 pandemic.

I’m not a scientist but it occurred to me that worldwide emissions of greenhouse gases must have dropped drastically, mostly by a drop in air travel. Going online, I learned my guess was right. It’s estimated that China, the worst emitter of carbon, experienced a 25% cut in emissions. The 2008 recession also drove down emissions. Some of this good effect will be offset by increased home energy use.

I’m hoping physical scientists, social scientists, and political scientists will learn some things from this lurch in world affairs, ways to help the world fight climate change and other threats to the planet’s inhabitants.

Another silver lining from COVID 19 is that it muted political campaigns—thank heavens!  No more screaming rallies, no more fund-raising at expensive events, no more crowding people together to create energy, no more daily assessing of who's ahead, no more wall-to-wall coverage of politics.
Instead, news programs are devoted to tamping down anxiety and helping everyone cope with COVID 19. And most miraculous of all—Republicans and Democrats are more united in working together on this common cause.

Social distancing, as I’ve experienced it, actually results in more social outreach. I see and hear people showing more care for each other. How refreshing!

This is happening around the world, a small miracle in itself. The world seems to be growing closer. Governments, like people everywhere, can’t avoid seeing that we’re all in this together, that what’s good for one is good for all. It must be getting increasingly obvious that “American first” and “go it alone” simply don’t work in a pandemic.
     I need to add a sour note, though. Tensions are increasing between Iran—a hotspot of the virus—and the U.S., which refuses to let up on economic sanctions.

I admit I’m more fortunate than most in being a recipient of Medicare and social security and also able to care for myself. I’m not wondering how to cover bills and feed a family without an income.
The administration’s idea of sending $1000 to every adult wouldn’t begin to take care of a family that needs more than $1000 just to cover rent or a mortgage. And unemployment checks don’t go out to artists and other free-lance workers, whose source of income also can dry up.

So I understand the anxiety of others, knowing it’s easier for me to count blessings, but I offer a few more. From my writers group comes this reminder of another blessing—“people may discover how to cook, again, and to conserve supplies."

If we compare our situation to the pandemic of 1918 that killed 50 to 100 million people, we can see how technology helps us to cope better today by connecting us in ways not dreamed of in 1918.

Not only do we have incomparably better communications and medical technology, our ability to socialize with each other is incomparably improved. Although telephones started to connect many before 1918, they did not allow long long conversations of the kind I like to have. People were much more isolated in their concerns and suffering.

With the whole world on the “same page,” COVID 19 is actually bringing social harmony! For me, this means not more anxiety but less anxiety. I wish the same for all, but I understand that it’s impossible for many less fortunate than I am. They will have to work harder to see any silver linings.

March 22, 2020, The Good of COVID 19

The disaster keeps triumphantly surging as states and D.C. struggle to control it. Harvard Professor Ken Rogoff warns,
“We are going to see a recession, at least in the short term, the likes of which we have not seen at least going back to World War II. . . . We're in a war. . . . I would have no problem with the government debt magically going up $5 trillion in the blink of an eye, . . . This is an emergency.”

In addition to the economic war, we have to win the psychological war. COVID 19 can threaten emotional stability, our faith in ourselves and our universe.
Still, within every dark moment rest points of light, and I intend to make some known. 

Disasters have a way of inciting extraordinary kindness and courage. A “mysterious, erotic, enveloping sense of possibility and communion” emerges in disasters, says Rebecca Solnit, who was interviewed by Krista Tippett on On Being this morning.

During Hurricane Katrina, mainstream media believed and broadcast vicious, made-up stories about the non-white people in the Superdome too poor to evacuate. They were said to be killing each other and shooting at helicopters trying to rescue people. Lies.

The truth coming out later—I remember learning it at the time—but never fully brought to the public’s awareness, was that their mutual misery generated extraordinary acts of kindness. Next to filthy, overflowing toilets, they retained their humanity and decency. They rescued others in worse shape and did what they could to lift spirits.

Our present disaster, despite its social distancing, also generates cooperation and reaching out to help. 
Two neighbors called me to offer their services if I need something. Such sympathetic reaching out is becoming common. People are finding ways to be useful—walking the dog for a harried health care worker, signing up for an experimental vaccine, packing lunches for delivery to homebound people, running errands for whomever.

My daughter, who lives an hour and a half away, offered to pay for having groceries delivered to me and reminded me of my damaged respiratory system. I declined but consider myself unusually fortunate. I don’t anticipate running out of supplies I really need.

Someone explained the run on toilet paper by saying that, unlike groceries, it’s not replaceable. “There are no substitutes.” I disagree. During the earliest of my growing-up years we used catalogs in the outhouse. 

It wasn’t been so long ago that Americans did not consider toiletpaper absolutely essential. I don’t recommend catalogs in the outhouse but can imagine using tissues, paper towels, napkins (saved from eateries), or even what women used during menstrual periods before better products emerged—rags.

Having been trained by a mother who never changed habits begun during the Great Depression—she and Dad married 4 weeks before the stock market crash of 1929—I throw away hardly anything. Articles of clothing nicely absorbent and too ragged to donate to a used-clothing store, I save. They do a better job of cleaning than any products on sale.

I hope others now learn habits of conserving that were common during the Great Depression.

Businesses are reinventing themselves to tackle needs caused by COVID 19. A Duluth distillery got an idea implemented by distilleries around the country. Its supply of ethyl alcohol, no longer in demand for bars, can be an ingredient for making hand sanitizers. A business in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, changed the use of its chemical disinfectant from pest control to disinfecting offices, medical equipment, gyms, and vehicles.

Italians raised their spirits and those of their neighbors by belting out songs from balconies.
An Italian tenor serenaded his stricken city, Florence, by singing Verdi’sLa Donna E Mobile” and Puccini’s “Nessun Dorma.”

I expect the media will keep telling such uplifting stories during this crisis. If we look, we will see profound humanity and decency during the coming months.


Cory Schlangen said…
Spot on Jeanette. I always enjoy your posts. Cory

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