Society at every level from the individual to the small business all the way up to governments are at a crossroads. Depending on how each one proceeds, the world could come out the other side a more equitable, healthier place to be or plummet into even worse despair and destruction.
This may sound alarmist, but it’s true. The hopefully comforting fact is that all the tools we need to succeed are already here, and if used effectively, significant progress could be made. If humanity fumbles this chance it has so many times before to seriously engage in some self-examination, then we might be doomed.
Already, people in high up, cushy places are attempting conscripting you into capitalism’s new army. You must serve the economy for the good of the country or die trying. It’s are responsibility to kindly say, “Screw you!” and engage in the true work that needs to be done: the transformation of our economy so it permanently works better for the many and not the few, even in times of crisis.
The one thing we all have in abundance now is time. What I’m calling for is a national period of seld-reflection. Let’s all look inward for a little bit.
According to the Labor Department, a record-breaking, staggering 16 million Americans applied for unemployment over the past three weeks. This doesn’t include freelancers, gig workers, or people who left voluntarily to care for a sick loved one. This is has easily blown past what unemployment was at the height of the Great Recession in 2008, and it’s only been a little over three weeks of quarantine.
The message: it’s going to get a lot worse.
As of this writing, almost every state have imposed some form of shelter-in-place order, locking down wide swaths of the economy. Millions and millions of people who have anchored themselves on the jobs they have are now floating out to sea without a life preserver. A scary prospect for many, and if we’re not careful, potentially fatal.
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Adriana Panayi, writing for Scientific American, reminds us “suicides tend to go up during periods of economic downturn: the suicide rate rose to a record high of 21.9 per 100,000 people in 1932, in the depth of the Great Depression.” The fact is startling yet self-evident. If hope for the future is diminished, then so is the will to keep on living.
It’s important to be realistic but also more than ever, it’s paramount that we consistently check up on each other. Mental health is more important than ever.
I’ve taken a liking to Headspace, but there are many similar apps out there like it. Whichever you choose, I’ve found it’s important for me to, as close to daily as possible, take a few minutes — anywhere from 5 to 20 — to pause and clear my mind. You can do it anywhere. I do it lying down on the floor in my room.
Some people might question why these apps are important, but I’ve found if I do it on my own, it’s a lot harder than you think to get the mind to shut up for second. All of these apps have guides that show you exactly how to do it, walking you through every step from simply taking the time to breathe deep to checking in with every part of your body, both physically and emotionally.
It takes practice, but I can’t stress enough how much a bit of peace of mind helps me get through the day. I’m not here to tell you it’ll cure you of some ailment or give you superpowers, but just the act of taking a quiet mental breather is important.
I called my grandmother today. To be honest, I never used to talk with my grandparents or even parents as much as I should. It’s not because their bad people or I don’t want to, I just get busy with life or I push it off or insert a variety of inane excuses.
Well, nothing quite like a pandemic to get me to realize that I need to talk to my family more, both to check in and make sure they are well but also because it’s a good thing to do. Human connection is more important now than ever, and with only minimal effort, everyone can come out the other side feeling a bit closer to one another.
This also doesn’t just apply to families either. It is crucial for people who are struggling, have lost their jobs, aren’t in the greatest of health, are elderly, and anyone else really. We’re all in this together, but that doesn’t mean much unless we consistently remind everyone of that fact, day in and day out.
Now’s the time to learn and grow, not only to become a better, more fully-formed person, but to also act as a distraction from the daily disaster. I mean it. Learn that second language, learn to code, write, read, bake, do anything you can think of or imagine. Online classes will be more important than ever.
I’m currently taking a class on History of Video Game Design through edx. I’ve also heard great things about Coursera, Udemy, and Khan Academy as well. I’ve played video games since I was very young. Additionally, I am developing a writing project on video games so I thought this class might be a good fit.
If online classes aren’t your thing though, that’s okay. Creativity can manifest itself in just about any activity. Even if it’s simply learning how to fix things or coding that’s okay. It can seem mundane or trite, but for decades and decades mental health has been scoffed at in this country. Not anymore.
Adapt or die. That’s it. That’s the strategy. What that looks like varies per business, but one thing is certain: the makeup of cities is going to change. Unless both businesses and consumers adapt, many of our favorite haunts could be forever shuttered. For business that means learning to use the internet and learning fast. For consumers that means finding out new ways to support businesses and doing your best to be patient as businesses figure out quarantine.
This process has been refreshingly innovative so far with some unintended hiccups a long the way. Gyms and freelance fitness trainers have made a natural transition online. Most restaurants, if they weren’t online already, have made the jump to being listed on delivery apps. Many electronic and hardware stores have made the transition to ordering online and delivery. Talk and news show hosts have made the mostly awkward transition to doing their regular shows from home and many movies are slated to be aired on streaming platforms instead of theaters.
If the goal of the individual is to nurture their mental health, the goal of businesses should be to adapt. There’s no going back and for the moment, What we do know now is that people are losing their jobs. Business needs to be responsive to that and figure out how to move forward in a mutually beneficial way for everyone. Many sectors of our economy are built on methods of doing things that have existed for centuries and it’s long overdue that those ways are reevaluated.
What’s been possible has been redefined. Companies can actually function reasonably well without an office, studios and streaming companies can work together, everything from food services to musicians to artists and yoga instructors can use the Internet to their great advantage.
One interesting example of this in action was highlighted by ROI Revolution. They write that, “The auto industry has been highly dependent on the in-person sales experience up until this crisis. In an attempt to combat the immense drop in car sales that China saw, dealerships are testing out ecommerce capabilities. Select dealerships are making the following changes to adapt to social distancing needs:
- Introducing one-on-one appointments in-person
- Leveraging their large showrooms to allow for social distancing
- Adding new services to their online sites
- Allowing test-drives at the home or office
- Offering at-home vehicle delivery
As with many of the changes in shopping the coronavirus is bringing, we may see these offerings stick around even after the crisis is over.”
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To almost no one’s surprise, the capability of bigger businesses to weather the storm is directly proportional to the willingness to act. Paid sick leave and additional compensation for workers is possible. Not laying off workers is possible, Completely switching over production to make something new is possible. We’re seeing examples of it over and over again.
The old excuses of how we pay for it or that’s what the market will bear are not relevant and were possibly never relevant.
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Large companies finally seem to get the hint that investing in their workers is not only important but possible. All it took was a global crisis. These are the same companies — especially looking at you Walmart — that have strongly resisted raising employee pay citing every excuse under the sun. Not even Bernie Sanders could get the Walton family to treat their workers better.
This is good and now, more than ever, is the time for companies to step up and do good. Help in any way they can, but when the new normal returns imagine if these benefits that were doled out in a time of crisis were made permanent. They’ve inadvertently proven that it can be done. What excuse do they have now?
Your biggest idea just isn’t big enough. It hopefully has become abundantly clear to lawmakers how insufficient $1,200 one time checks are in the grand scheme of things. I live in Los Angeles. That doesn’t cover even one month of rent. The situation is similar across the country, compounded with the fact that some people might not receive checks for five months. By then, it’s almost an insult more than a stimulus of any meaningful kind.
Admittedly the CARES act that was passed through Congress is big by the standard of history, but I hope people are realizing that it’s not even close to what will be needed. Governments need to think bigger. There are many proposals floating around that could do a lot of good at the scale that’s needed. Some countries are enacting legislation that will literally pay most of the wages of workers that have been furloughed, are in danger of being laid off, or have had their hours cut. Other countries are providing meaningful stimulus like sending checks out on a monthly basis and providing massive amounts of interest free loans to small businesses. Some proposals include student loan forgiveness and rent deferrals or even cancellations.
The political will exists, even here in the United States. It has been stunning to watch many Republicans and even Democrats line up behind even a modest form of universal basic income. It was as if Mitch McConnell had suddenly awoken from a coma and finally decided to start governing.
This moment is going to require a reinvention of government that will hopefully shed the pettiness of the past like arguing about whether or not we’re paying unemployed people slightly too much in the middle of a pandemic or allowing more people to vote remotely during a global pandemic to qualify as extenuating circumstances.
The answers in both those instances are “Really??!?!” and “Duh, of course it is.” Now, can we move on? There are fucking leviathan level fish to fry and government cannot get distracted with this.
I’m not here to minimize the gravity of the situation. I am actually of the strong belief that people still don’t realize exactly what we’re dealing with here. We are at a moment, unlike any other in modern history and how we react to it will decide for us what are future looks like. The annoying thing is that if we play our cards right, society could be radically improved at every level. The only question is if we have the strength of will to get there.