And now, who are we?

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This changed my life, October-November 2018

 

By Caitlin Kelly

Interesting essay in The Globe and Mail:

I’m not going to suggest this crisis has a silver lining, not when medical workers and shop staff and home-care assistants are out there putting their lives on the line, and people with the virus are dying afraid and alone. There is no silver lining, but there is a rare opportunity to see how behaviour changes when it is challenged by a new and terrifying threat. It seems to me that we’ve quickly – but perhaps only temporarily – lost our appetite to strive for perfection.

It’s been astonishing to see human fragility on display on a mass scale, with no shame or scorn. Vulnerability isn’t generally the mode that is most welcome in this world, and even people who say they love Leonard Cohen’s line, “There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in,” tend to spend most of their time furiously hiding their own cracks from public display.

But now it’s all cracks. Firefighters break down during interviews, nurses sob on their Facebook pages, broadcast anchors reach for the Kleenex. Cory Deburghgraeve, an anesthesiologist who volunteered to do intubations at his Chicago hospital because he’s young and childless, talked about treating people who are isolated and in distress: “I have to find a way to hold it together in order to do this job. I tear up sometimes, and if I do, it can fog up my face shield.”

 

No question, social media is typically shiny and performative, certainly for “influencers” and anyone who needs to maintain a veneer of fabulousness to keep their credibility.

This blog is one social media spot where I tend to loosen my stays, as it were, revealing some truths about myself — attractive or not! — in the knowledge many of you (despite 22,000 followers) aren’t actually listening.

The ones who are (thank you!) tend to be kind.

My shell really cracked wide open in June 2018 with a diagnosis of small, early-stage breast cancer, surgery and radiation.

I’m not someone who cries easily or often, but I cried at the dinner table. I cried in our shared hallways.

I asked others for help and succor; two friends were amazing and came with me to the hospital for moral support for tests —- three in one day.

It changed me in some powerful ways, how I see my life and how I want to relate to other people. Cancer does that to its survivors.

Normal life, certainly in the land of “rugged individualism”, the United States, usually means asking for help is somehow considered shameful, a moral weakness, hence conservatives’ blasé brutality toward the poor and needy.

How dare they!

I found this essay, by a former New York Times colleague of Jose’s, really sad.

As the host of The Takeaway, a national daily NPR talk show, Tanzina enjoys a well-paid, challenging dream job many of us would kill for, yet…

 

When I gave birth to my son at the end of January, an unexpected miracle to me at the age of 45, I never could have imagined spending my maternity leave in the middle of a pandemic.

But by the time I brought my son home to my apartment in Queens, the coronavirus had already landed in the United States. Soon, the borough would become the epicenter of the virus, nearly collapsing the emergency medical services of nearby Elmhurst hospital.

Single parenthood is certainly tough. Raising a newborn is already isolating; now leaving the house may be dangerous. But the pandemic has highlighted just how fragile my social networks really are, which, as a public figure and radio host who’s had her name and face splashed across billboards and tote bags, is something that’s hard to admit.

 

This global scourge is certainly forcing millions of us to reconsider our choices, whether work, family, friendship, where we live, what we buy, what we deem essential and what, we suddenly see, is real, shallow, silly bullshit.

 

So, what next?

 

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Social and economic differences, something we used to politely ignore socially and politically ignore when useful to our needs, are suddenly glaringly obvious — as African-Americans and Latino and lower-wage workers are dying from COVID-19 in disproportionate numbers.

 

 

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What’s the path ahead?

 

Will this all somehow change for the better?

When and how?

I wish.

some thoughts from The New York Times:

 

A crisis on its own has not been enough to start a labor movement, but if a movement has been simmering, a crisis can make it boil over, said Nelson Lichtenstein, a labor historian at the University of California, Santa Barbara. For example, he said, the conditions weren’t right for workers to revolt during the 2008 recession, but this time they might be.

“We have had a decade and more of agitation, planning, think-tanking on the need to solve problems of inequality and capitalist dysfunction, and so these ideas are more prominently on the agenda, and not only of liberals,” he said.

During this pandemic, workers in the United States have organized strikes at Whole Foods, Instacart and other companies, asking for protections like hazard pay, gloves and sick leave. Congress has passed policies, albeit temporary ones, that would have been politically unthinkable before now, including paid leave and direct payments to individuals. Democrats have introduced bills to make some of the benefits permanent.

 

 

Has this pandemic changed you?

 

How?

 

Do you think, if/when this ends, you will revert to your “old” self?

 

Will society?

14 thoughts on “And now, who are we?

  1. I hate to say this, but I think we will revert. I am hoping that we will have learned something about the Earth and being together and how unimportant a lot of stuff is, but …
    Something that’s really bothering me is the economic fallout that that Washington ding dong might cause. If the US economy fails badly, which will be almost inevitable if he tries to start everything up again too soon, China may come up the middle as the rest of the free world is still getting back on its feet. Really worrisome.

  2. i am ever hopeful that people may change for the better. not all, but an amount that may make a difference in how we live within, and treat the world. i’m worried about our ‘leader,’ and look forward to the day he is out of office, hopefully sooner rather than later. going through this has taught me patience, and i see kindness all around, in spite of conditions and a lack of a clear leader. i am impressed daily by the governors, and local leadership who take a measured and concise approach to all of this, while remaining empathetic. hopefully it has become clear, that we need to take on social initiatives such as universal health care, education, income inequity, etc. if not now, then when?

  3. I hope that things will change for the better on a global scale but, like you, I’m sceptical.

    On a personal note, this situation is making me re-evaluate what I want from life. I’m caught between wanting to hold on to my (currently secure) job with all my might and leaving to pursue more fulfilling work. I guess it all depends on people’s tolerance of risk! But I certainly won’t make any decisions until after this is all over, and who knows what the world will look like then?

    1. I think the endless not-knowing is very tough, for sure!

      I actually think this may make more people aware of what it’s like to get a cancer diagnosis. Even after treatment is done and you pray daily to stay healthy, you’re anxious every day, without end.

      1. Definitely. It’s hard to make any decisions when there’s so much uncertainty. I’m just focusing on one thing at a time, getting things done and trying not to think too far into the future.

  4. I don’t think I’ve changed too much due to the pandemic, other than I hate going outside now (it’s anxiety-inducing!). Then again, I’m one of the lucky few who can work safely from home, so that probably has something to do with it.
    As for how society may change, who can say? All our predictions of pandemics in real life and in fiction never accounted for the amount of memes, or the idea that people will agitate for protection and higher pay. It’ll depend on just what happens during the rest of this year, and maybe beyond.

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