Opportunities for Growth

On March 23, 2020, in Past Morning Briefs, by David

So after not too many days in “lockdown” and a massive infusion of stories, videos, live streams, virtual gatherings and much much more on the Viral Multimedia Network, a few thoughts are coming into focus. Maybe it’s the steady stream of Hollywood endings bouncing off the pragmatism of an everything is grist for the mill documentary glut. I’m hoping to take something away from this a little deeper than “What am I going to do while I’m stuck at home waiting for this to end?”

If the only thing the World learns from Covid-19 is that viruses are bad and wake me up when it’s over, a tremendous opportunity for growth will have been missed.

The Flattening Curve

Before Covid’s December genesis and January outbreak I felt something was very very wrong here. Here on Earth. Here in the U.S.. There and Everywhere, too. No one likes or trusts governments. Anywhere. Accumulation of wealth and corporate well-being out-prioritize the greater good of individuals, the environment, the future. If your idealism hasn’t been crushed over the last half century of Corporate Globalism and Shock Doctrine, it may be because your head was buried in the sand of pop cultural anesthesia. Or you’re immune to Capitalist Idiocracy.

To zero in a little, you gotta wonder about the logic offered by people who support Democracy, but are OK with a President of the United States being elected with a minority of the Popular Vote. You can use your words a trillion different ways, but if you understand math, you cannot reconcile our beacon of democracy proclaiming that it’s OK for a candidate to win with less votes than their opponent.

Never mind that 100 million people eligible to vote in America don’t vote. Never mind that the two Presidents elected by those minorities have presided over a handful of the greatest debacles in American history. And never mind that so many of the people who tell you how horrible government is and that it’s the root of all evil have supported putting sociopaths in charge and standing idly by while they indoctrinate those evils deeper into the system and our society.

What I do mind is that we don’t ever seem to learn anything from any of this. Ever. And if we do learn from our mistakes, the lesson all too often seems to be how to get away with it next time.

You know what William Barr learned from Watergate? If you don’t hold the President accountable for his crimes, even when caught red-handed, he can stay in office. You know what we learned from Too Big To Fail? That when giant corporations use profits to feather their own nests, pay themselves giant bonuses, buy back stock to enrich themselves and then here comes a rainy day, the first thing the government is going to do is bail them out. Like the Senate tried to do today. And you know what happens when you elect a racist, xenophobic, misogynist who doesn’t believe in math, science or logic to the Oval Office, he is going to shred the bureaucracy and the infrastructure in the name of corporate profits leaving everything, including the corporations, defenseless against the Chairman of the Board of Planet Earth Inc.: Mother Nature.

And whose fault is that? As if it matters now. It’s EVERYONE’S fault. It’s the fault of a greedy minority that’s gamed the system to put themselves in elite financial company. It’s the fault of the masses whining we are powerless while failing to exercise even a fraction of the hundreds of millions of un-cast votes to claim an iron-clad majority. It’s the fault of those who think they know better who don’t pipe up, letting themselves be drowned out by the vain, narcissistic, self-promoting sociopaths who continue to run the show. And it’s even the fault of the Founding Fathers for not predicting that the exact problem that compelled them to rebel against Britain was someday going to come back here with a vengeance and spell out in even greater specificity what should be done when some fascist invokes unitary executive privilege to upend our entire system. Talk about a loophole.

Plenty of blame to go around, right? All the more reason to set blame aside to look at the incredible opportunities handed to us today on a silver platter.

How many times have you thought, I really don’t want to go to work today? Why can’t I work from home? There’s no reason I need to drive to work when I can do what I do from my house. Guess what? Wish Granted!

You want to write for the movies? Tell your amazing story? Start a home business? A blog? Write and sing a few songs? Today is The Day.

Ever wonder why Spring Break is just a week, not a whole month? Or how most of Europe can take the entire month of August off and world markets don’t come crashing to a halt? One week of social distancing and every airline in the United States is on the brink of ruin. Does that seem like good planning to you? Shouldn’t every airline at least have a rainy day fund?

They pay designers big bucks to figure out how to jam more seats and more humans into less space, but they don’t have anyone who knows what to do if there’s a slowdown or a moratorium? You’d have thought after 9.11 someone would have sent someone a memo on the topic. Not in 21st Century America. If we’re so amazing and awesome, why don’t we ever learn?

Well, it’s not as bad as all that. And I’ll tell you something else that may seem counter-intuitive after the last couple of weeks – this virus is horrible. It’s a tragedy unlike any we’ve seen in our lifetime. AND it’s an opportunity in disguise for us to start doing things differently. It’s an opportunity that would not have afforded itself had we not run into the Covid iceberg in the first place. Our Titanic society doesn’t have to be sunk. Like an immune system adapts and evolves, so can we become stronger from the maladies that bring us to this place in time.

Here are a few ideas to get us started turning lemons into lemonade. I believe they are all natural steps forward.

  • Start learning from our mistakes. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it is a uniquely American way of sitting around waiting for things to break. It’s a malady of the wealthy and complacent. If we aren’t moving forward, we are merely waiting for the icy hand of death. This applies especially to the abominable state of healthcare in the U.S..
  • Not voting is not an option. Doing nothing is not a protest. It’s simply doing nothing. For all the complaints about our government, add the caveat: “and still people don’t vote.” Millions died for the right to vote in America, and yet people, especially young people, abstain. Voter apathy is a tragedy of immeasurable proportions. We need to think of ways to insure that every eligible person votes. Fines for not voting. Anything but apathy. Apathy Kills. No more doing nothing.
  • Decisions must balance the needs of the People with the desires of the Corporations. Corporations are virtual entities. People are real. When government places the interest of banks, businesses and markets ahead of the well-being of the people, we are doing exactly what Karl Marx predicted would be the downfall of Capitalism. The aid package stalled in the Senate offers Steve Mnuchin half a trillion dollars to dole out to corporations with no strings, restrictions or oversight. They have the nerve to suggest no one be told who gets what for six months. That is insanity. Free enterprise is fine. Choosing business over humanity is not. People need to know this is the conversation we are having TODAY.
  • It’s time to value the essential over the non-essential. Don’t be scared, but that is the essence of Socialism. Socialism prescribes a balance between freedom and equality by valuing essential goods and services (social utility) over non-essential (fetishistic) desires. If it supports life, it’s in. If it doesn’t, it’s out, or at least low priority. We’ve built an economy with a mix of essentialness and desirability. As if those two things are equal. They are not. Essentiality, life-affirming and life-saving utility, takes precedence over our whims and fancies. Alone now in our caves, we must look at our values very closely. For example: one person has a Ferrari and no toilet paper. Another person has a garage full of toilet paper, and no Ferrari. Who’s the Captain Now?
  • The lack of slack space in our society is killing us. If you don’t know what slack space is, look it up. Corporations leverage resources to maximize profitability, executive salaries and stock price. Yet the threat of a slowdown, recession or a 2-3 month sabbatical threatens to bring the world economy crashing down. That’s totally stupid and completely unnecessary. How can the entire European continent go on vacation in August and yet America can’t go off-line for a few weeks in a crisis? If that isn’t a part of a company’s long-term plan, it ought to be now. Design every business to support a 3-5 month sabbatical for each employee every 5 years so that, barring an international pandemic, it would have slack space to offer each employee 3-5 months of paid vacation, continuing education, family leave, sabbatical or walkabout to edify their lives at least every five years. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.
  • Demand more transparency and accountability from government. A scorecard tells us how many new cases of the virus are found each day in every country or state. We also need a scorecard to graphically illustrate how government succeeds or fails with its choices. Along with far more dissent when government excises a part of the safety net. That includes healthcare for the unemployed, food assistance for the under privileged, housing shortages for the homeless, and a big, giant red flag waving when the President defunds the CDC or disbands National Security Council’s pandemic unit. With all the information in this world, how come we only recognize the housing shortage caused by the Great Recession of 2008 when there are giant encampments of homeless people on the streets? No one saw it coming? Other than its architect – our current Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin (aka the Foreclosure King).

For all the debate about health care in the U.S., if you said, “We need more” at any time in the last 30 years, you were on the right track. And to all the people who said, “No we don’t,” here is an opportunity to improve on that mind-set by taking to heart the many lessons we are learning from the Coronavirus Crisis of 2020. We have to look forward to move forward. There is wisdom to be gleaned from every experience. With time on our hands – time like we’ve never had before – let’s get to growing.

Here are some links that I’ve found valuable, and hope you will, too.

New York Times Daily Virus Tracker

Washington Post Virus Tracker

Information is Beautiful Coronavirus Data Pack

WP: Why and How to Flatten the Curve

 

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