Can We Learn From This?

Pandemic Diary #70

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“The past is no longer there, the future has not yet come. What is there? Only the point where the future and the past converge. It would seem that a point is nothing, and yet only at this point is our whole life. “ Leo Tolstoy

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January 4, 2021

So 2020 is behind us, it was a horrible year, and at the same time, it showed us great things.

2021 has all the hallmarks of being a better year, simply because there is a vaccine on the horizon for most of us. But I still feel we will continue to stare into the maw of a great white before we get better.

I have spent this past year, like so many, trying to live through this without falling into the abyss.

I sat down so many times to write a diary entry wanting to rail against the immoral, rapacious, venal man that is Mitch McConnell. That was the edge of the abyss I refused to fall into.

But this is not a year to continue our ‘magical thinking’ way of dealing with the problems of the world, it is time to put into action some of the things we have learned.

This pandemic has shown us the need for a major overhaul of our health system in the United States. We have counted on workers that make minimum wage to help us shelter in place with no thought to how their lives are being managed. We need to bring employment of essential workers out of the dark ages. This country needs to create a paid family leave program, a system to protect those workers that toil in the trenches and yet have no safety net such as sick leave or health insurance. We have been living with these markings of a third world country, what happened America?

We have put profit and wealth at the top of the want list for centuries, and where has it gotten us?

The world’s richest 1% own more than double the wealth of 6.9 billion people. The top 10% owns 88% of the biggest capital pool: the stock market, and within that 88%, the top 1% own more than half.

We have a chance to correct this. Early in the Covid-19 pandemic, entrepreneur Mark Cuban began discussing change on Twitter and in subsequent interviews, stating, “If we are going to bail out companies, we need to make sure all employees benefit from a turnaround, not just executives. This would be a step toward income equality.”

It isn’t impossible. In July, a bipartisan bill was introduced with the mouthful of a name Temporary Federal ESOP Grant Program Act of 2020. It proposes that the federal government extend grants to companies of $20,000 per employee in exchange for the establishment of an Employee Stock Option Plan (ESOP). The idea is to move towards a more inclusive and shared economic recovery.

The safety net for employees was defined after the Great Depression. At that time 55% of American men had employer-sponsored pensions, and by the mid-1960s, 80% had employer-sponsored health care. Under the Reagan administration, federal policymakers started to intentionally dismantle worker safety net programs and decentralize their administration to the state and local levels.

Today 401K plans have replaced pension plans leaving the employee to invest, most often, with little or no knowledge of how to do that. Due to high costs, health benefits are vanishing. It is too late to go back to those programs, but with imagination new programs can be created.

Climate change is another elephant in the room that is starting to stomp and roar. It is time to listen to scientists. The subject is far to complicated a subject for me to broach, but here are some frightening statistics: Human behavior has the caused loss of 83% of wild mammals and half of plants. In pursuit of progress we have cut down half the planet’s trees and brought 1 million species to near extinction, and fully exploited, overexploited or depleted 90% of the ocean’s fish stock.

The overwhelming protest from all corners of the country over the abuse by the police of our non-white citizens has put our 200-year history of prejudice front and center. Why do so many people still not understand that the world, while finite, it is still not a pie? If others benefit from a leg up, it does not make your share any smaller, it just makes the world a more equal and harmonious place to live.

There are over 52 million people that are food insecure this year, one in four of them are children. Think about that. If you came from a family of four, one of you would be hungry. COVID boosted those numbers by 17 million, but how is it that we live in the richest country in the world, and in any given year 35 million Americans are hungry?

The system is broken, this is the time to fix it.

While I look forward to a new administration, one with compassion and a collective understanding of the rule of law, I also know the divisiveness over politics in this country very well may lead to rioting in the streets and a form of revolution. I do not know what to do about that. The conservative faction has been touting fear for so long around the world, that some things may be too deeply ingrained to be solved without revolution.

As a writer and researcher, I find the concept of an us versus them press corps as one of the central issues feeding this divisiveness. How do we get people to educate themselves, to read legitimate publications and not take what their Facebook feed has served up for them as the truth?

This election year and the pre-inauguration period has shown us that despite what people say, highly educated people fall for these falsehoods as well as the less well-educated. This is not a class or income situation, this is a poison that has been growing deep in our society for a while. Socialism, Nazism, Fascism, all words tossed around with no one understanding that these are sound-bites from their politicians and TV pundits whose goal is to sell books and keep people voting a specific way. We need to stop learning through sound bites and bumper stickers, and educate ourselves on the issues important to us.

To be honest I am sure the world will go back to the way it has always been. But maybe, just maybe, this pandemic has changed a few minds and with it a few new ways of turning America into a better place for everyone.

To 2020:

It’s good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies. ~Jack Kerouac

Trivial Things

San Francisco weather: 58 degrees with rain in the morning

NYSE DOW compared to one year ago: +2162

COVID cases in the US: 21,118,432

Deaths from COVID in the US: 360,152

OED word of the day: pigeon wood — Any of various tropical or subtropical New World trees or shrubs providing wood used in cabinetwork or building, or having fruit which is sought by pigeons.

Days since Shelter In Place was initiated: 295

Reading: The Lath of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin

My Black and Whte Picture of the Day

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Something Silly From the Internet:

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