Context Matters


I hope everyone is hanging in there. How is social distancing treating everyone? For a while there it seemed like I, like many of us, was existing in the narrow space between feeling like we were overreacting or underreacting to COVID19 news, potential spread of the virus, and all that comes with that, leaving me floundering in some surreal inbetween space where I just can’t seem to establish a known reality. Between my wife being an RN and my 89yo mother being dependent on our care, we knew early on that we were going to err on the side of caution when it came to the virus. When I closed the store down, a lot of people told me that people were overreacting. It depends on the context. For normal times, this might have been an overreaction, but in case you haven’t noticed yet, these are not normal times.  This is not a normal virus. It is not the flu.

Part of the problem is that almost all people, but especially Americans, suffer from that-happens-but-it-won’t-happen-to-me syndrome. The only instance that Americans are free from that-happens-but-it-won’t-happen-to-me  syndrome is when it comes to instant riches and sudden wealth. Everyone thinks they are going to be the next billionaire, that they are one lucky break away from untold riches, one dead unknown uncle away from filthy wealth, one lottery ticket away from being on an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (Yes, I know, a very dated reference indeed). As a society, we don’t notice, or are unable to see, when the it is happening to us. Face it, as People in general and Ameicans specifically, we just aren’t that self aware. We’ve learned this from every horror movie, disaster movie, or dystopian movie we’ve ever watched. We rarely recognize those historical, life altering moments when they are happening. The problem gets magnified when we combine Mr. That-Happens-But-It-Won’t-Happen-To-Me person with Mr. American-Rugged-Individualism-Run-Amuck person, rambling about how you can’t keep him down and berating us about personal freedoms this and that and we end up with selfish idiots jeopardizing public health and safety packing the beach or the bar during a pandemic outbreak. 

A somewhat popular refrain by some at this time is “this is no time for politics”, or “don’t make this political”, or “the virus isn’t Democrat or Republican”. First of all, yes, that is true, thank you Captain Obvious for shedding light on the virus’s lack of political affiliation. Second of all, you are an idiot, please just save your trite talking points for your family. Okay, I’m sorry. I will shelf the nasty sarcasm for a bit and play nice. The virus isn’t political. It’s Apolitical, if you will, and it will kill indiscriminately, both young and old, Democrat or Republican, or rich or poor. But that last bit isn’t necessarily true, is it? The poor will definitely suffer far more than the rich will, and we have a list of known socioeconomic factors that will bear this out. But in the sense of a conscious motivation or some sort of malice, no the virus is not political. I also hear people say #3 (President He Who Shall Not Be Named) isn’t to blame for the virus, that he didn’t create it. This is also true, but let’s be honest here, I’m not going to spend a lot of time on this point as it appears to be self evident and well documented, but he screwed the pooch on this one and his hands are soaked in blood. He makes Lady MacBeth look self aware. So yes, let’s just say that #3 didn’t create the virus but did/is doing everything within his abilities to make it as bad as possible; he’s targeting for the worst possible outcome. However, if we are to truly give this crisis a fair analysis, we can’t completely blame #3 for this situation. That is the truth. Yes, he has exacerbated this crisis and made it far worse that it should have been, and it is bound to get worse, but the circumstances surrounding this virus and all of the collateral damage being done throughout our society have merely been exposed by the virus; what is going on around us are structural and moral failures of our society that have been put in place and fostered over the last thirty five years. 

Context matters. 

We, as a society, have spent almost forty years building our entire system on the philosophy of profit for profit’s sake, benefitting only the very few. One of many results has been that Hospitals became private and strictly focused on the profit margin; their mission shifted from care to profit. It’s that simple.  That’s why they don’t have enough beds, why they don’t have enough supplies, why they are so ill equipped to deal with this crisis. They simply aren’t built for this type of work any longer. In the 80s, hospitals started shifting towards a model that included fewer beds, shorter stays, more elective surgeries, less overhead, and more profit, profit, profit. Why would they stockpile supplies for a pandemic crisis that may or may not happen every hundred years or so when that can be translated into lower overhead and more profit? We have spent almost four decades creating an entire health industry solely based on making money off of people’s health, and the worse their health is the more money to be made. We’ve spent all of this time creating a health industry that isn’t built to help you or take care of you, but only profit from you. In a crisis like this, they can’t just suddenly shift their mission and become an entity that is here to take care of you over an extended period. In a crisis, profit is ill equipped to help. People tell me that it’s #3’s fault because he didn’t see this coming and get the extra supplies, just the basics like PPEs and N95s, out to the hospitals in the different states, or some other reason the supply chain failed. And I hear ya. But where does each hospital in each community bear responsibility? They make millions in profit off of these communities and their “selling point” is to be there to serve the community. But being prepared for a crisis in their communities wasn’t and isn’t profitable enough for them. 

This all happened while we were watching, and we all let it happen. 

It’s time to reevaluate what kind of society we want to be. 

I have always tried to be a silver lining kind of guy. Sometimes it feels patronizing even to myself. But I have to keep looking for them. But what I hope for is that we actually change some fundamental things about our society and culture.