(Cross-posting this from Facebook; my hope is to ease off my use of that site and get back into the habit of long-form writing here.)
I noped out of Facebook and Instagram entirely on Friday night, partly due to some dumb “woe is me” personal nonsense I seem to still be toting around from my doleful adolescence, but partly because the never-ending cascade of noise has become…overwhelming. The world has seen devastating illness before, but never while being so inundated with information. Opinions, counter-opinions, facts, counter-facts, intense terror, snide dismissiveness, humanity at its worst, humanity at its best, minute-to-minute updates from news sources and governments and anyone with a keyboard, and all of it coming at you at 100 megabits per second. I’m finding that I feel like I’m being psychologically crushed. I reactivated Facebook late yesterday because I wanted to know how everyone is holding up, but as someone in the grip of increasing anxiety who is now cooped up at home with her many screens for the foreseeable future, I don’t know what the happy medium is with this platform.
My situation as this unfolds is better than most. I have a salaried position that allows me to work remotely, I don’t have children, and I live in a comfortable room in my family’s home for very little money. But even that stability is tenuous. There is a not-unlikely universe in which COVID-19 has not abated by May or June; where social distancing and self-quarantine become the norm for the next year or so. And while some crowd-based businesses like the nonprofit theatre I work for can probably get through a couple of months of near shut-down without going under, it would be a miracle if we could keep our payroll going with up to 18 months of folks being told to stay far away from each other.
Understanding of this virus is shifting rapidly, and full clarity will only come with time (and probably hindsight), but what is evident now is that this thing is dangerous and spreads easily, very often from people who have no symptoms. Taking social distancing seriously has become a moral responsibility. There are those who still aren’t practicing it because they don’t believe in the severity of the situation, or they aren’t in what’s been identified as a high-vulnerability demographic and therefore don’t care, or they just refuse to stop doing whatever they want to do exactly when they want to do it, and my personal stance on those people is that they can get fucked right in the face. But a lot of other folks have been resistant to the concept because it will mean bankruptcy for them. It’s why theatres took so long to shut down. It’s why most restaurants and stores and bars and other social hubs won’t stop operations until the government steps in. It’s why the majority of my extended social circle, which is made up of artists and wage-workers, is panicking. Pure, uncut capitalism has no provisions for a pandemic.
And call me crazy, but I can’t help but think that a system wherein a vast portion of the population has to decide between helping to stem the tide of a global catastrophe and being able to continue having stable access to the basic necessities of life is deeply, nightmarishly broken. There are better options out there—there HAVE to be—and I’m so tired of seeing any progress toward a more unified, stable, well-educated, empathetic society be stymied by the wealthy and the blue-collar people they’ve brainwashed into thinking they might one day be wealthy too. The economic ramifications of this period are going to be far-reaching and long-lasting, and the fact that THAT is what’s keeping me up at night when thousands more people are going to die before this is over means that something is very, very wrong with this country.
I believe that everyone should be given the opportunity to work. I believe everyone who works is entitled to safe housing, food and water, utilities, education, and healthcare. I believe that it is our job as a compassionate society to also provide those things to people who are unable to work. I believe that we are all responsible for helping to take care of each other. I believe that we are obligated to give up some luxuries if it means that everyone can have the necessities. And I believe that when a virus or a natural disaster rears its head, we should have a system in place that supports everyone being able to make unselfish choices without having to worry about it putting them on the streets. This is not the Middle Ages. We aren’t goddamn wolverines. How we can live in the most hyper-connected era in human history and yet still refuse to see each other is baffling.
Anyway. That’s my contribution to this particular echo-chamber’s noise. How all y’all doing?