The Way America Used to Live is Done. We Need to Forge a New “Normal” Once This Is Over.
A worldwide pandemic has a way of turning everything that used to be, on its head. Things we once did (as a culture at large), without giving much thought otherwise, we can now see might have been flawed, illogical, even ill-advised. There are ways in which we have been living that can, and some that even must, change as we move forward following the Coronavirus pandemic.
Universal Basic Income would have been a significant thing during this time. The frequently misunderstood point about a UBI is that it will result in apathy. That people who have money “handed to them” are going to be unproductive members of society. Save for a few exceptions, this is not the case. The theory of automatic laziness from people given a safety net of funds has been disproven, time and time again, in several studies. People like to work. They feel a sense of purpose, accomplishment, and satisfaction in doing so. Research has shown that those who are unemployed by either being fired or just not having a job frequently experience depression along with it. Thus, a Universal Basic Income is not going to result in a society of lazy louses.
Instead, it will give people something to fall back on in times of trouble and distress, such as a freak accident, a medical issue, or during a pandemic when many are struggling financially and might have lost their job. A Universal Basic Income would alleviate, to a not insignificant degree, the anxiety, stress, and fear that is present in a scenario like the one currently playing out.
Pandemics aside, Universal Basic Income is merely freeing. If someone receives, say, $1,000 each month, they will still need to work, as most people cannot live off that. But, they would have greater flexibility to choose a vocation instead of getting or being stuck in one. They could select work that brings them a sense of fulfillment, challenge, and thrill if they so desired. Or, they could pick easy, mindless work if they preferred. The point is, there would be the possibility of choice for people and far less a sense of being trapped because our livelihood depends entirely on our job.
The job should be a main source of income, but it shouldn’t be the only one. It should not be the case that if a person loses their job, they are screwed. A place in which this happens is not a humanistic society, nor is it one structured with the best interests of its citizens in mind.
A better medical care system would save thousands of lives in a scenario like the one we are experiencing now. Both, in terms of having adequate equipment stocked and available if needed, and, a government that is willing to supply whatever we do not have. We don’t have either of these. This needs to change, or the U.S. will remain in great danger and vulnerability going forward.
Vastly improved healthcare for the citizens of our country must happen, today. People have been turned away for treatment for COVID, no joke, because they didn’t have insurance. That is a crime against humanity. It’s the sign of capitalistic, cruel culture, one driven by money and selfishness.
Further, a plethora of people cannot get medical care for other needs unrelated to Coronavirus, because our system is buckling under the weight of the pandemic.
So many other countries have this down. Why are we unable to figure it out? Health care should be a basic human right. It should be a given with being alive. Instead, we make it a luxury. This is a horror. It’s the worst. America claims to be great, but it’s a terrible place if it doesn’t care for its people. And right now? It’s not. Why are people not up in arms about this? Making a huge stink about it? Protesting? Losing their minds over it? This will not change until such behavior and a collective voice begins to happen. We must demand better if we want better.
Changes and shifts in how we consider work. Such as, does everyone really need to make the long trek from home every single day, to sit inside under fluorescent lights at the office with one’s cubicle and be there in person, when we’ve now seen that work can be done just as well from home?
We could save money on rental spaces this way, slow the spread of colds, flus, and general disease, and have our employees be way happier, allowing them to work from home at least some if not all of the time (if they wish it).
Part of treating your employees well is trusting them. It’s offering them a sense of choice and autonomy. One offering of this would be allowing people to do their work from home.
This type of trust and offering of flexibility and autonomy results in loyal employees who are much happier to be working for you. Those who are more motivated and satisfied with their jobs. People who want to continue working for your organization, and who will do a better job at it. Studies have shown, long commutes wreck havoc on mental and physical health. We’ve now seen, for a lot of professions, there is no need for it. Remote work is possible for a majority of professions. Why not let this continue?
Our President has got to go, and our government needs a massive cleanout. This one man has single-handedly demolished the U.S. Granted, there was a lot of trouble brewing before he was ushered into the White House. The fact that we elected him? One obvious symptom of it. Still, though, during Coronavirus, for example, a moment that is a true test of the leader of any given nation, Trump could not have done worse. From insisting it was a mere flu that would go away on its own for weeks (resulting in the disease ravaging the country in the meantime), to refusal at shutting things down, suggesting people ingest disinfectant, and saying “no” to paying for much needed medical equipment, he is a menace to the well-being of our country, period. Anyone who cannot see that is both cruel and foolish. One of the central chances we have at getting the state of our society, with some semblance, back on track? Get rid of the disease in the White House.
We have got to resurrect a sense of empathy, warmth, and kindness for one another. This has been in short supply for years now. The Atlantic has written much about how empathy has taken a nosedive here in America. That instead, we are all about success, success, success, meaning, how we look on paper, our sense of status and popularity, how “hot” we are, and how much money we make.
These focuses are resulting in a cruel, hard-hearted, self-centered society. We do not care much for the well-being of one another anymore. We care for ourselves. This is a huge problem.
It’s making our country a rather inhospitable one. It pits people against each other, rather than brings them together. It creates resentment, anger, and bitterness among citizens. It’s doing things like contributing to the spread of COVID rather than abating it. Not wearing a mask because it “feels like a submission?” (Yes, this was in the news. A random man exuding toxic masculinity and self-centeredness at its utmost). This is selfish and ignorance at its finest. It is not bringing forth a sense of care and concern for the greater good. Instead, it is self-serving and childish. That is, but one example.
Come on, folks. We can do so much better than this. Look outside of yourself, what you want, your own needs, and consider what our country and our fellow citizens need too. We must expand our hearts to encompass our neighbors, colleagues, friends, and fellow citizens in order to change the chilly unkindness that has pervaded America. Otherwise, things are only going to continue on a steep downward slope.
The turning back toward wisdom. Instead, we’ve made a swift departure in the other direction from it. Propaganda runs abound. Tabloids are considered news. A Tweet is taken as legit information. No one knows what is real news anymore, given the millions of sources we have for getting our information. People read something and consider it “news” or “fact.” When much of the time, this could not be further from the truth.
Opinions are not news, people. Trump’s Tweets are not wisdom or truth. They are lies to get people riled up, and it works. We must stop buying into every quote and commentary we hear on a given radio show, or see on T.V., or hear from Sean Hannity, or read from Instagram in a meme. Almost all of these are mere red harrings.
Honest, authentic, real news today is very much a needle in a haystack. Remember that when you are clicking and scrolling. Some remaining reputable sources: The Atlantic, NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and The New Yorker, to name a few.
Let’s go back to connecting with flesh-and-blood people rather than screens. We no longer give people our full attention. We give them half at best, sometimes even less. In any given interaction, we are semi-listening, while our focus is fractured and pulled away with every ping, ding, and vibrate from our phones. We see the light of the screen and crane our neck to check “who it might be.” We feel the shake in our pockets, and “just have” to check it. We dismiss and are rude to the people in front of us, all the time, for our phones.
This is having grave consequences. People today are lonelier than ever. We are overly connected digitally, though our emotional and mental connections with one another have grown shallow. We are addicted to our devices, to the exclusion of what used to be full focus on and deep connection with others.
On a similar topic plane, social media has made us into brands of ourselves. Look at me, look at me, our photos and posts say. Our narcissism is soaring, with scantily clad selfies abound. A sense of perpetual competition and comparison, ever awaiting us on social media as we scroll through the seemingly perfect lives, bodies, and homes of others.
None of this is helping us emotionally. Much of it is hurting us. During our time of quarantine and in missing the in-person connection with others, this should be a firm slap in the face (aka, reminder) of how important our human connections are. And to put away the damn phones already, because they are a rift rather than a bridge between others.
Instead, we’ve dropped out of the community and have turned inward (I am speaking regarding prior to COVID), to ourselves and our electronics, imagining as though we are “connecting” with others via our posts, texts, and photos online. All of this is pseudo-connection. It’s shallow. It’s not real human connection. And that’s why it doesn’t satisfy for long.
Our fixation and priority on the wrong things needs to change. America has become the land of junk values. We are greedy. We want status, money, brand names, and all sort of stuff that will stroke the envy of our neighbors. We are fixated on how “hot” we are, often turning to social medial to bolster this validation. We want to impress others with our looks and sexiness, our popularity, our number of followers, and how “cool” we are.
We obsess over and talk endlessly about shows like Tiger King, which showcases a bunch of dysfunctional, unhappy, mean individuals, and with a focus on the exploitation toward animals, laughing and slapping our knees as we watch, wide-eyed and dazed. Our millions of views of the show, paying these people money and ultimately, encouraging them.
We revere people like Kim Kardashian, famous for the size of her butt, how “sexy” she is, her millions, and the petty drama she exudes with her family on television. We idolize men like Kanye West, who is a misogynist, a degrading, entitled man who treats women like objects and garbage. These are the people we idolize. These are the people we look up to and want to emulate. Yikes.
We watch shows like The Bachelor, riveted. One bland man choosing from several interchangeable, appearance-obsessed, shallow, emotionally chaotic, or empty women. We love this stuff.
We don’t real literature. Instead, we read memes, Buzzfeed listicles, and propaganda, taking it in as law and truth.
We refuse to wear masks during the pandemic because that is “submission” and “oppression.” We believe that the hundreds of thousands who have died, it’s all just an overblown myth. Coronavirus? It’s a conspiracy, a lie. Those hundreds of thousands of bodies? Fake news. Have we all gone insane?
What does all of the above say about the heart and morals of America?
How do any of these things matter, and how are they going to help us amidst a global pandemic, might I ask? Is your number of followers going to snag you a ventilator if needed? Will all the hours spent in tanning beds, sculpting at the gym, the money on plastic surgery, is this going to keep you from getting Coronavirus? Will it save your job during our mass economic depression? Will it pay your rent? Will it fill your soul and spirit?
Are Kanye and Kim going to do anything to help us, as impressive and so cool as they apparently are? How about The Bachelor, will that really do anything to alleviate our anxiety and depression during this unnerving and devastating time? Is watching Tiger King making us into better humans, both to one another and as a cultural whole?
America, as we all know, is in trouble. It’s been in dire straights for quite some time. There are things we can do, both here on the ground, as humble and fellow citizens, and then things our higher-ups need to step in and handle. We could make America truly great. It hasn’t been great, not for some time. We can change this though, but first, it needs to come from each and everyone one of us. Shifting and altering our own individual behavior, and then speaking out, challenging, and demanding more from our country at large. These are great places to start.
Check out more about Brooke at brookeenglish.com