I hope each of you is well and safe in these uncertain times.
Keeping the economy closed will continue killing the economy, opening the economy will continue killing people.
Which do we choose?
This is the grim choice the virus is exposing. It is the one humanity is left with after our relentless pursuit of The Dream for such a long, long time.
All but “essential” businesses are shut down today.
(What is deemed essential? Well, that will be up to the government to decide, and another topic in and of itself.)
The shutdown is wreaking havoc on the ability of vast swaths of humanity to earn a living. I’m not talking about thriving here, I’m talking about “earning a living” - being able to simply live on what you earn.
Yet, the bills keep coming. People need money to pay rent and buy food.
So many people were unable to do this before the shutdown. So many more people are unable to do this now.
There’s no social safety net in the United States, the majority of the population holds debt and no savings.
So, the dialogue turns to how long the shutdown should last.
Easing the shutdown and allowing businesses to reopen would allow people to begin “earning a living” again. Yet, it would also increase the number of people who die in this crisis.
So, do we continue letting people die slowly, as their means to provide for themselves continue to dry up? Or do we allow people to go back to “earning a living”, as the number increases of people who die from the virus.
This is the choice humanity faces right now.
In reading Marx: A Very Short Introduction in recent times, I’ve learned that The Dream and capitalism are closely related to each other. I’m starting to wonder if I can use the two references interchangeably.
Pursuing The Dream has embedded capitalism into society’s framework, or maybe capitalism has caused us to pursue The Dream. Regardless, taken together, they’ve created a self-reinforcing cycle.
It’s that cycle that’s left us with this grim choice.
How does this choice get made and who gets to make it?
I imagine there are teams of still-employed and highly-paid consultants working with the government to dehumanize the choice. Numbers and formulas in Powerpoint presentations remove the decision makers from the true human impact of this choice. Thinking about those who will actually make this decision feels somewhat terrifying to me.
And then what?
After the decision gets made and when this is all over, what then?
Do we use this as an opportunity to implement real change in society, to prevent us from heading down the same path again?
Or do we regress back to where we started; the unconscious dream-chasing process that left us with this grim decision in the first place?
I’d like to believe real change will happen. I’m feeling doubtful it will, since the government is already printing money to push us back into dream chasing mode.
I’m struggling to find a clean way to wrap this up. I guess I hope that, by me writing and you reading this, we can think about ways to do things differently, before hopping right back onto the merry-go-round that is chasing The Dream.
But most importantly: Please, stay well, take care of your body and mind, and continue making the right choices for you and those around you.
P.S. - This was originally published in my free weekly newsletter here.