It’s been a while since I’ve written anything, and it’s not every generation that gets to fight a global pandemic. So, it’s time to immortalize some thoughts on this blog.
Like most of the news today, I find solace in knowing this isn’t entirely new. In the 1918 Flu Pandemic people would drop dead in the middle of the street and no one knew why. It might seem silly to think we’re reminding people to wash their hands, but at least we have the good sense to wash our hands. Our understanding is vastly improved. And we’ve learned how to manage health before we totally overrun our healthcare network.
I see rumblings of people irritated that if they can work from home now, clearly we always could and “capitalism wouldn’t let us”. That strikes me as a little self-serving. An immense amount of value is brought into the world through collaboration, teamwork, and just bumping into other smart people. Also, to say nothing of the fact we all know work is different at home. Sometimes better, sometimes worse, but rarely has purposeful. There’s a big difference between sitting on the couch with Netflix on in the background vs. the conference room.
Likewise, much of humanity’s greatest works of art, literature, science, and math came from people who sequestered themselves off from humanity for long periods. But no one operated in a total vacuum. They relied on spouses, kids, and the collaboration of others before and after their best work.
Unlike 1918, our ability to work remotely at all is itself a remarkable bit of progress. Cities ground to a halt and entire economies just stopped when cities closed schools, public gatherings, and quarantined themselves 100 years ago.
We’ve experienced all parts of this COVID-19 situation before. Just never all at once. This is like if we had the flu of 1918 and the stock market crash of 1929 at the same time. But it’s all overseen by Harding’s total incompetence, Andrew Johnson’s racism, combined with Nixon’s fragile ego and paranoia.
What’s more remarkable is if this situation continues for several weeks or months, and it looks like it will, this will be the first time a generation of Americans will have to live with scarce resources.
It’s one thing to talk about a dwindling social safety net, but most Americans haven’t had to live without access to on-demand toilet paper, dining out, and other supply shortages in a long time. Our parents surely remember the gas lines of the 70s, but gas is cheaper than ever right now. Prior to that, this nation hasn’t had to “do without” something since the 40s.
It is fruitful timing considering this nation continues to debate healthcare, too. As reports from the BBC have noted, “America does not have a health system. They have a health sector.” That’s about the best description I’ve heard of how we choose to operate healthcare.