The Unseen Toll of the Plague

I am starting to notice that people, in general, are getting quite emotionally frayed, which is not surprising, given what we are all up against.  The emotional strain from our fear and anxiety comes out in a variety of ways as we are cooped up and isolated from each other and from most of our habitual pursuits and distractions.   Do not underestimate the effect of having our habits disrupted, particularly having our most beloved distractions taken away from us.

I am expecting the acting out of frayed nerves to hit the public sphere in a big way soon — understandably desperate people doing increasingly crazy things.  As worrisome as death from COVID itself is, these sometimes twitchy attempts to cope with pressures virtually no-one alive has ever had to deal with, these changes to our perceptions of the word around us, are another cause for concern. 

This already scary, disorienting situation is much more upsetting because we have a terrible two year-old and his hand-picked loyal henchmen spouting an endless fountain of counter-factual … whatever it is that comes out of their “mouths”.

We Americans live in a very competitive society, divided into winners and losers.   It is more divided now than at any time since the Gilded Age that followed the great economic devastation in the decades after the Civil War.   Our greatest winners have spent fortunes over decades to convince significant numbers of the losers that the most important thing in life is freedom from the tyranny of a coercive government that wants to seize your liberty.   It is an easy myth to promote, easy for the average citizen to relate to, since interactions with government bureaucracies are almost always frustrating.   I found myself snarling at the screen when I logged on to the IRS website for a couple of simple answers last night.

If you are wealthy you don’t need any help from the government.  You need the government to leave you and your wealth alone.   If you are threatened by a flood, a fire, an earthquake, an angry mob, lose your home, get cancer — and you are not wealthy — you will reasonably want help from the government you pay taxes to. 

We have had a social safety net in our wealthy nation for almost a century.   Before we had the New Deal social programs there was no tax-supported retirement system (Social Security), no limits on child labor, no limits on the hours employers could demand of workers, no minimum wage, no protections against sudden impoverishment (Welfare) and so on.  

You can argue that having such things, and a much better public health system, are net goods for society.   People are less afraid, less insecure, feel more supported and connected when they operate in a system that has some kind of safety net to catch the many who sometimes fall.   These social protections would seem a good thing for the wealthy as well:  people who are not desperate are much less likely to take to the streets in violent mobs.

Of course, this is all communistic poppycock to most inheritors of vast fortunes, to the outliers who acquire billions by their own initiative.  To them the only value is liberty, freedom from coercion.  We are fine, just leave us alone.  Just do what we do– dream big, work hard and be successful. 

Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared are good examples of this winner work ethic.  They work hard, are super-confident, and aggressive in pursuing their dreams.  It doesn’t hurt that both started with millions of dollars from their parents, and up-and-running business empires to run, but don’t discount their genius!   Do not dare discount their genius.

Knowing that great people like Ivanka and Jared are working hard to make sure we’re all safe should be a comfort, if you are an idiot — or insane.

Just sayin’.


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