Monday, May 4, 2020

Aftermath 2020: The Pollyanna Prognostications

Annamaria on Monday

At this moment, no one seems to know when or how to safely restart the economy of a medium-size city anywhere in the world without risking a new epidemic spike and more deaths.  So how can little me, all by myself, possibly foresee the aftermath of Covid-19.  I can’t.  But I do have a glimpse of what to hope for.

My studies of the aftermath of previous pandemics, as I have reported in these precincts over the past three weeks, have revealed that events like the Black Death and the Spanish Flu sped up some of the trends already taking place and slowed down or stopped others.  So I think it is safest for me to look at the trends that were already in process and talk about what I hope for in their regard.

In the United States, the country I know best, the greatest effect of the terrifying disease that has shut us down has been to lay bare the flaws in our society, the existence of which will not be news to anyone.  The difference now is that we can see those flaws as critical issues, because, in the worst cases, their existence has greatly contributed the virus induced pain and suffering.  My cock-eyed optimistic hope is that with the flaws now so obvious, we will find ways to fix them.

Let’s start with some really easy issues.  Pre-Covid, it had become unusual for families in the US to eat their meals together.  This was a trend I have known about from personal observation since the 1980s.  But during lock-down, families have been keeping at home and many more are together for all their meals.  This strengthens their bonds, a very important thing for parents and children.  To work their magic, these  gatherings need to look, NOT like this:

But more like this:

Wouldn’t it be nice, once the gyms are open and soccer practice is allowable, if families continue to gather and talk at dinner, if not daily, at least several times a week.

Telecommuting has been on the rise for some years, but Covid made it the only way many people can get their jobs done while observing social distancing.  Highways in heavy commuting areas have gone from this:

To this:

The result is good for the planet.  It also saves a lot of wear and tear on people’s nerves and frees up more personal time.  Once they can, people will want to go to the office, but I think not all the time.  I imagine that a goodly percentage of them will begin to split their time more judiciously between commuting and working from home.  And now that they have had a chance to get used to this new normal, managements will be more comfortable believing that their employees are on the job, even if they are not in the same building.

Is there any wonder why our healthcare system doesn't work?

The fair distribution of health care in the US has been lagging behind the rest of the world since the aftermath of the Spanish Flu a hundred years ago.  The current pandemic has shown that our lopsided system makes whole swaths of our citizenry extremely vulnerable.  Many of the least served by the system have been—by current designation—essential workers.  We now can see clearly that we need to protect everyone.


In fact, the whole of idea of who is important in our society has been set on its head.  There are the first responders: cops, doctors, firemen, etc.  We have known for some time how important they are.  But six months ago, who would have expected the people who check us out in the grocery store or who restock the shelves, the warehouse workers or the pizza delivery guy, the bus and subway drivers, the orderlies in the hospitals, the people who kill and package the chickens or pick the peppers and the avocados would be essential.  But there are, and they risk their lives to keep the rest of us going.  We need them a whole lot more than we need the sharks on Wall Street.  Now we know that.  I hope it means we will try to get them better paid and cared for.

For decades now, public education has been a victim of budget cuts and teachers have been grossly undervalued.  I can’t help but imagine that all those people who have been trying to educate their own children at home have woken up to how skilled a person really needs to be to teach a six-year-old how to read or a fourteen-year-old how to do algebra. When it comes to getting respect for teachers, will we begin to vote accordingly?


All of the people mentioned here need more respect, better pay, and healthcare that’s as good as everyone else’s

In order for the aftermath of 2020 to bring about the needed improvements, the underlying issues are what really need to be addressed.  In the USA, this means making the country a real democracy that works on the principle of one person-one vote, not one dollar-one vote.  And we need to stop allowing people to amass and keep more wealth than they or their progeny could possible spend in a thousand lifetimes.  The top five richest people in the world now own more billions than the GDPs of 131 countries.  These top five have combined net worth more than the GDPs of 164 countries.

If you want to understand the ramifications of these last statistics, well… even if you don’t, I urge you to see the documentary Capital in the Twenty-first Century.  It was made pre-Covid.  What it says is even more important than now that we may be facing a worldwide depression.

We are going through a lot of pain.  There may be a great deal more just over the horizon.  At the very least, let’s support the people who are helping us make it through.  And let’s do what we can to make sure our societies come out of all this suffering in better shape than when we went in.


  1. The optimism about opening up is overblown, I think, with respect to the dreaded virus. I also think that it is way overblown about the possibilities of a quick economic recovery.

    1. I agree completely (no surprise there), Stan. There is no quick recovery--not for the sick, not for the family finances, and not for the national economies. But there are things we can begin to hope for. You know me well enough to understand what an important ingredient hope is in my spiritual soup.

  2. I couldn't say it better,Sis. So I won't try. May our priorities be reordered fairly and soon.

  3. Very well-said. I'd add nurses who have had to fight for PPE, and some have been fired for saying hospitals were not providing enough. So I hail nurses, too. And I like the chart and agree on the points epressed here, but the richest guy in the world owns several companies where employees go to work sick and don't have paid sick days -- a crime, in my view. I support all the frontline workers, those who keep society working, and can't work from home. They take the risks. And I have sympathy for the communities suffering the most: African Americans, Latinos, Indigenous people, the elderly.

    1. Thank you, Kathy. I am happy to see you back here with us. I missed you over the weeks and hoped you were well. Your comments are always such a great contribution to MIE. Glad you are here in this safe virtual world as we all try to see each other through these scary times.

  4. Thank you. Sometimes work, reading, TV news (been glued to MSNBC since the pandemic started and CNN) pull me in. It's been a strange time and TV and the Internet news are so important.