Estimated reading time: 5 minutes
Today marks the second anniversary of the great global shutdown from COVID-19. Two years ago today, businesses and Government organizations across America announced sudden shutdowns of public spaces. Over the next several days effectively all of America and most of the world went into stay-at-home mode.
While everyone’s experience has varied, everyone’s life has changed or been changed. The world seems to be slowly going back to a before-times normal. But things feel different to me. I see the tide receding, revealing the clutter of lives past laid bare for examination.
Another Historic Disaster
It’s difficult for me to express myself in describing the impact of these past two years. As with the previous 100-year disaster I had a front row seat on – Hurricane Katrina – Winnie and I came through relatively unscathed. Unscathed, that is, as compared to others who had it so much worse. Winnie was laid off from her job the week before my shutdown started. But I was able to work from home, and our income was still enough to live on.
Neither Winnie nor I were considered “essential workers,” forced to put our bodies on the line in support of the Dow Jones Average. Which, more than anything else, I think this pandemic exposed the fault lines between the well-off and the not-well-off. Those people working mostly blue-collar jobs, many making not much more than minimum age, were forced to continue working and keeping “our economy” humming right along.
While those workers were putting themselves at risk, their managers and corporate executives were raking in the cash from the safety of their home offices. Amazon.com, I’m looking at you. The people getting meat to our markets were treated almost as badly as the animals being slaughtered. Medical workers were on the front lines struggling to obtain the necessary equipment needed to protect themselves. Being part of a for-profit healthcare system just made their lives worse than the pandemic already made it.
But, at least for a little while, those workers were getting applauded by those of us working safely from our homes. So I guess that was worth – something.
More Fault Lines
The pandemic didn’t just expose fault lines between the well-offs and not-well-offs. It also exposed the hidden cruelty of way too many Americans. While I have no illusions about Americans being the epitome of culture and coolness, the blatant callousness of too many Americans shocked me. It started with the “Senior citizen should be willing to die to help the economy” crap. This was personal seeing as how I was already a certified senior citizen, meaning the assholes mouthing this crap were referring to me.
Then we went on to the whole “End the Shutdown!” crap. People were dying from a highly communicable disease by the thousands every day, while non-dying assholes were running around screaming about how they were too important to stay the fuck home for a few months. Then public healthcare officials started receiving death threats and run-of-the-mill hate mail, while being harassed by other public officials. All for the heinous crime of – trying to get people to stay the fuck home.
I’m not even sure I want to talk about the fiasco that was public education. Here again, we saw clear fault lines between kids with resources of good quality Internet and kids without. The teachers were mostly torn between trying to do the impossible of teaching, while taking care of their own families and their own needs.
Not Going Back To What Was
Now, us non-essential workers are being forced back into commuting and away-from-home offices again. Many people are voting with their feet and deciding not to go back, by quitting, retiring, and/or changing careers. We’re still in the midst of the “great resignation,” of people deciding they don’t want to live the way they did before the great shutdown. I don’t blame people.
I’m seeing more cases of workers voting themselves into unions, despite the typical anti-union knee-jerk reactions from the same people who raked in the cash during the pandemic. Other people are simply refusing to go back to working in shit environments for shit wages while their employers treat them like shit.
I did expect that the world would be forever different after this slow-rolling disaster was over. These people may be just the leading edge of the wave.
Going Back To Living
My work-from-home utopia will be ending in a couple of weeks. My government offices will be returning to a half-time telecommuting schedule; half our work days in the office, the other half working at home. This is better than what I had before the great shutdown. But I don’t think I’m ready for even this much of going back to before.
I, and everyone I work with, have a two-year track record of doing all our work from home. We did everything we needed to do. Are we going back to an office environment merely because too many important people have too much invested in office real estate?
These past two years gave me a lot of uncluttered time to think. About my role in life, and what I want to do with my remaining years on Earth. I completed one life goal of earning a Graduate degree, and I have other life goals still waiting. Working from home made me realize how many hours each day was wasted in the complications of just commuting from home to work and back home again. Is it really necessary?
So these two years have passed. People are venturing forth, like turtles peeking out from under their shells. As with disasters past, life returns as before but subtly stretched into different patterns.
Bonus Related Post
My COVID-19 Timeline Project. This massive project documents the roots of this pandemic going back several years, then moves through the first six months. The multimedia document includes hundreds of snippets of linked news articles showing how the pandemic grew, and how our government (mis-)managed dealing with it.