Post 37: #Coronavirus and a global perspective on… the meaning of “essential”

We’re sharing our experiences, thoughts, and uncensored opinions during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 37. 

Essentially, we need to build a nation

RJD, #Beirut, #Lebanon

Oh, how I would love to tell you that my post-corona essentials will be what they used to be 2 years ago! But for the last 2 years, Lebanon has been an economic ticking time bomb that blew up on October 17. This was followed by government resignations, Eurobonds defaults, rampant corruption unveiled, and billions in looted public funds extracted out of the country to Switzerland and Luxembourg and other tax havens. 

Comes Christmas and the time for giving. The Lebanese were already 40% poorer due to the devaluation of the exchange rate and an unreal inflation of prices. Santa didn’t stop by!

Now comes #Covid-19. More than 800 restaurants closed down permanently. Day laborers couldn’t find work – the minimum wage was $20 a day, if they were lucky, but with devaluation that became utter pennies. Businesses reduced salaries by 50% or shuttered. The snowball rolled down the hill awfully fast. 

So what is essential to most Lebanese today, putting aside the 1% of course?

  1. Food: more than 50% of Lebanese are now below the poverty line due to unemployment and inflation. If it wasn’t for some amazing NGOs and charities distributing boxes of staples to poor families, and the Lebanese army (under the new government) is doing the same, these families would not be able to purchase bread to eat with their tea – a meal in many poor households.
  2. Electricity and water: Almost everyone in Lebanon has to pay 2 electricity bills (regular bill and generator subscription – this is due to the daily blackouts we have had since 2006). We also have to pay for municipality water, water purchases when the municipality fails to provide water, as well as drinking water.
  3. Internet and cellular services: One of the highest bills in the world, the Lebanese have been lucky that the cellular companies that have been robbing us for so long provided free Internet during the lockdown. What happens post-Corona? Will we ever get decent coverage or high-speed Internet?
  4. Healthcare: If you work a full-time job, you have social security that covers some healthcare services. If you own a business (most Lebanese are entrepreneurs), you can’t apply for social security. Then you have to pay for insurance coverage. Or not.
  5. Retirement pension: Again, if you work in the public sector or are employed, you are entitled to “end of service” pension. If you don’t, no official IRA or 401K plan exist, so either your children provide for you, or you keep on working because no one will look after you. Or you starve and become homeless.

The essentials and priorities in Lebanon, with the advent Covid-19, coupled with economic distress, have become eating, having a roof, staying healthy, and staying employed. Staying alive.

For the 1%, I am sure it is the ability to export more of their funds abroad. 

For me, “essential” is not owning a business or starting one; it is not going to the gym, hairdresser, or spa, and not buying more things we don’t need and not spending frivolously because we can. What is essential to me is to help build a nation that I and more than 4 million other citizens can survive in with dignity. I, as a Lebanese citizen, am a red line.

You are essential!

Tina F., Fairfax, Virginia

Here we are one month or so into our “lockdown” in the USA. All businesses are still closed except for those deemed as essential . Did you know that the homeland security has issued a 10-page list of essential businesses? It might have been easier to just list those that should remain closed like educational establishments, retail, entertainment, and sports. All others, just figure it out and make it work.

Obviously, we need the first responders, healthcare workers, police, and army. We need gas so we can fill our cars to go to the bank to access to our money. From there we take a trip to the store and buy our essentials like food, diapers, booze, and cigarettes.

We go about our everyday life without a thought to the process. We take for granted that we get what we need and our lives just run smoothly. Now we are told that if we stay home and only go out to the grocery store this will all work out.

But how does it work? What about all those behind the scenes? Does anyone really think of them?

Let’s take a simple bag of rice. What does it take for that to reach our shelves at the grocery store? We can start with the farmers in California or Asia who grow and water the rice plants. The rice is harvested and dried. It is then threshed, dried again, and milled. All these processes are completed by hand or machine, but mostly by minimum-wage employees.

The rice is then loaded in burlap sacks and placed on trucks. Drivers will transport it to a packaging plant, which will package this rice in plastic bags made and printed at another facility. The rice is then boxed in cardboard boxes that are also made at another facility. These boxes are then re-loaded and taken by different drivers to the distribution centers and put on trucks, ships, trains, or planes to be transported around the world. When they finally arrive at your local store, the boxes are inventoried, unpacked, and placed neatly on the shelves by the grocery store employees. Finally we walk in the store grab the rice, pay, and leave!

So where do we draw the line on essential? As far as I’m concerned, all workers are all essential. Some jobs may seem menial, but in a chain they are extremely necessary.

I hope that after this pandemic we can appreciate those people behind the scenes, those who are under-appreciated and underpaid.

Is recreation essential?

Norma B. Wallace, #Bend, #Oregon

What are essential needs? That’s really obvious because they are food, clothing, and shelter. Once those are satisfied – what is essential? I think all of us who are in this Coronavirus Lockdown are grateful for the absolute essentials. To provide these essentials are the farmer, the transportation industry, the roads so construction, the delivery, the grocers, and clerks.  The list goes on and on. For every essential need, there are hundreds of people providing. Perhaps one good thing that has come from the lockdown is the appreciation for all the people we depend on to provide the essentials. 

After the essentials are met, the next question is, what is important? For me, that is an easy question. Family and friends. Yet, as much as we love them, can we be with them 24 /7? We need to work to have the resources to pay for the essentials. Working 24/7 isn’t enough either. That brings us to recreation and what that is for you. Yes, it is regional, and individual. One definition is refreshment of strength and spirits after work. Another definition is to simply re-create or some form of renewal. So yes, I believe recreation is essential. I love the four seasons and I choose and love the activities in each season. The picture is from one of my snowshoe hikes just a few miles from my house. Each season has special activities for me, and I love them all. Yet, it is not the activity or what I was doing that I treasure. It is whom I was with and how we felt. 

So I have to ask myself the question, what is essential, what is a real need?   I think the real need is love, caring for each other, and having hope. So once again, my last thought is that of hope. I hope each of us will come out of this crises with hope for the future, and love and caring for one another. 

Let there be Internet

RafifJ, #Malaga, #Spain

Gone is the conventional wisdom that “essential personnel” are limited to those in the armed forces or first responders. BC (Before Corona), bullets and tanks could save us, or so we were told. Back then, I’m pretty sure most people didn’t give a second thought to the grocery store clerk or the street cleaner. We know better now.

In with Covid-19, out with the old definitions as we slowly resign ourselves to our new “normal.” The definition of war is changing, since electronic warfare is cooler, and anyway, tanks and guns can’t neutralize the virus. Our modern-day heroes don’t only wear fatigues or capes; they also don their butchers’ aprons, medical scrubs, and firefighters’ turnout pants and jackets. Our wars are localized, and the truck drivers and bakers are just some of the folks we never thought to thank before who are keeping the supply chain moving so the rest of us can social-distance and quarantine in relative comfort.

While we’re redefining “essential,” let’s look at the habits we’ve kept up DC (during Coronavirus). What is an essential element in our day-to-day existence under lockdown? Of course there’s Maslow’s Hierarchy, but a modern pandemic in a modern existence requires more levels of essentials than just the bottom layers of the pyramid.

What about connectivity? Today more than ever, an Internet connection is essential (and should be a human right) if we want to communicate with, um, basically anyone. How else do we commiserate, cry, worry, or share with people who are not in our immediate household? The Internet now where we go to work AND play. Take away my Internet and, yes, you’ll have a revolution on your hands.

Speaking of revolution, I know we like to criticize billionaires and giant corporations. They’re too rich, we claim, and should do more to give back. I have been among those critics. I’ve called for the wealthy to give back more than they already have.

But let’s face it. You’re not reading this post, reading your newsfeed, listening to a podcast, or binge-watching a show because of providence or goodwill. Your online access and social media were not heaven-sent. You can thank, among others, a Gates, a Jobs, and a Zuckerberg. And if you need to do some shopping, Bezos and his team are right there for you. Shouldn’t these people and their teams get some hero credit?

The lockdown has given me a new perspective on who my heroes are and who they aren’t. And why they are and aren’t. My essentials have changed. Have yours?

Thank you for reading our blog! We welcome all feedback.

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Post 23: #Coronavirus and a global perspective

We’re friends and family from around the world, sharing our experiences and thoughts during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 23. Important Note: WE DON’T ALWAYS AGREE – nor do we have to! We post our opinions, and those of our guest bloggers, with no censorship.

By popular demand (well, okay, 9 likes on Facebook), today’s CHALLENGE is to discuss:

“What habits will forever change after this experience.”

Here we go.

Brave New World

RJD, Beirut, Lebanon

I read a post somewhere this morning (but couldn’t find it again to give the source credit and no copyright infringement intended) – but needed more coffee:

“What we learned in the last few days:

  1. The United States is no longer a superpower.
  2. China won World War III without firing a single shot and no one could stop it.
  3. Europeans are not as educated as they seem.
  4. We can survive the holidays without travelling.
  5. The rich are actually less protected than the poor.
  6. People become selfish and cowardly, regardless of their socio-economic situation, when prices rise.
  7. No priest, rabbi, or imam could save patients.
  8. People themselves are the real viruses on the planet.
  9. We can spend millions on people without any bureaucracy.
  10. Medical professionals are worth more than football players.
  11. Oil is useless in a society without consumption.
  12. Now we know how animals feel at the zoo.
  13. The planet is quickly restored without human intervention.
  14. Most people can work from home.
  15. We and the kids can live without fast food.
  16. Prisoners detained for petty crimes can be released.
  17. Washing your hands and practicing proper hygiene is not difficult.
  18. Women are not the only cooks.
  19. There are many good people in the world.
  20. If you build more schools, you will have to build fewer hospitals.”

This list got me thinking about what the new world is going to be like, but as historians the world over know, we will find our way. 

When war broke out in Lebanon in 1975, there came a portion of that generation who lived the war as their normal; they lived in shelters, carried and operated weapons at age 12, had shortages of everything, no electricity, trash in the streets, random bombing, swearing oath to your idol politician or leader, friends and relatives killed; chaos prevailed. 

To that segment of Lebanese (now in their 40s and 50s), post-war Lebanon was the “abnormal.” They still thrive in situations where the sirens of trouble echo.

What I am trying to say is, humans – like other animals – adapt to their environment and learn how to navigate, albeit with difficulty for the first few generations. We went from hunters to farmers to industrialists to techies, after all! 

Found after extensive searching through text messages.
No copyright infringement intended.

Generations of young children and adults all over the world are dealing with the new normal and will teach us how to cope with it. A technology and AI generation will help us, just like the Industrial Revolution but on a world scale, and just like the war generations of the world and the good ideas that came out thereafter, human beings will find solutions. 

How do I see the future? 

“It will take a village.” 

The world will be a closer unit in thinking about the environment, in kindness, in selfless giving, and in development. 

“Globalization” will take on new meaning. We will be more united, once the greedy elders of the 80s and 90s generations retire. Once the Millennials and the COVID-19 generations take over, earth will be a better place to live on. We will see fewer wars, more economic equivalence, less waste and materialism, more consciousness, less “me,” and more “ours.”

I salute these brave future generations who will lead and show us the way. 

Pants Optional

RafifJ, Malaga, Spain

Retrieved from
No copyright infringement intended.
  1. Internet: Will be adopted as a universal human right and actually implemented around the world. Finally. Plus, with an Internet connection, you can do pretty much the rest of this list without wearing pants.
  2. Education: Distance learning IN; brick-and-mortar OUT. Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection, anywhere, can learn. See Point #1. Pants optional. And of course, pants optional.
  3. Jobs: With education far more accessible to all, a lot of jobs will be too. If you can write, code, edit, format, coach, counsel, apply makeup, teach, talk, listen, sing, or do pretty much anything, you can find freelance work or create your own sensation. The gig economy will boom. See Points #1 and 2. Guess the rest 🙂
  4. Social & Business Etiquette: Goodbye, handshake; hello, hand over heart. Or elbow bumping for casual interactions. Or see point 1, and know that some earnest management consultant will come up with a “universal virtual professional salutation.”
  5. Commuting: Nope. Unless their profession REQUIRES face-to-face contact, more and more people will refuse to spend the time and money to travel to an office. Why do that, just to sit through a meeting or have a conversation? You can do that remotely. Plus, when you’re working / videoconferencing with your colleagues, you can do what??? Not wear pants.
  6. Government: More authoritarian. But wait! See Point #1. Societies will struggle with Internet and other freedoms while governments try to keep us in the dark, under lockdown, in economic chains, or some other dictatorial strategy. We’ll eventually win. Elections and voting will be purely Internet-based.
  7. Health Management: More telemedicine, except for when we need a #coronavirus or other vaccine. See Points #1 and #5.
  8. Shopping: Duh. But look beyond Amazon and Ali Baba as more businesses become online stores. See Point #1. Pants optional.
  9. Cash: We’ll see fewer bills and coins as touchless cards become the norm. As this happens, we’ll need fewer tellers, who will then go into the gig economy. See Point #3.
  10. Banking: You know you don’t need an actual building to have a bank, right? We’re seeing more and more Internet banks crop up, and they offer pretty attractive deals to those who don’t have a social need to interact with the teller. Now we mostly go for the ATM and the free coffee, anyway.
  11. Consumerism: Will decrease as people learn that they really don’t need as much as they think they do. Except shoes.
  12. Home-buying: We already have virtual tours and can check out the neighborhood. But our needs will change. In the future, when we look at neighborhoods, we won’t look for the best schools (see Point #1); instead, we’ll look for proximity to healthcare facilities (in spite of Point #7) and maybe the airport.
  13. Car Ownership: Will continue to decrease as we realize the environmental and financial benefits of calling for a cab, Uber, Lyft, Cabify, Bla Bla Car, or jetpack. Parking tickets will go bye-bye, and parking enforcement officers will join the gig economy, in keeping with Point #3.
  14. Cooking: People will do more of it as they realize it’s not as horrible as they once thought. They will have saved tons of money during lockdown (no open restaurants) and now they can transfer those savings into their Internet banks (Point #10) or spend it in the gig economy (Point #3). Pants optional.
  15. Dating: Not sure I want to go there. I mean, online dating was the new “normal,” and I guess it will just increase. Virtual dating is also on the rise, and now you can go on a “date” without leaving your living room. See points 1 and 4. Pants optional.

In conclusion: Many of us might experience the changes I’ve summarized above, and much more. We might be kinder, meaner, more or less generous, more or less aware….But I bet the Number 1 change is….a pants-optional lifestyle.

Face mask frenzy

Tina F., Fairfax, Virginia

In my opinion, we will all consider the face mask as the new normal. However, it will take on a creative twist as another fashion accessory.

After this pandemic, wearing a face mask will become second nature.

I predict that many entrepreneurs, like those who cornered the Poke and Bubble Tea enterprises, will jump on the bandwagon with specialty face mask stores. For example, we buy our underwear from lingerie stores and shoes from shoe shops – so it will be natural to go to the face mask store. Department stores (if they survive) will also have a section dedicated to face masks.

Masks will be available for purchase in packets or individually, because we will wear them it the same way we wear underwear. Change it at least once a day and don’t leave home without it.

Face masks will be available in different colors and materials. From organic cotton to vegan and synthetic. You can match your shirt, jacket, or even your wedding dress.

Just as with all our fashion accessories, we will have a Walmart standard, a Hello Kitty version, and an haute couture designer standard. Take the Oscars, for example. The reporter will be commenting on Jennifer Aniston sporting a Valentino dress and a Chanel face mask.

Jewelry stores will carry special face masks to appeal to a few elite who can and will pay to have diamond- and ruby-studded masks.

Most importantly, face mask production will be critical for soldiers and police force. These masks must comply with all uniform standards. In the future, we may be required to have the words “SICK” or “NOT SICK” attached to our masks so we can determine the appropriate social distancing to maintain. Or maybe there will be a sign on storefronts stating “THIS STORE IS A SICK-PEOPLE- FREE ZONE.”

We will no longer be allowed to show our teeth in public, so the exorbitant amounts of money spent on cosmetic dentistry will be a thing of the past. Actually, it will be rather embarrassing to see a person’s teeth and we will hide them in much the same way as we hide our boobs.

As a photographer, I’ve already patented my creation. It will be cutting-edge. My face masks will be have a photo of your face imprinted on them. And it will always show the mouth closed. Never exposing the teeth, I’m not a pervert!!!