Post 62: #Coronavirus and a global perspective on…

…books and movies about pandemics.

We’re sharing our experiences, thoughts, and uncensored opinions during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 62. 


Is it the end of the world?

Tina F., Fairfax, #Virginia

The genre of pandemic-related books is categorized under science fiction. Probably because it’s so unrealistic that we must use our imagination to create many of the scenarios. I don’t usually read or watch anything about science fiction because I just can’t wrap my head around it. However, I did read one book several years ago for book club called Stations 11 by Emily S. J. Mandel, which at the time seemed scary, but rather far-fetched.

Yet here we are in 2020, living during a real pandemic. It is scary and disconcerting. The virus has spread fast across the globe. The death toll is high. The unemployment rate has skyrocketed. So is this an example of life imitating art?

I began thinking about this book and how it compares to the current situation. In Stations 11, the world is hit by a virus called the Georgian flu. It is a highly contagious disease with a near-zero survival rate. The flu becomes a global pandemic with in days, wiping out most of the world’s population and, in turn, destroying the infrastructure of technology and civilization. The book does not describe the decline of civilization, but jumps to 20 years later, when the earth has become post-apocalyptic and only a few have survived by walking into the wilderness.

We also find out that there was a plane that was grounded at Toronto airport, but the passengers never disembarked; they survived and eventually left the plane and lived in the airport. They collected and preserved items from their past lives and created a “museum of civilization.”

Retrieved from amazon.com

Of course, the plot is deeper than my brief description, and I do not recall too many details, but it does beg the question: how easy is it for the world to completely fall apart? Can a virus put a stop to all the infrastructure supporting the world? If we lose most of our population, and our leadership and banking system collapses, maybe we would also become desperate wilderness wonderers.

During our 2020 pandemic, as we have been sequestered in our homes, we realize what it takes to make the world economy go round. It is people. That’s it. Nothing could be possible without people. People are needed to work, make money, make things, grow food, and spend money.

Think about it – how do we acquire computers, Internet, food supply, water supply, electricity, automotive parts? Basically, you name it and people are behind its creation and administration. Even robots were designed by people.

I do not want to visualize or live in a world of mayhem and lawlessness, but I see how it can be possible. Especially when we see the armed militia storming the Michigan Capitol, threatening to kill the governor. Again, I say we need real leadership to put the kibosh on this lawless behavior.

So in conclusion, we need people to run the world, build, and create. If the pandemic does wipe out the majority of our population, we could find ourselves having to start from scratch. Let’s stop taking our lives for granted.


Will we have a happy ending?

Norma B. Wallace, Bend, #Oregon

I just watched the movie Outbreak, which was made in 1995 and starred Dustin Hoffman. It sure has a different meaning today than it would have had I watched it in 1995. To be honest, when the topic of movies about pandemics was proposed, I could only think of a movie about the Spanish Flu. Someone had mentioned Contagion to me a few weeks ago, but that person said she wouldn’t watch it—she was living it. I don’t know why I chose to watch Outbreak; I was surprised how many movies have been made about pandemics. Where have I been? I never heard of them nor watched them, so I can’t compare. I do know the reviews of Outbreak said the movie was totally lacking in personality and was increasingly preposterous. When I think of all the military scenes, I agree. 

However, since we have been living in this crazy world the last few months, the essence of the movie is not preposterous, but just plain scary. Could this happen? The doctors, and anyone dealing with the virus research, wore clothes like this chemical warfare suit all the time. The virus, carried by one person infected by a monkey went to a movie, and everyone in the movie theater came down with this disease within 24 hours. People were dying as they overwhelmed the hospital. They started out with flu-like symptoms. 

This is all too familiar. So scary—in 1995, I wouldn’t have believed it possible—just another story. The lies told by our government, the actions of our government, would have been unbelievable—making everyone staying inside their homes by military force. We aren’t being kept in by military force—could it come to that? 

These are all thoughts I never would have had in 1995. The movie was rated two stars. However, because of the Coronavirus, it held my attention. It also had an ET-type moment when the monkey made friends with a little girl.  Only she was its friend, and that simple act of kindness made it possible to capture the monkey and make the antibodies that saved the town.

Dustin Hoffman’s scenes in the helicopter really were preposterous, but it made for a happy ending. He got the monkey to the town. Saved his ex-wife from the virus and the whole town too. 

I am sure we will have a happy ending to #Covid 19. It might be a sappy ending to a movie, but I hope we have a happy ending too.


The end of the world as we know it

RafifJ, #Malaga, #Spain

I was going to write about the movie Contagion, because so much of it closely resembles our current Coronavirus situation. Released in 2011, the movie is particularly chilling now that we’re living it daily in 2020.

But I’m not writing about that movie tonight. There’s another drama playing out today, and it’s not going to end anytime soon. This is a horror movie about America’s swift descent into chaos and anarchy.

I can’t get certain images (Ahmaud Aubrey’s shooting, for one) and words (“Lock her up!”) out of my head. America has become a giant petri dish of contagion, fueled by pandemic hatred, propelled by ineptitude, and noteworthy for its colossal stupidity.

Imagine this scene: A customer walks into a Target store and is asked to wear a mask. Rather than complying (or leaving), he breaks the store clerk’s arm. In the past, it was easy enough to think these types of acts of violence were isolated incidents; we could send good vibes to the clerk and say “what an idiot” about the perpetrator. And then move on. But random acts of violence have stopped being anomalies; now they are daily occurrences.

How about those Michigan protesters? Armed with assault rifles, they stormed the State Capitol and threatened to murder their governor. I don’t believe it was a case of isolated idiocy. That was no group of peaceful demonstrators, and they weren’t exercising their right of assembly. No, this one smells more like heeding a call to “liberate Michigan.”

Does a stay-at-home order (in response to the pandemic) ever justify a weaponized protest called “Judgement Day”? What should we think when people suggest that, because of restrictions on movement, Michigan’s governor be “hanged, lynched, shot, beaten or beheaded“? Was this free speech? It was not an isolated incident, and we can’t just move on. It’s not enough to call these people idiots anymore. Their threat of violence is coordinated and deliberate.

As this American movie spirals into further chaos and anarchy, here’s a prediction: it will get a whole lot worse. More people of color will be gunned down while jogging, driving, or just being. More limbs will be broken when store rules aren’t convenient to follow. The ballot box will be replaced by the ammo box. Wait until November – if we even have elections, and if they don’t turn out a happy result for the alt-right-insane, I bet we’ll see a whole lot more “Judgement Days.”

There’s just no vaccine for this shit.


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Post 51: #Coronavirus and a global perspective…

…on human interactions in the future

We’re sharing our experiences, thoughts, and uncensored opinions during lockdown, quarantine, and self-isolation. For some of us, it’s DAY 51. 


COVIDIOTS

RJD, #Beirut, #Lebanon

Today in #Beirut, it was the first day of the second phase of lockdown easing. Restaurants are open today, with many restrictions. So are many other small businesses, such as barbers. Hairdressers will open on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, while barbers can open on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

Having a “necessary” errand to run, I went out thinking things would still be quiet on the corner of the American University of Beirut. But alas, it was mayhem. We are back to the double parking, but worse yet, everyone I encountered had no social distancing on their minds nor were wearing face masks. Gloves are a thing of the past.

On the way back, I encountered a lady going up in the elevator. She did not have on a mask or gloves, and she stood as close to me as possible. I freaked out. This is the second time during these lockdowns that I freak out because someone is not maintaining social distancing with me. The first one was at the bank a couple of months ago. And when I lose my s%*^,  it is not a pretty sight.

I was hoping the Lebanese people will follow the instructions for the phase-in of openings and would adhere to the guidelines by the Ministry of Health. I was also hoping that the police would be more visible in monitoring. I was hoping that all the efforts of the poor Minister of Health, who has managed to help us contain the virus in Lebanon, with fewer than 750 cases despite the protests.

So how do I see human interactions changing in the future? I simply don’t, with so many Covidiots around.

Essentially, this means I am going to keep on losing my s%*^ and freaking out. I suppose my view on the change in human interaction means I will be staying home for a long time to come.


Thanks to the pandemic

Charlie, Metro #Washington, DC

I’ve gotten a bit metaphysical about the pandemic lately. I’m wondering if the pandemic is Mother Nature and the Universe bringing some balance back into our insane world.

  1. Thanks to the pandemic, we’re not likely to go back to being smushed into overcrowded planes.
  2. Thanks to the pandemic, we may seriously consider doing something about the overcrowded highways. How many people now teleworking wanna go back to sitting in traffic for two hours when the trip should only take twenty minutes?
  3. Thanks to the pandemic, continuing to telework could give parents extra time for the working/life balance they want.
  4. Thanks to the pandemic, we’re probably going to be seeing automakers bow to making less polluting cars sooner rather than later.
  5. Thanks to the pandemic, families are spending more time together.
  6. Thanks to the pandemic, people are going outside more and walking off some of the hours spent at the computer.
  7. Thanks to the pandemic, colleges are looking at lowering their bloated tuition costs.
  8. Thanks to the pandemic, scurrilous lenders may no longer be able to keep students indentured to student loan debt for the rest of their lives.
  9. Thanks to the pandemic, kids being bullied at school are getting a break from the misery.
  10. Thanks to the pandemic, parents are having to home-school their kids. That’s going to up teacher appreciation and maybe their salaries.
  11. Thanks to the pandemic, the overheated stock market is cooling its jets.
  12. Thanks to the pandemic, karma is having a bit of a laugh at folks who belittled Muslim women for covering their faces. Now we’ve all gotta cover our faces when we go out.
  13. Thanks to the pandemic, online dating is less about the quick hookup and more about getting to know someone first.
  14. Thanks to the pandemic, we see that Mother Nature sees us all the same. She doesn’t care if you live on Nob Hill or a rented trailer. She’ll kick anyone’s butt when she chooses.
  15. Thanks to the pandemic, we have time to reflect on what we really want out of life and not wait till later to go for it, because if there will be a later.

My list could be twice as long, but I’ll stop here. I want the deaths from the pandemic to stop. I don’t want to go back to the way life was before the pandemic.


The new “normal” and the elderly

Norma B. Wallace, Bend, #Oregon

We all keep talking about the new “normal” and how it will be different after the lockdown. I think young people will welcome it. After all, weren’t they born with an iPhone and iPad in their hands? Isn’t social media already their mode of communication?

Weren’t many give debit cards as soon as they were old enough to use one to spend their allowance? Do they even know what a check is? What about the elderly?

I am 76 years old, and I don’t even think of myself as elderly. I believe I am fairly computer literate; my son may disagree with that. He gets a call from me every once in a while—I need IT support, please. At least I hope I say please, sometimes I am so upset that I have no idea what comes out of my mouth.

Retrieved via Internet search.
No copyright infringement intended.

I have friends, some even younger than me, who only have a flip phone; some friends have no cell phone at all. Just yesterday, I paid my bills online. Yet I have friends who still write checks and even balance a checkbook. One friend had to go to the bank last week to cash a check. I asked why? Just take a picture of the check. I have to admit, I was skeptical of doing that the first time I tried. I still haven’t tried Zelle. That’s been out a couple years now, so I am behind.

With the new “normal” being more and more computerized, automatic, and impersonal—don’t forget social distancing. How will the elderly and computer-challenged (I like that instead of illiterate) be able to function? One way is for those around them to be helpful by teaching and reteaching, patiently, and understanding. Simple things for the younger generation are complex for many of the older generation. While so many things are advancing, there needs to be a way to make the way we do things backward-compatible for those who did not grow up with a computer in hand.

When I think of all the problems in the world, this doesn’t even seem important. There are also simple solutions. I wish there were simple solutions to the other problems in the world. I am forever hopeful.


Hello!

Tina F., Fairfax, #Virginia

I remember the first few weeks of the outbreak, everyone felt so awkward. Familiar greetings like shaking hands and hugging were now questionable. We threw an uncomfortable air hug when seeing someone for the first time in a while. Followed by some embarrassed laughter hoping they didn’t consider it weird. We left people hanging when they extended a hand for a simple handshake. Thinking “You must be joking, I’m not touching you.”

Now it is universally understood that we keep our distance and have no physical contact. Everyone is anticipating that post-corona this lack of physical contact will become the new normal, and we will forever stop our intimate greetings.

I disagree. Most humans are programmed to hug and kiss. We feel better when we are physically intimate. So I believe we will continue distancing for only a few weeks, and then we will fall right back to the way we were pre-corona.

I have always said we are a nation of amnesiacs. We have a short-term memory when dealing with crises. Life will be bizarre for a while, but this will pass. We will forget all the crap we had to go through, forget how people suffered, forget the dead, and slip right back into the way we were. Huggers will be huggers, the touchy-feely will continue as before, and germaphobes will be ….. well….they probably will be more accepted.


Social un-distancing

RafifJ, #Malaga, #Spain

Is it really Day 51 of lockdown? Was there really a global pandemic? Just a few days ago, social distancing was the rule. You wore gloves, you maybe wore a mask, you washed your hands obsessively, you stayed away from other people. OK, you cheated by going to the grocery store a little more than necessary. But you did NOT gather in large groups, hug your besties, or do the mwah mwah as you greeted your friends.

Today, we are un-distancing at an alarming pace. Kisses and hugs are spreading as fast as the coronavirus did. At the beach, the crowded boardwalk is happy and full of life, with all the elderly, little kids, teenagers, and young adults going out to socialize. Clearly, our newfound freedom is something to celebrate, even though just a few days ago, we were crippled with fear of physical contact. Hello, neighbor, kiss, kiss; hello cousin, hug, hug.

What else will we forget? What will change? Here are some predictions for the long-ish term:

  1. Business and Work: More people will telecommute and start businesses. Location-independence and the digital nomad lifestyle will become the norm. At the same time, the number of those Chained to a Corporate Desk will dwindle.
  2. Travel: Back to the old normal after much dramatic fretting, lobbying, and feeble attempts to sanitize trains, planes, and buses. There will be half-hearted efforts to make travel affordable again. After price hikes and much wringing of hands, we’ll see special deals for romantic getaways and luxury business travel. Cruises will make a comeback.
  3. Bureaucracy and Paperwork: YAY! I predict that standard processes will be significantly streamlined as government and other institutions implement more sophisticated automated systems.
  4. Dining Out: Back to business as usual in a couple of months. It’s too difficult to eat in when the weather is glorious.
  5. Interpersonal Relationships: The business handshake might take a while to make a comeback, but physical greetings among friends and family are already back. We miss our people, and an elbow bump just doesn’t convey how much we love them.

These are a few notions based on what I’ve seen in the past two days. But here’s the thing: If we can’t maintain social distancing just a couple of days after total lockdown, where will we be in a week? A month??

Here’s a final prediction: if we’re not really, really careful, we’ll have a second wave that will propel us into another lockdown. I know our survival instincts make us rebound quickly from short-term adversity. But what I’m observing is long-term folly.

Please #StaySafe.


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If you’d like to contribute a post, please get in touch! Send me an email, contact me on Twitter, or leave a comment here. 

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?


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