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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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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