Of the numerous realities the pandemic has uncovered, few are as stark as how front-line, essential, service industry workers are not just seen as replaceable but as expendable. And many are out of work. When a member of the working-class is without wages and the paltry handouts from the government vanish, reproduction of one’s biological functions and faculties are still required. Working in front-line, essential, service industries is work as is seeking to obtain work in such sectors.
When a society is confronted with an unexpected catastrophe, be it warlike conflict, a sudden scarcity of resources, or a natural phenomenon, human empathy, mutual aid, and solidarity tend to come to the fore. Despite the ideological dominance of capitalism, humans still possess an almost reflexive tendency to come together and develop spontaneous forms of support and collective organization even during times of deep agony. Humans are fundamentally social animals. Coming together is also a means for us to deal with stress, uncertainty, and insecurity in a changing environment.
The hard part of this distancing at work—other than not being able to hug anyone, even though we’re all under stress and i haven’t had a single hug in weeks—is navigating the smaller spaces, like the kitchen. We have to do a lot more communicating. “I just need to get water at the sink.” “I’m passing through to the office.” “I’m going that way.” “You go first.” We treat each other with exceeding courtesy.
“It has become increasingly clear to me that Catch-22 is a book, not only of its time, but for ours. It supplies the right model for making sense of the anxieties of this crisis and the irrationalities of the government’s response. There may be other reasons, or other kinds of explanations, that account for the various problems I’ve mentioned—to say nothing of the rush to ‘open the economy,’ the misallocation of vital and scarce medical supplies, or anything that Donald Trump has said, done, or tweeted.”
The Black Death or bubonic plague of 1348-1350 was perhaps the worst pandemic in history, killing up to a third of Europe’s population … It was not the first pandemic, and Covid-19 will not be the last. Psychologically, this one may be the worst yet – we are better at denying our mortality than our medieval ancestors were. The omnipresence of unpredictable death forces us to remember that we’re all mortal. But can pandemics lead to social progress, even revolution? It’s happened before.