April 5, 2020

Lost in all of the headlines is the way in which the Corona Virus has upended everyday life. I’m not just referring to social distancing and shelter-at-home. This pandemic goes much farther than anything in all of modern experience in how thoroughly it has transformed daily work routines and everyday habits.

World wars take years to develop and wreak their misery upon civilian populations. Earthquakes, tsunamis and cyclonic storms are localized in their impact. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were devastating in their immediate impact and transformative how global society viewed science and the military.

The Great Depression cut a wide path across developed industrial societies in the 1930s and led to 20 percent unemployment; but it took years for the misery to reach its deepest levels of affliction.  During that whole time the populace was not deprived of basic human contact with friends, family and colleagues. Theaters stayed open. Loved ones received hospital visits. Students still filled classrooms. People gathered in major sports arenas, public fairs and local parks. Restaurant served meals. Work slowed down dramatically but it did not come to a sudden, absolute halt and pose an existential threat to many threads of the everyday fabric.

It will take many years for the full impact of enforced isolation to make itself felt. A whole cohort of children nationally and internationally will find out how – or whether – they can occupy their newfound free time in ways that are creative or simply mindless.

There is no telling what sorts of psychological effects the quarantining will have on the emotional lives of kids, for example. Some will do fine; others will suffer nightmares and anxiety. Everyone I know has been sleepless of late – a condition that for many dates back to Nov. 2016. 

My sense, based on occasional conversations with people in the business, is that therapists and psychiatrists are scrambling simply to adjust to the much altered conditions of basic therapy. Phone and Zoom sessions do not go very far in enabling people to express what they are feeling; therapists in such a situation are denied access to bodily indicators of stress or depression.

All we know for sure is that big changes are in store. In fact, they are already underway. In nine months there will probably be a baby boom. In the near run there will also be a spike in domestic violence. We might well see an increase in robbery of stores and homes as desperation sets in among those whose incomes have been cut to zero. The anticipation of this by homeowners is already keeping gun stores open to a thriving trade.

Entire sectors of the country are extremely vulnerable and might not be able to ride out the weeks and months ahead of shuttered trade. The months thereafter are also filled with uncertainty as business slowly comes back. The federal government’s focus on big industries misses entirely the most precious dimensions of the economy – everyday work, whether as waiters and janitors or graphic artists, freelance writers and drivers for Uber, Lyft and taxis.  Until the Corona Virus pandemic, nursing had become an attractive career path for those interested in public service. All of a sudden even that trade is looking grim – the work conditions intolerably overburdened, inadequately protected and dangerously exposed to risk.

In the U.S., restaurants used to do as much trade as grocery stores. That was before Corona Virus. Millions of laborers and skilled cooks have quickly found themselves dependent on take out service, but this generates only a fraction of previous revenue. Many small restaurants that close will never reopen. 

The suddenness with which all of this has struck has no equal I know of.  The immediate dislocation is unsettling in the extreme. The long-term prospects are dizzying to contemplate because there are likely to be major reorganizations in the scale of commerce and marketing as a direct result of the shutdown.  Brick and mortar retail, already waning steadily before the pandemic, will suffer most dramatically from the acceleration in online buying we’re seeing.

Service workers in food and travel will see far fewer jobs reopening afterwards than were available before the shutdown. The arts are being affected with particular vengeance as well, with museums, theatres, cafes and print media acutely vulnerable because of the massive debt they will face in the short run and the likelihood of never being able to recoup lost revenues.

Small wonder people are upset these days. Understandable, too, is the reluctance of many to accept the enormity of the burden we face. But confront it and recognize our responsibility we must, lest we delay implementing the stringent measures to dealing with it. In which case the burden we face would be even more acute.

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This article has 10 comments

  1. Katharine Dyson Reply

    Yes, but think about this. It would seem some leaders are taking a panic approach as to how they react. We are told we should stay active, get fresh air, interact with friends but within established parameters. And those of us who are responsible, do this. Yet an official in Onondaga County, NY, closes all golf courses, beaches are closed in Florida and a community in Bonita Springs, takes down the tennis nets. In my opinion this makes no sense. Theses actions are often precipitated by those who ignore and abuse the guidelines (i.e Spring breakers gathering on the beaches; ignoring the one to a cart rule) and thus the majority who are doing the right thing are punished. It’s easier to throw a blanket over the entire problem than work out sensible solutions to handle the abusers. For example patrolling beaches to toss out those that ignore the 6ft distancing rule and banishing golfers from the course when they abuse the regulations might be better courses of action. Thus golfers can get fresh air and exercise and tennis players can get a good workout. Fresh air, exercise, sunshine all good. Tailgate parties with a handful of friends where you park and sit 6 feet apart also should work and help to alleviate depression and isolation. The keys for me are to wash hands often, keep your hands away from your face and respect recommended guidelines designed to kick the hell out of the virus.

  2. Jonathan Reply

    My God Brad – this post is excellent and sobering but dark. Are all the follow-on scenarios you envision equally dark? Can you imagine the ideal administration, opposite of this dreadful one, running this country (insert whomever you like)? How different would it be? I truly don’t know.

  3. Jackie Bracken Reply

    Brad, it’s absolutely wonderful and much needed to know that you will be writing your thoughts and experiences to share with us during these unique and challenging times. You have a profound way to express things and I will look forward to your blogs. Thank you, and wishing you and your family health and safety through these days.

  4. Lon Hinkle Reply

    Thank you Brad. Sleepless nights, since Nov ‘16! I live just off the first tee at Eagle Bend. Clubhouse burned down 6 weeks ago. Quite a fire! Club is struggling to get open. How to handle the “Snow Birds”? I’ve played 5 nine hole days so far. Walking and carrying my clubs (14 was way too many)? Reminds me of when I started golf at 13 in the San Diego country side. I used to see archeologists off to the side of 17 sifting through screens for artifacts. A beautiful little stream (San Diego River) with every type of desert life around. The joy of a well struck shot… Funny how what goes around comes around. Stay safe.

    • Bradley Klein Reply

      Yes, a much more free-spirited approach to golf is becoming commonplace these strange days, Lon.

  5. Larry Gavrich Reply

    Seriously well put, Brad. It arrived in my inbox simultaneous with a news report that Trump has fired the IG set to oversee the $2 trillion in payouts. The threat to us all is real, and it isn’t just Covid-19. Looking forward to future essays.

  6. JJ Keegan Reply

    Brad. The blogs are sensational. The only fact that I ponder is in your first blog that your wife and you are contemplating retirement. You are too talented a writer and I envision, as you near the finish line of life, you will still be publishing cogent thoughts and ideas.

  7. Susan J. Burns Reply

    Brad, Excellent. So well spoken. If only we could hear these kinds of words from the top. Thank you for your heartfelt expose.

    • Brad Klein Reply

      Much appreciated, Susan. A lot of folks feel the same way but getting it to where it counts is difficult.

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