If it takes a global pandemic to show us how broken our system is, so be it
How are you? Are you staying healthy? Are you staying sane? I can’t believe how much has happened since the last time I wrote this column. Two weeks ago, I was talking about how important it was to be a big tipper when you went out to eat and how to dine out responsibly in the age of coronavirus. I wrote about ways the virus was threatening to disrupt our lives, and I worried about all the GoFundMe campaigns we were likely to see.
Since then, California, along with 15 other states, has been ordered to shelter-in-place. We’ve seen all bars close, most restaurants shutter or just offer take/out delivery, and witnessed the wholesale destruction of the livelihoods of artists, performers, service industry folks, hourly wage earners and anyone else not getting paid to work from home. Personally, my income has been eviscerated.
BrokeAssStuart.com makes almost all of its revenue by getting people out to do things, which is hard to do when no one can go out. Last week I wept as I had to inform my team that I could no longer pay them. The little money coming in from the Broke-Ass Stuart Patreon is just enough to barely pay rent and bills for my business partner and myself.
What seemed like a potentially dangerous storm on the horizon two weeks ago has proven to be a thoroughly devastating disaster today. Things that we thought were so solid and secure instantly crumbled beneath us, showing the fragility of the system we live in. The only thing holding us together has been the community taking care of each other.
Yeats keeps echoing in every update I read: “Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”
If the federal government’s job is to protect us, it’s failed miserably. It has spent the past 50 years giving tax breaks to corporations while making it harder for working people to survive. It has allowed the systematic destruction of the unions, while chipping away at worker protections. It has given a blessing to the privatization of health care, prisons and education.
And the last time we faced a major emergency like this, it bailed out the banks instead of the people. The saddest part is that those in power have used our fear and trepidation to fool half the country into thinking this is the way it’s supposed to be.
But there may be a silver lining to all of this. People might just be waking up to the fact that everything they’ve been fed is bullshit.
People we’ve been told don’t deserve to make a $15 minimum wage — like grocery store workers, delivery people and janitors — are literal lifelines right now. The immigrants we’ve been told are coming to rape and kill us, and somehow also take our jobs, are making sure that the food supply chain runs as if things were normal.
The people who say Medicare for All couldn’t work are hoping and praying that coronavirus testing becomes free and accessible for all Americans. These same people are noticing that even though we’re repeatedly told the U.S. can’t afford Medicare for All, the Fed is dumping a trillion dollars a day into the economy.
Progressive ideas of people like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren and Andrew Yang are suddenly becoming a necessity, and Americans are clamoring for them. When we start receiving our stimulus checks, we’ll realize the government could’ve been doing Universal Basic Income all along. Now that we’re seeing so many of our friends and families losing their livelihoods, we’re wondering why the government hasn’t provided a system of paid sick leave for everyone, regardless of job type. Since we’re stuck at home with our kids indefinitely, we’re starting to see the importance of Universal Child Care.
The longer the quarantine lasts, the more it’s going to fundamentally change the way things are done in the United States. I mean, with all these people working from home, just think about what’s gonna happen when CEOs realize that they don’t need to rent office space. These greedy commercial landlords are about to get their comeuppance.
This is a crazy, terrifying, inspiring and heart-wrenching time. It’s probably the most important moment any of us have ever lived through. But I’m optimistic. If it takes a global pandemic to show us how broken our system is, so be it. If this level of destruction is necessary to make people realize that our culture is a failure, I welcome it. If the economy must be ruined to get the government to step up and protect all of us from here on out, I say bring it on.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of fighting against other working people just for the privilege of rich people allowing us to survive. When we come out of this, we must remember the lessons we learned and demand our government starts putting the welfare of its people before the profits of corporations.
Stay well. Stay healthy. Stay sane. And wash your damn hands.
P.S. Shout out to all of the health care workers out there saving lives. You all are the real heroes.
Stuart Schuffman is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com and join his mailing list at http://bit.ly/BrokeAssList. His column appears every other Thursday. He is a guest columnist and his point of view is not necessarily that of the Examine