The corona virus has its firm grip on the entire world and has everyone engulfed in a panic-like state of apprehension and apocalyptic grimness. However, the situation also sheds an interesting light on how people behave in extreme situation, and how it carves the best and worst out of people. Here in Austria we're trapped in a strict lockdown, but one reason to leave the house is "to help others". Neighbour communities have sprung up where younger people offer to do the shopping for the elderly and vulnerable so they don't have to leave the house. Musicians give free concerts at specific times from their windows to cheer up the people and many organisations offer their online courses for free for a limited time.
However, it sadly also goes the other way. Denunciators spread like a wildfire, always on the hunt to call the police on someone who sneezes sidewards or dares to leave the apartment for a walk - as if the police didn't have enough on their plates! Politicians blame other countries for how they handle the situation instead of making the best for their own countries and some people don't seem to care that they could interrupt the chain of infection by simply staying at home for a few days (or weeks...or months...or years???).
Although the situation surely has its scary features, it is also a chance to embrace a slow-paced lifestyle at home with our families and spend quality time in this lock and slowdown time. Social media spreads ideas on how to capitalise on your time at home (and so do I, you can read about it here) and Instagram stories are filled with cosy home videos of playing games, doing sports and many other things.
This should, by no means mean that the virus has been beneficial to humanity in aiding it to slow down, but we can embrace it that way to make the best out of it. What shocks me is how many people still seem to be reluctant to understand how severe the situation is and how many people can be affected if proactive measures aren't taken now. In Europe, most countries are in lockdown with shops, museums, theatres, etc. closed and people are not only asked but required to stay in with the police patrolling in public spaces to send people home who still haven't got the memo.
However, countries like the UK, for example, have far more cases of infections and deaths than many other European countries already but seem very slow and reluctant to take the necessary measures to turn the situation around - why? Because it's seemingly all about the economy. Sure, the economy is important, but having people die by the minute will surely also not aid its stability.
Skimming over numerous articles on the subject matter, I couldn't help but notice that most British and American publications on the subject tend to mainly concentrate on the economy and what damage it will do to it - I daresay that is an important issue in the discourse, but it is certainly not the priority in this very week where numbers of infections are soaring by the thousands (in Italy, for instance, it jumped pretty much from 2000 to almost 30.000 in a week.)
I am neither a doctor nor economist, but as a freelance writer I am directly affected by shortcuts and certainly do not belong to the group of people who will be pumped up with money for the economy in the long run. However, I deem the immediate well-being of people worldwide still more important than my economic situation right now. Especially the United States seem to bitterly defend their economy and have barely taken measures to reign the virus in, even though they would have been in a prime position to do so, as they could first watch China and then Europe become its epicentre. With the rate going, the US will be the next epicentre, but that may have been possible to be prevented.
Already, they have about 2000 deaths spreading over various states and more infections than the medical facilities can care for. A pandemic is a bad enough issue to deal with - however, a full-on apocalyptic situation where hospitals collapse under the weight of sick people and millions of vulnerable people dying should be avoided at all costs.
According to the many news reports and articles (and there are so many), we are now in critical weeks which can determine how this pandemic will pan out. However, the grim determination to put economy over people seems to be a perfect reflection of our overall system which has let people fall through the cracks for, well, always. The risk region in Tirol, for example, is said to have spread the virus fast because the affected regions were ski areas where tourism boomed. The Tirolean politicians have since come under a lot of criticism for putting money over the health of the people.
I can imagine that extreme situations like this one simply highlight the problems we face as a society, rather than actually create them. Venturing away from the current virus situation, if we persist on living on a society in which we always put economy over people, most people will always see the lesser end. Economy and people, of course, are in a symbiotic relationship. If the economy thrives, people are ideally in a more secure and financially stable position.
However, is that true? We say if the economy is fine, the people are fine, but it seems that people have to increasingly pay the price to "save" the economy over and over again. Wouldn't it be time then to change the system altogether to make the economy work for the people, not the other way around?
In our economy-driven way of thinking, there is a vast group of people with a clear disadvantage. Women, for example. In a society where you have to function all the time, 60-70hrs per week, and be efficient, having children is clearly a problem. Raising them, even more so. In addition, salaries mostly do not cover a decent lifestyle, often not even when both parents go to work full-time. Mortgages are still a scary thought that takes an entire life to pay off and with education costing more and more again, the path is clearly set for financial disaster.
Sick people and older people are also clearly disadvantaged in a system where it is best you function without any unnecessary interruptions and without causing the employer to replace you on a regular basis. Against the elderly, especially when they return to work after a long time or change career, there is hardly any positive outlook - because investing in people costs money, even though it would greatly benefit the economy in the long term.
When recession hits, it is usually the education systems, medicare funding and other social or educational institutions that get cuts in funding. Hospitals, schools, nursing homes are the places where people earn painfully little for plenty of responsibility, but often have to labour under extreme conditions and/or are overworked. Teaching is known to be the profession with one of the highest burnout rates, and the salary is criminal, considering.
Especially when you look at schools, the short-sightedness and obsession with economy over people becomes painfully clear. Even though reforms take place continually, most students are exposed to mass classes with insufficient material and overworked teachers. Extracurricular activities get increasingly cut to be taken in the students' leisure time for extra money the parents have to provide. Especially schools that already have a high percentage of "children with a challenging background" are usually terrible underfunded, whilst money is preferably given to more esteemed schools. However, it is also most often from the focal schools that their studentship is more prone to dropping out and/or pursuing low-income careers, or even wind down the path to crime.
The average student in the US costs the state approximately $10,000-15,000 per year; however an incarcerated person costs the state up to $30,000 per year. Therefore, if the state invested more in the young and their careers, they could arguably cut a lot of money later. However, getting a career together, even if you don't drop out of school or attend a better school, is increasingly tough with competition rising and no real alternatives to the college path - but that's a problem for another blog post.
Therefore, it is arguable that the current system loses the economy far more than necessary by not caring about the people labouring in the system. Wouldn't you think that the economy could only thrive in a healthy way when people were happy, healthy and well-cared for? Maybe, but I am sure plenty of conspiracy theorists would leap up to claim the economy wants us to feel bad so we consume more - and the wheel keeps spinning.
Extreme situations usually sweep out the best and worst in people, and as bad as they can be, may they be natural disasters, wars, pandemics or other horrible scenarios, they can help put things in perspective. Maybe we can capitalise on the current situation and try to assess what the kinks of the overall system are and how we can handle them better in the future.
Writer. Editor. Blogger. YouTuber. Freelancer. Traveller. English fanatic.