Tuesday, May 25, 2021

The Memory Hole Mindset.

One day someone is going to write the definitive Covid-19 book. It will be big and heavy and heavily footnoted, meticulously researched. We are all going to buy it and none of us will actually ever finish reading it. The author will hit all the morning shows and all the news shows and all the late night shows and Trevor Noah will ask her, “So what should we have done differently?”

That’s the part that I know will make me angry all over again. Because there isn’t going to be anything new. There aren’t going to be any revelations, not really. We should have worn masks earlier, we shouldn’t have worried so much about disinfecting our groceries.

But Trevor will nudge her a little more, “Let’s imagine that you run the world in January 2020, but you get to know everything you know now …”

She won’t want to go there, but she will and she’ll say that we should have done all the things we know that we should have done: that we could have contained the virus in a couple of months if we’d actually shut the country down. If we had done what they did in South Korea where the government was delivering food to people’s doors. If we had done what they did in New Zealand and just sent people gobs of money to stay home. That we could have suppressed it by limiting people’s movements, by contact tracing their movements using cell phone data. That the NSA should have been involved. We should have had testing mobiles driving up and down every street in America like ice cream trucks. That we should have shut down every single Target and Walmart in the country. That we could have been reasonably safe in about two months. That we could have opened schools again by the summer of 2020, but it would have meant keeping bars closed.

“Why do you think we didn’t do that?” Trevor will ask thoughtfully.

She’ll say something about the American character. About the tradition of individualism in America. About the fact we are actually a libertarian country, we just don’t know it.

Then Trevor will pause and say, “So we’re assholes?”

And she’ll laugh, but then sheepishly agree. Then Trevor will throw it to a commercial.

As we begin to return to something like life, I think that we will collectively do everything we can to never have to talk about Covid again. We aren’t going to want to talk about all the ways we failed and why. We aren’t going to have any of the hard conversations about people’s behaviors. We’re going to want to put it all behind us and I understand that inclinations, but I think it is the wrong one.

Where I work the process is beginning to return workers back to face-to-face work and while I am happy about that, I have coworkers who do not want to go back. And why would they? The commutes? The cramped little work spaces? Being around other people? Not being around their kids or their dogs throughout the workday? I completely understand why someone would want to continue working from their kitchen table in their PJs. What has been weird though is that the management class keeps creeping right up to the line of saying, “Well, you CAN’T do your job from home!” 

The problem of course is that these jobs have been getting done from home for more than a year. But we have not collectively LEARNED that. It has not become something that is universally understood as true. In the rush to forget all that we have experienced in the last year, we are leaving behind the lessons of the last year.

That concerns me because it also means that we are not going to address the collective trauma of the last year. This has been hard for everyone and hard in different ways and it really seems like we should all just get a month off over the summer to clear our heads and get our shit together, but that insn’t going to happen either.

I fear that when this is all said and done, we will have learned nothing.




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