We are living in a time of extremes. On one end, I’m reading about karoshi, which is a Japanese word for dying from work (yes, they have a particular term for that!), and on the other end, you have the Great Resignation where (mainly US) employees are marching off their jobs en masse.
The whole world is in a dangerous imbalance. The pandemic has only made matters worse (for most) and better (for a few). This health crisis is a wind that might blow down the entire house of cards called the first world. Apart from the healthcare crisis, we have political problems all over the Western Hemisphere, from the US to the European Union and east and south.
The fortunate ones got to spend our covid days working remotely, complaining about WFH, with the most life-threatening illness being the Zoom fatigue. We kept our jobs, and we naturally spent less money, thus increasing our savings and getting a tiny bit richer. We couldn’t wait to get out of the lockdowns and spend money on bars, restaurants, travel, and entertainment again.
A few of the rich have lived through most of 2020 somewhat quietly. They had no problems self-isolating or sheltering in place. There were still private jets and luxury travel. They worked from their islands and yachts, and God bless them. Some got divorced, divided their fortunes, and still walked out from 2020 richer than they got in.
In the same week, I read two energy-related news:
- My high-school professor was trying to collect €6K to help repay an old lady’s heating debt, so she could have her house warm again.
- Elon Musk’s net worth increased by $36B in a single day.
Thirty-six billion dollars is the same amount of money that President Biden budgeted to fight climate change. Maybe he ought to do what my high school professor does and ask Elon to cover that bill.
It’s a parallel universe, and it makes you wonder if Varoufakis was right. As a person born in a somewhat socialist Yugoslavia, I know how these communist fairy-tales end — in blood and flames. But how much inequality can we handle? Should there be a cap on how many billions you can actually have? What is more than one can spend in a lifetime?
While we have more and more of one-percenters, and — thanks to the developed economy — it’s not so impossibly hard to become part of that percentage, there are still those 99% poor souls on this planet.
For lots of folks, the pandemic is a financial struggle. Even worse, for so many, it was a mental struggle. And being isolated from the social circles, a lot of individuals couldn’t take it. Today I know about more breakups and suicides than I'd want to. And I'm tired of losing people.
We’ve all been through some emotional trauma within these last two years. Even those who had it good possibly suffered from the survivor guilt. And it was tough for lots of folks to reach out when they needed to.
Imagine a woman stuck in isolation with her estranged husband and problematic teenage kids. Or worse, a domestic violence victim stuck with their abuser. But a lot of people were just lonely, even if they lived with partners or others. You don’t have to be alone to feel lonely. Fortunately, the opposite is true as well.
Thinking about these things makes me feel humility and gratitude. Any problems I had were mostly in my head, so they weren’t real problems. At least not in comparison. I feel grateful for having a job that I can do remotely. I can keep my virtual and physical connections and find inspiration and meaning in reading, writing, learning, working, sports, … and that I have a supportive family by my side.
I’ve lost some folks during this great fuckup that we call a pandemic. I can’t help but feel that if I’d just reached out with a message, a wink, maybe just an emoji, things could have been different for them.
It all seems so clear in retrospect. It’s easy to put together the puzzle pieces and be wise after the fact. But my tendency to always be a cheerful optimist makes me blind, deaf, and too stupid to notice these signs upfront.
I may not have any answers, but if you are struggling, please reach out to me, and I will take the time to listen. Hear you out without any judgment or comment, with all the empathy I can muster even if I don’t know you.
This is my human duty, and I will not let you down.