Your Money or Your Life


by Roxanne Tellier

“2020 is a unique leap year,” surmised David Wessel, an economic researcher, on Twitter. “It has 29 days in February, 300 days in March and five years in April.”

Oh yes indeed – there’s been five years in April and May might age me another ten. Ain’t nobody having much fun anymore.  

Have you noticed how fluid time has become since stay at home orders were instituted in March?  Last week Shawn lost a full day, and was living his Friday on Thursday. Not that we’re doing anything different on a Friday as opposed to a Thursday these days, but it’s still a little discombobulating.

Time is how we measure change, so when we are living in a time when little changes, we become unmoored from the concept.  It is as though we were astronauts, floating weightless in space; there are no borders here. 

Studies have shown that humans perceive time differently, based on whatever it is they’re doing when asked. Fear and anxiety change our perceptions. If a person is under some sort of time pressure, they may be unable to tell you if two minutes or five minutes have passed, even if they’re constantly looking at a clock to judge how much time they have left to complete a task.  We feel time differently if we’re physically stressed, with cold, or heat, when we’re depressed, or when we’re bored. And if you’re ever lucky enough to experience being ‘in the zone,’ of being totally absorbed into a project, time becomes so ethereal that it practically disappears.

Knowing how elastic time can become under varying circumstances, it becomes obvious that for some, time spent during lockdown in a pandemic can feel like it’s gone on forever, and appears to stretch ahead for weeks or months to come. Many people just can’t cope – either they want some sort of stimulation to perk themselves up, or they’re frantic that the time they’ve spent doing nothing in particular has been time wasted in a life that needs constant forward movement.

But of course, how we’re experiencing time is only half the battle. It’s the not knowing what’s next that is driving us insane. On the one hand, we’re safer staying in, and away from crowds, where the possibility of infection is high. On the other, if we have a job or business where every day is integral to the production of our product, we face the age-old conundrum; your money or your life.  

Like a back-alley mugger, COVID 19 has pointed a gun at our head, and demanded that we rethink how we earn our livings. But the problem is, the world we’re going to return to, the one that was our previous normal, no longer exists.

The local restaurants and bars we enjoyed probably didn’t sock away enough profit to survive several months of outgo with no income. Exorbitant rents, along with fixed costs of utilities, and the cost of the goods on offer will finish off the majority of Mom and Pop stores.

Public transit is so risky that we’re warned not to use it unless it’s absolutely necessary, and then only when properly masked and gloved. Travelling by air will never be the same, and I’m gonna guess most of us are not really willing to chance a ride on a cruise line’s floating petri dish.  

How will we attend movies? Sporting events? Symphonies? Jam sessions? Will some discover that they could have always avoided the morning commute by simply working at home for the majority of the time?  

There’s no going back for millions who have lost their incomes and possibly their businesses. Barring the institution of a Universal Basic Income, we are looking at a period of economic chaos unlike anything that has been seen in North America since the Great Depression of the 1930s.  

And even as we try to cope with these changes, there are some who will take this opportunity to either improve the world we live in, or to warp it so that it works even more to their benefit.

Right now, America is at a terrible crossroads. In truth, the tax cuts and trade wars that made a small portion of the population wealthy has actually stolen the rainy-day money that might have made this pandemic a little easier for people to survive. And even the money that should be available for the taxpayers who are struggling is being dripped out so slowly that many are losing hope of staying in their homes.

Constant cuts to the social networks meant to help citizens means that those institutions struggling to throw people a lifeline are already fighting from a compromised position, with their backs against the wall.  In many U.S. states, unemployment insurance was jiggered to the point where it’s almost impossible for citizens to apply for the benefit, let alone receive regular cheques. This has left far too many people with nowhere to turn.

The question then becomes – who does the average person blame for this crisis? And how do they attempt to change what they cannot easily understand, endure or accept as their new normal?   

“The victim’s need to survive is stronger than his impulse to hate the person who has created the dilemma.” Stockholm Syndrome, as described by Thomas Strentz, in his book, Psychological Aspects of Crisis Negotiation

Many people are just too tired and beaten down from fighting against their own leaders’ incursion into their rights and needs for the last several years. Lies. compounded by more lies, with disinformation and misinformation mixed, in have become our daily fare. We are so exhausted from all of the previous battles over political issues, both big and small, that now, when we really need our strength, we find there’s just nothing left in the tank.

And into that breech pours the 1%, with their hands out for yet more bailout money. There’s always money to be found for the billionaires, the cruise ships and airlines, the corporations, and the lobbyists. Even the churches are applying, and receiving armloads of cash. Wall Street is making out like a bandit. But Main Street is taking a real beating.

People have been brainwashed into believing that a thriving stock market, and a soaring number of billionaires means that their nation’s economy is thriving. But that’s never been true, because the stock market is NOT the economy.

Stocks anticipate future developments in business. They are not based on current affairs.  There is no relationship between a country’s GDP growth rate, and what will happen in the stock market. If anything, studies have found a negative correlation between the two.

While a good stock market can help with corporate assets, in practice, the tendency of management and investors to squander profit in poor decisions is more likely to tank the market. Putting funds into workers hands, so that it can circulate, is what really benefits the stock market, and that can be nice for our retirement funds. But … the stock market is not the economy.  

We are just not ourselves during crisis. We cannot think straight when we are in the grips of a ‘temporary psychosis’ – a desperate attempt of the psyche to resist a truth or a fear or a fact it cannot handle. That psychosis is what is driving so many to protest a lockdown that was instituted – against the wishes of those for whom the economy was more important than taxpayers – to save our lives.

The economy cannot exist without the millions of citizens that drive it’s engine. Without the efforts of those that are paid the least, countries would grind to a complete halt. And yet these workers are the ones that are treated with the most contempt, and who are often struggling just to make ends meet, on ridiculously low minimum wages.   

The unspoken truth is that these ‘essential workers, ‘ the ones treated so badly, are little more than the slave labour necessary to keep the 1% in control And there’s billions of willing workers, all around the planet, so if you break one, even if you murder hundreds or thousands of them, there’s always more slaves where those came from.

The fervor with which so many have greeted the false prophets and gurus of the ‘plandemic’ video and similar disinformation denotes how many have given up on logic, science, facts, or reality, as they struggle to deal with a reality that scares them to death. Sadly, a person with this psychosis can do quite a lot of damage when they are able to convince others that their paranoid suspicions just might be the truth. They tell two friends, and those two tell two friends… and so on and so on ….

They are struggling with a cognitive dissonance that overwhelms them, and their terror creates a psychotic reaction to the situation. They will not be shaken from their belief in the truth of the fantasy before them, even when the information is revealed to be twisted and untrue.

Overwhelming the audience with what is known as the ‘gish gallop,’ the viewer is bombarded with so many assertions and arguments that it becomes impossible to even keep up with the ideas, never mind refute them. And in that state of confusion we willingly walk into the slaughterhouse, and even defend those ready and waiting with the stun guns that will take us out.

We are living in a time of more confusion and uncertainty than we’ve known in a very long time, and the stakes are high. In order to survive, people need money, and to get money, they need to work. To work, the nations must re-open. But if the nations re-open before a COVID 19 treatment and/or vaccination has been produced, we may be re-injuring, and possibly even fatally damaging, our basic national economies.  

Scary times indeed. These are the times when we crave some sort of comfort, answers to the who what where why of this disaster. But even our scientists and national leaders can’t tell us with certainty what will happen next. 

Which is why so many are prepared to turn to charlatans and grifters, con men (and women) and snake oil salespeople. Using ethos, pathos and logos, and sifting in just enough plausible kernels of thought and ideas that seem possible and appeal to our intuition, the manipulator easily twists the vulnerable around their crooked little fingers.

Strange days indeed. Most peculiar, mama ……

I’ll leave you with some words of comfort and wisdom from Morgan Freeman   

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