Is That You, Rona?


by Roxanne Tellier

Funny, I always thought that I’d get so much more done. Whenever I felt like I just couldn’t keep up with all of the richness and offerings of modern life, I’d mutter to myself…

“If only time would stop – just for a day or two – and let me catch up on all of this watching, reading, and writing!”

So here it is, and guess what I’ve been doing? Lying on my bed, watching YouTube, playing games on the tablet, and spending quality time with the cats. Between naps.

I have 24 library books here to be read and used for the three major projects I’m working on, but I’ve not opened one of them. Instead I’m storming through my stack of paperback novels, the pulpier the better.  Occasionally I feel guilty about not working on those weighty projects, but then I tell myself that I just can’t possibly start yet, not without that one other book that was on its way before the library so abruptly closed. 

I keep busy, no question. And I spend a lot of time wondering if I’m sneezing because of allergies, or because of the coronavirus.

I’ve also been doing daily stealth assaults on my local big box grocery stores. I’ll go very early, hoping to run in and out again without any physical contact. From the beginning, I’ve assumed our isolation could get well beyond two or three weeks, and have foraged accordingly. The shelves are full, you can’t squeeze one more item into the freezer, and I think I’m even good on fresh produce, at least for a while. I’m the daughter of a prepper – I was born knowing how to stockpile the essentials.

Which is a good thing, because on my last foray to FreshCo, there was nary an egg to be found, nor a bag of pasta representing. Panic in aisle 3.

(In my own defense – I HAD to do the shopping. If I left the hunter gathering up to the hubby, we’d be trying to divvy up a package of sliced processed cheese, a jar of peanut butter, and a loaf of raisin bread.)

Anyway, I think I’m good. I think we can now pass another couple of weeks without having to resort to UberEats or the like. Based on how the stock market plunged last week, not sure if we could afford UberEats anyway.  

For all that, for all of the inconvenience, for all of the upset and the crippling uncertainty of our futures, we’re actually doing pretty good, compared to others. Sure, I’m missing a library book or two that I really wanted to read, but luckily, I wasn’t in the middle of some government tug of war over my income or a missing passport. I’m not dependent on any addictive substances. I’m not waiting for some obscure medication to arrive from some far-off land. Heck, I’m not even waiting on anything from Amazon right now!

Although we worry about our families, and our friends who are vulnerable, we’re stocked up, we’re relatively healthy, we’ve got each other and our cats, and life could be a heck of a lot worse … and is, for many, all over the world.

At this point, all we’re really being asked to do is to stay home and not spread a disease. The Greatest Generation stormed a beach in Normandy – we’re being asked to Netflix and chill.

This is our chance to be unsung heroes, by just staying home and not actively harming other people. We’ve got this.

I worry about those who rely on convening in groups to deal with mental and health issues. So many people who are struggling to survive without drugs or drink, or who are depending on other people sharing helpful words and kindness are suddenly being thrown into close quarters, confronting their demons by themselves under highly unusual circumstances.

However, there’s a bright side. For once, this enforced solitude and curtailment of our usual mad rush through the days is allowing us to actually have time to do some things that we might just brush over normally. We’ve got more time to listen, and to think. We also have the option to be the ‘helper’ in our world; some have been offering to help those who can’t leave their house. Others have been sharing their creative output.

It turns out that musicians, artists, and creatives are far more important that was previously thought

This is a great time for those who have something entertaining to share to get their work out before a larger and more receptive audience than usual. We’ve got a lot of time on our hands. And look! There are people writing poetry, short stories and novels, and sharing their work for free or a minimal price! There are musicians giving free house concerts on Facebook!  Sure, there will always be meanies who choose profiteering over sharing, but the good people who just want to be a part of a bigger community far outnumber the bad guys.

The government is also really trying to do it’s best to try and help every citizen survive, even as we shelter in place. Beyond that, some companies are going beyond the minimum, in an effort to soothe the pain.

The United Nations declared internet access a basic human right in 2016, saying that all people must be able to access the internet freely. All well and good in principle, but far too many people can’t afford full internet access in Canada, which has one of the highest cost structures in the world. The good news is, nearly all Canadian internet service providers are suspending data caps and allowing freer wi-fi on their home internet plans right now. And Rogers has made all of its cable channels free to watch.  

In both Canada and the US, the government is preparing to spend trillions to keep the economy going. There are plans to ensure a temporary form of Basic Income for all taxpaying Canadians – a good first step in addressing some of our country’s inequalities. The most vulnerable need to be protected. We need to stop the shutoffs of electricity, water, internet that some predatory institutions may attempt. Mostly, we need to spend this money – the nation’s money – on infrastructure and in helping our people survive.

But they’re also talking about using billions and even trillions to prop up businesses that might be best left to fail. The hotel business, cruise lines, airlines, gambling,  – these are not necessities, they are extravagances. 

I worry that we will follow the ragged script left over from 2008, and once again patch up the buggy whip companies that have survived only by bailouts. People should be demanding that this money be spent on healthier, greener choices. If not now, when?

Times change. People change. Even those who continue to say that humans are not responsible for climate change must have seen what has been happening to the planet since we got out of Nature’s way. Cleaner air and water happen when we’re not inserting ourselves into the natural world, with our needs and our garbage. 

Yeah, when it’s all over, we could all be in clover, as Van the Man once said.  All we have to do is spend our time and our “Blue Money” wisely.

It will be worth all of the pain if we can come out of this crisis a better planet.

Where is Mary Tyler Moore When We Need Her?


In 1970, Mary Richards and The Mary Tyler Moore Show debuted to a changing world. Women like my mum, who had left school in grade 9 during the Great Depression, were watching the rise of feminism, and wondering how the heck they were supposed to react and behave.  Men, like my dad, felt incredibly threatened by this new role of women in the workforce – where would that leave them? Would women take all the jobs? And how were they supposed to treat this ‘new woman’ in the workplace?

I had already been in the workforce for a few years, and was standing by to see what the world would throw at me. I’d seen offices where only men had any power, and where women, and especially older women, were taken advantage of economically, regardless of ability or seniority. I’d applied for jobs where the only criteria was attractiveness, and the dress code required a specific model of push up bra.

I had been raised to believe I could do anything – as long as ‘anything’ involved being a nurse, teacher, secretary, stewardess, waitress, or housewife. And as long as my husband approved. But now a larger world was opening up, and the Mary character gave viewers a chance to  watch, from the comfort of their own homes, how this might play out for themselves.

My mum completely identified with Mary, the vulnerable, good girl, who wanted to appease everyone, even at the expense of her own feelings. Mary was single, female, over 30, professional, independent, smart, and funny. Mary faced issues an older generation had never before confronted, like equal pay, birth control, and sexual independence – sex without the blessing of marriage.

Mary’s superpower was her friendships, both those with other women, like Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper); Phyllis Lindstrom (Cloris Leachman); Georgette Franklin (Georgia Engel); and Sue Ann Nivens (Betty White), and with the men she interacted with at the TV station where she worked.

At work,  Mary was a sisterly presence. She was smart, did her job well, and could laugh with the guys. Although she hated confrontation, she could still muster up the courage to talk back to the irascible Lou Grant, her boss and editor. Eventually, even he had to admit how good a co-worker she was, despite her ‘spunk.’

As the series grew more popular, repeated viewing made anxieties about women in the work force seem silly .. after all, Mary was an Every Woman. They could relai-hate-spunkte to Mary. The normalization calmed their fears, and made people realize that they could relate to a drastic social change.

When Mary Tyler Moore died last week, I thought a lot about the contrast between how we are dealing with the vast social and economic changes of today, as opposed to then.

It’s frightening to those who want to cling to the world as it was. And yet at the same time, we don’t want to give up our ability to access pretty much anything we want online, order it with a click, and have it delivered to our door within a few days.  What we don’t see is that we’ve stopped shopping in stores .. and so those jobs and stores no longer exist.

global-gdpWe want to pay as little as possible for any given thing.  Corporations heard us; they outsourced manual labour to countries where they could pay lower salaries. And so those jobs, which we used to do here, no longer exist.

The reality of climate change, and the shifting of energy resources are, of necessity, pulling focus away from oil and coal, and putting the spotlight on renewable energy. Sure, there are more jobs available now in renewables, but what do you do if you’re a career coal miner? The mine’s been shut down, and those jobs are never going to come back.

Widespread automation is in our future; Oxford University predicted that 47% of all jobs – of every kind – will disappear in the next 25 years.

“The Trump campaign ran on bringing jobs back to American shores, although mechanization has been the biggest reason for manufacturing jobs’ disappearance. Similar losses have led to populist movements in several other countries. But instead of a pro-job growth future, economists across the board predict further losses as AI, robotics, and other technologies continue to be ushered in. What is up for debate is how quickly this is likely to occur.

Now, an expert at the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania is ringing the alarm bells. According to Art Bilger, venture capitalist and board member at the business school, all the developed nations on earth will see job loss rates of up to 47% within the next 25 years, according to a recent Oxford study. “No government is prepared,” The Economist reports. These include blue and white collar jobs. So far, the loss has been restricted to the blue collar variety, particularly in manufacturing.

Robot ironing clothes

Unemployment today is significant in most developed nations and it’s only going to get worse. By 2034, just a few decades, mid-level jobs will be by and large obsolete. So far the benefits have only gone to the ultra-wealthy, the top 1%. This coming technological revolution is set to wipe out what looks to be the entire middle class. Not only will computers be able to perform tasks more cheaply than people, they’ll be more efficient too.

Accountants, doctors, lawyers, teachers, bureaucrats, and financial analysts beware: your jobs are not safe. According to The Economist, computers will be able to analyze and compare reams of data to make financial decisions or medical ones. There will be less of a chance of fraud or misdiagnosis, and the process will be more efficient. Not only are these folks in trouble, such a trend is likely to freeze salaries for those who remain employed, while income gaps only increase in size. You can imagine what this will do to politics and social stability. “   (http://bigthink.com/philip-perry/47-of-jobs-in-the-next-25-years-will-disappear-according-to-oxford-university)

Now, the thing is, good leadership would have been following up on this inevitable trend and coming class shake-up. And some countries have been following the curve, and are placing more emphasis on careers outside of the previous generation’s scope.

However, several countries have instead taken the opposite approach – the one known as sticking your fingers in your ears, closing your eyes, and chanting ‘la la la la la’ in the hopes that this will all go back to the way it used to be, when you reopen your eyes.

Sadly – that’s not in the cards. The genie is not going back into the bottle. Long term solutions need to broached immediately, if we are not to find ourselves in a Soylent Green world.

The economy will expect middle aged, middle class, workers to retrain or be left behind. There will be resistance to that idea, especially amongst those who have laboured under student debt from their previous career.

self-driving-truckAnd what role will self-driving vehicles play in a future economy? Long haul truckers, cab drivers and couriers will find themselves out of work – not tomorrow, but within the next decade. And that’s a whole lot of drivers.

These are real, valid concerns that must be addressed. A guaranteed basic income might be the only solution possible for as many as half of all country’s populations. We could be on the verge of a complete societal breakdown – or a future Utopia, a world in which people are free to pursue their interests, instead of working at jobs that just pay the bills.

Be that as it may, one thing that will NOT help to move countries or the economy forward is isolationism or pathetic jingoism. Time and again, this type of “America First” pseudo patriotism has proved a failure.

donald-trump-america-firstWhen Trump said,  “For many decades, we’ve enriched foreign industry at the expense of American industry; subsidized the armies of other countries” while depleting our own. And,: “The wealth of our middle class has been ripped from their homes and then redistributed all across the world, ” he was outlining ” a world in which foreign relations are collapsed into a zero-sum game. They gain, we lose. ” (http://www.nationalreview.com/article/444321/trump-foreign-policy-isolationsim-america-first-allies-nato-trans-pacific-partnership)

He is wrong. He is appealing to the petty, the un/ and under-educated, the greedy,  and the small minded who can’t understand why they can’t have all of the goodies of 2017, while living in a rosy coloured Disneyland complete with talking animals, and perfectly behaved women and children. A world where America does whatever the hell it wants, any time and anywhere.

A perfect example of that kind of mentality was shown on the weekend as Trump’s knee-jerk executive order targeted citizens from seven predominantly Muslim countries, forbidding them entry to U.S. soil – AND also targeted U.S. legal residents from the named countries — green-card holders — who were abroad when it was signed.

trump-protest-noban-jan-2017The order was signed as many were on planes, en route to America.

When those enforcing these bans, as dictated by the Department of Homeland Security, were asked by citizens or their lawyers to whom they must address their concerns, they were sneeringly told to  “Speak to President Trump.”

This should make Americans frightened. These actions throw out not only the Constitution, but democracy itself, with Trump as the ultimate arbiter for all charged with any offence he makes up on the spot.

The thing is … it’s not just Trump’s fault. It’s the fault of all of the governments and political parties all over the civilized world that have ignored the economic reality that has been creeping up on us for decades. Political parties that stirred up fear, painting a picture of a dystopic land, as Trump did when he described America as akin to a Hieronymus Bosch painting of ” American carnage,” with “mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge; and the crime and the gangs and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.

That is not a true picture of America, though it may well be the carnage he leaves behind after his time as President is over.

Americans were not being told, “you’re gonna make it after all.” Instead, they were being told that the only way to make it is to take it from others.

passing-the-buckPolitical parties that relied upon cutting taxes rather than shoring up their infrastructures and their citizens needs, just to get re-elected, are to be blamed. Every party, every country, big and small, passed that big buck along to their successors, enriching corporations and themselves in the process, while ignoring and angering their constituents, who had trusted them to explain what they needed to know and understand about their future.

They COULD have worked with the education system to update what is offered in order to live in a modern, automated society. They COULD have worked with scientists warning of the dangerous effects of climate change, and put into place safeguards that would have saved lives. They COULD have told corporations that they would not be allowed to hold consumers or governments hostage in order to raise corporate profit, but instead would be taxed at a rate that allowed the country to replace what was being taken from them.

But that would not have gotten them re-elected.

walking-dead-castAnd so, there were no television series like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, that allowed citizens to normalize a changing present and a very different future. Instead, there was a rise in conspiratorial, dystopic, dramas, and a rush to fairytale land, that deified cartoon superheroes, and fantasy characters. Reality shows, that weren’t really reality, appealed to the minority and the niche groups. And an entire genre of television catered to the needs of ‘preppers,‘ those that would stand alone and defend what little they had when the inevitable (to them) collapse of society occurred.

This is a tearing apart of society, a sorting process that places each individual into smaller and smaller groups, separating and dividing. Rather than a coming together of people to work with, rather than against, change, to accept globalization and automation as a positive advance, ‘disrupters‘ have chosen to tear nations apart, to pit citizen against citizen, for power, for wealth, and for their own self-aggrandizement.

I don’t miss the past; I’ve been there, and it wasn’t all it’s cracked up to be. But I will miss the days when politicians worked with and for the people, rather than for their own self-interests, and on the backs of the people they have forgotten, to whom they owe their jobs.

 

 

(originally published at bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2017/01/29/roxanne-tellier-where-is-mary-tyler-moore-when-we-need-her/)