Social Distancing, Social Class, and Hypocrisy

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Aristotleded24
Social Distancing, Social Class, and Hypocrisy

With the demands for social distancing to flatten the coronavirus curve, and the narrative that has been presented from the start of this crisis that things are going to change and that social distancing is here to stay, I think it's important to discuss how this plays out across the class specturm and show how the impact is not evenly felt.

Let's start with the Chief Medical Officers of Health. They might not be anywhere near 1% status, but they are certainly paid more than the average person. Their income is also secure throughout the pandemic. They are not worried about when they will go back to work or if CERB is going to run out or if their small business will survive. They simply do not experience the same level of anxiety that the rest of us do. They tell us to do "social distancing." Don't go out. Stay home. Don't go to work if you're sick? Good luck with that if you're constantly on the edge of not making ends meet and your employer doesn't offer sick pay. There have even been calls to restrict the number of times people can shop legally. Don't attend any events either, whether it's a church function or a curling bonspiel. Toronto decided that with all the crime happening in that city that its police agency had the resources to fine people for not social distancing in parks. Well, how will you buy groceries? Not to worry, they (along with the other people who can work remotely from home) can simply order online and have it delivered. They're not exposing themselves to the virus, they are not risking spreading it around, so problem solved, right?

Not so fast. Somebody has to work to get them what they need, from transporting to the store to working in the store to even going out in delivery. So accepting the premise that the best thing to do is to stay put, these people are at risk of not only contracting the virus, but from a cynical self-interested perspective, prolonging the pandemic. These people don't have the option of waiting it out. Let's talke a closer look at some of these outbreaks. As much as a problem as the outbreaks in the last paragraph were, did they cause any major disruptions? Are there any outbreaks that can be attributed to a basketball game in the park or people taking multiple shopping trips? Have any such outbreaks turned an entire city into a coronavirus hotspot? The answer to those questions is no.

So what is driving this pandemic? I've been speaking recently about the situation in nursing homes. This is not only claiming lives of residents, but of staff as well. It is easily predictable that a respiratory illness would hit the elderly population hard, and unions representing the workers have raised concerns as well. Conditions in meat packing plants are also driving the spread, and it turned the Alberta city of Brooks into a covid hotspot. Hundreds of people infected, three dead. These outbreaks are not happening because people are standing too close together while chatting over morning coffee. These are institutional failures, of companies and organizations not taking adequate steps to protect their workers. Think also about living conditions. If you have little money, you likely are sharing accomodations with people, possibly across many generations. Especially if you are all confined at home and your children aren't going to school or daycare, social distancing is not a thing where you live. Do you think that's not going to spread the coronavirus around? Essentially, there is a near direct relationship between the amount of money you earn and your ability to do social distancing. This right here should dispel the idea that individual actions alone will take us out of this pandemic.

Social distancing will also have the long-term effect of undermining the very social solidarity that is vital to the interests of the working class. When I go to stores, I already see plastic partitions between myself and the staff. As the provinces re-opened up, they told people to only meet with a few select people they know. The subtle message people are receiving is that all the people around me are a threat, even if it is presented as you doing what's necessary to protect others. This is essentially Tribalism 101. What if coronavirus simply sticks around and becomes one of the many diseases we have to deal with, as the World Health Organisation says it might? Of course it will be more prevalent in marginalized communities. Do you think (what's left of) middle-class taxpayers are going to want to fund services for these people? No, they will instead want the government to protect themselves from the disease. This will have a negative impact on public support for progressive ideas that rely on the public commons, from public transit to public housing, to even stores reverting back to single-use plastic bags. So we have to be very careful of this as we move forward.

My final message to the government is this: stop trying to scare people by telling them that visiting their friends and family (or even making new friends) is going to give everybody coronavirus, and go after the systemic failures that are actually dragging out this pandemic for far longer than it has to.

Aristotleded24
Aristotleded24

I don't know if this is by design, but I think the way social distancing has played out is that it's not a means to control the pandemic, but rather a means for the more priviledged among us to ride it out safely at home. What do I mean?

Who supports the lockdown measures? I spoke in great detail about the professional class in the opening post. There is another important demographic involved. That is many retirees, who spend a great deal of time watching TV, and by and large trusting what the news tells them. The system has essentially worked for this demographic, so they have no reason to start questioning things now. They hear the media exaggerations about coronavirus to the exclusion of everything else, they get scared, and they want to be protected. What these retirees and the professional classes both have in common is that their income is not threatened by lockdown measures. They can safely stay at home. No more trips to the shopping mall are necessary, they can just have everything delivered. That exposes another reality. As these people wait it out at home, they are no longer out and about, interacting with members of the working class whose job it is to work the stores and to deliver their goods. If they used to work in an office but now work at home, they are no longer confronted with the reality of urban poverty on their commute or throughout their work day. The working and urban poor become invisible, and as these professionals and retirees continue to live in their bubbles, the plight of the lower classes fades from society's radar. The lower class essentially becomes invisible, to be forgotten.

People on the lower end of the economic ladder are hit with a double whammy. I already mentioned in the opening post that their working and living conditions make them far more susceptible to coronavirus, but there is another aspect as well. For those lower-paid workers whose jobs aren't essential, they have to cope not only with unemployment, but also the destruction of their communities. Their movements to visit family and friends, get recreation, or go to church are very restricted. Even the services they rely on are impacted, as governments close offices and restrict service times to prevent the spread of coronavirus. Many government workers unions are in support, because why should government workers risk their health by being in contact with dirty poor people? Far from encouraging solidarity, social distancing is undermining it. Let the more priviledged classes remain locked in their bubbles, while the lower classes are forgotten. That is how this pandemic will play out unless the need for lockdown measures is challenged and the institutional failings which are spreading coronavirus rectified.

Aristotleded24
Aristotleded24

Speaking of issues of class:

Quote:

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman says the league and the NHL Players' Association have agreed on a return-to-play format in the event the 2019-20 season can resume.

The 24-team plan would see the top-4 clubs in the Eastern and Western Conference play two mini round-robin tournaments to determine seeding for the playoffs.

This is the kind of thing that frustrates people. If we had to give up Easter dinner with grandma, with some of us knowing that grandma isn't going to be around for Easter 2021, why can't these guys give up a playoff season?

Aristotleded24

Really good article about migrant farm workers and covid:

Quote:

A video that recently surfaced begins with a shot of a makeshift bed -- a thin sleeping pad resting on top of a wooden blue pallet on the ground. The camera pans to show dozens more of these beds in what appears to be some sort of warehouse or storage locker, spaced out in uniform rows and lining the concrete floor. Scattered around are signs of human life, out of place in this harsh industrial backdrop: a suitcase with the baggage tag still wrapped around the handle and a pair of running shoes tucked just under the edge of a pallet. A well-timed click of the pause button shows a person laying in one of these beds, trying to sleep.

The comments reveal the video was taken just a few hours outside of Toronto, in Leamington, Ontario -- the "Tomato Capital of Canada," thanks to the high numbers of the fruit produced there. It is also one of the biggest hot-spots for temporary farm workers brought in through Canada's seasonal agricultural worker program (SAWP). What this video offers is a rare glimpse into the living conditions of migrant farm workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Back in mid-April, the federal government announced they would be allocating $50 million to the agricultural sector in order to support farm owners -- such as those in Leamington -- who bring in temporary workers through SAWP. The money was intended to help ensure safe living spaces and working conditions for migrant workers during the COVID-19 pandemic. More specifically, to cover expenses like hotel accommodations, groceries and health costs during the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for workers arriving into the country. 

Yet in an open letter published on May 4, an anonymous migrant farm worker wrote about what was taking place at Greenhill Produce: "On Monday, April 27th, all 24 results were returned with a total of 13 Jamaicans test came back positive. We were told that by 4pm Monday afternoon, we will be separated. Enquires were made at approximately 4:30 Monday afternoon. We were told the Health Authorities will give instructions as to the separation."​

Another worker wrote in a statement: "The positive and the negative are living in the same house using the same utensils, same bathroom, doing everything like nothing is wrong." They go on to explain that their employers are refusing to purchase cleaning supplies for the workers to use to sanitize their bunkhouse.

Over the past two weeks we have seen viral outbreaks at a growing number of these farms across the province. Greenhill Produce in Chatham-Kent has been the primary subject of the media's attention, with over 100 workers infected as of May 21. 

This begs the question: With $50 million in federal support, why is this happening?

There is much more wortwhile reading there. This might be something worth paying attention to if we can get past the pearl clutching about people gathering in a park or visiting on Mother's Day or wanting to hug their friends and family.

This part especially  jumped out to me:

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Keeping people apart is a time-tested tactic which works to limit communication and restrict personal relationships. It's much easier to ward off the possibility of collective action when workers are cut off from one another.

You mean kind of like the social distancing restrictions in place now where, almost 3 months after the pandemic started and with nearly every region in the country outside of Toronto and Montreal noticing a decline in the number of cases and gatherings are still capped at anywhere from 25-30 people?

kropotkin1951

One of my local farmers on my FB feed was talking about the difference between Ontario and BC. In Ontario the farms were allowed to isolate their workers en masse on site. In BC they all had to isolate like everyone else coming into the country and the farms that wanted them had to pay for the isolation at proper facilities. So far we have had no outbreaks on farms in BC. Our food prices will rise but that is a minor concern compared to having workers die growing it for us.

Aristotleded24

I'm happy to hear that, krop. I personally think that the temporary foreign worker program should be halted outright and that anyone who comes into this country be supported on a pathway towards being a full citizen, but that is by far and away much better than what is happening in Ontario.

Aristotleded24

So after the left had been saying for months that it was a moral imperative that everybody stay home unless absolutely necessary to stop spreading covid to people who are vulnerable, to the point of supporting draconian restrictions on people's movements and how business operate, the left is now saying it's a moral imperative to get into the streets to protest because of George Floyd.

Am I the only one who sees how silly and hypocritical the left looks right now?

kropotkin1951

I am not sure who this "the left" is but they look like you could kick the straw out of them really easily.

The vast majority of the demonstrators were wearing masks and not spitting on each other and random passersby unlike at some other types of demonstrations. I am really sorry that Dr. Henry was not put in charge of Canada in January because the same things that were done here would have worked everywhere in the country. There was nothing draconian here, everyone except a surprisingly small number of assholes bought into the community health plan presented in daily updates. But then I live on an island that sent only NDP and Green MP's to the last parliament so it appears my neighbours and I share a different perspective than the majority of Canadians.

Aristotleded24

kropotkin1951 wrote:
I am not sure who this "the left" is but they look like you could kick the straw out of them really easily.

Christo Aivalis for one. Michael Moore also repeated as fact an assertion from "friends" working in the National Institutes of Health that the pandemic was going to be a 2-year event. Most other left-wing commentators I watch bought into that and told everyone to stay home as well. Of course, if you're used to staying at home as you spend nearly all your waking hours making YouTube videos while not getting out into the real world, that's very easy. Only Kim Iversen even questioned the basic premise behind social distancing and mandatory lockdowns in the first place. I felt very uneasy about those demands from the start and was very vocal about it. Even the coronavirus alert levels that so many governments have introduced reminded me of the 5 colour terror alert system the Bush Administration introduced in the wake of 9-11. I was very disappointed that after Moore brilliantly deconstructed the fear-mongering the Bush Administration used in response to 9-11, he used those exact same tactics in response to coronavirus.

kropotkin1951 wrote:
The vast majority of the demonstrators were wearing masks and not spitting on each other and random passersby unlike at some other types of demonstrations.

I'm happy that most demonstrators in BC were wearing masks. When I was out on Friday and could see the demonstrations from a distance, there were many without masks, and it didn't look like they were keeping the 2-meter distance rule. Besides, the instructions about gatherings were clear. There was no qualification about distancing or wearing masks. The instructions were no gatherings. Period. That's why every major event in the country has been cancelled until at least Labour Day. That's why religious services now have to be had online. That's why public spaces have been closed off, including public spaces which house drop-ins that serve many marginalized people. For many of these people, the ability to freely drop in and socialize with people is the greatest need they have, and not being able to drop in can lead to suicidal depression for these people. Not to take away from the reason behind the protest, but I honestly think one of the motivations people had in attending the protests was that they hadn't seen their friends in a long time and weren't sure they would be able to see them again, and there are very few outlets for people to go out and have fun at the moment. And last Easter, we were told not to visit and have live, in-person family dinners, (or even children's birthday parties) which are by definition much smaller groups than what we saw gather over the last week. The cruel irony is that many of the elders we were supposed to protect by not visiting them are so frail and advanced in age that Easter 2020 was certain to be their last Easter, pandemic or not. Even Dr. Henry bought into that. Now to recap, visiting family during Easter is not okay, but suddenly gathering in large groups is?

No wonder the right is having a field day with this, and I can hardly blame them. Glenn Greenwald is right in the clip I mentioned when he said it is scary how people will move from one pulbic dictate to the complete opposite without seriously questioning why we are being asked to do so in the first place.

I agree with Bill Maher when he said we need to improve our immune systems while protecting vulnerable people. This lockdown has been mentally exhausting already, I don't want us to have to do this again, or to be micromanaged in my daily movements to the point of having to stand in a certain spot in the store, not being able to just drop into a gym for a work-out, or not even being able to sing in church as the "new normal" once the lockdown measures ease.

kropotkin1951

So I gather "the left" are various US celebrities.  I presume those people are now saying it's a moral imperative to get into the streets to protest because of George Floyd. Fair enough I can't dispute you on those facts because I don't actually follow them.

Aristotleded24
Aristotleded24

So now we have Michael Moore cheering the bravery of BLM protesters for risking their lives by protesting during a pandemic. But I thought the imperative in everyone staying home was that even if you were fine taking a risk with your own life, that you had to stay home in case you came into contact with someone who was of high risk. Are we really naive enough to believe that there was 100% compliance with mask wearing and social distancing at these protests, or that many of the protesters themselves don't live with people at a higher risk for the coronavirus? Remember when the lockdown protests happened, and people dismissed the concerns the protesters had about the fallout that the economic impact of lockdowns would have, including costing lives? Funny how now it's okay for people to gather outside to protest, when the main lesson from the Spanish Flu that was used to illustrate the importance of social distancing was how the Liberty Loans Parade knocked over the medical system in Philadelphia within days? Dr. Fauci said that the demonstrations would increase the risk. And of course, the professional classes, having too much confidence in their own perspectives and judgements and next to no empathy for workers, allows themselves to be brought into this and what should be simple health advice has now become politicized. And professionals wonder why workers are skeptical of their pronouncements from on high?

Aristotleded24
lagatta4

I was very annoyed by the comment on pensioners upthread. Not all pensioners have credit cards, so they can't possibly have their groceries delivered (and the delays here would have left them very hungry, if not starving). Many pensioners live on very little.

Aristotleded24

Poverty, especially among immigrant communities, common thread through covid failures worldwide: Kim Iversen

Even think about the places in Canada that have struggled, specifically Brooks, Toronto, Montreal, Windsor/Essex, and Northern Saskatchewan, with immigrant and First Nations people living in crowded living conditions. Surely meaningfully addressing housing in this country would be a huge investment, and cost much less in the long term than tanking the economy for months on end.

Aristotleded24

I wish I could post this whole article here:

Quote:

As the pandemic continued, there was a silent population of essential workers in Canada who kept our lives going, through their manual labour and often in exploitive workplaces. Meanwhile, others fretted about the latest COVID-19 data points, while building a deck or getting a new pet.

Those who are on the outside of these privileges must have been truly afraid, and rightfully so. COVID-19 was now another threat added to their burden, along with things such as: food insecurity, police brutality, or no chance at a future. They left their children at home while they went to work (if they had a job in the first place), worrying about their health and safety. They could not provide them the resources to keep up with their schooling; education was a luxury.

Canada has only recently started tracking race-based health data, due to the strong urging of leaders in Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities. Apart from the crisis in long-term care facilities, which were hanging by a thread before the pandemic, it was predominantly these populations, in low-income, dense housing that were hit hardest by COVID-19.

...

If those who have privilege are taking up all the space and stealing all the air in the room, how can others who also need to breathe find any air for themselves? The reality is that if you are well off, and white, you have a lower risk of catching COVID-19 or dying from it.

Something to think about when asking for zero-risk during a pandemic.

Aristotleded24

This will come as a surprise to everyone:

Quote:
Newly collected race-based data on COVID-19 in Toronto confirms concerns that both racialized and low-income residents have been disproportionately impacted by the virus in the city.

The Toronto Public Health data, which was collected between May 20 and July 16, shows that of the reported COVID-19 cases in Toronto with valid race data, 83 per cent involve members of racialized communities.

According to 2016 census information, only 52 per cent of Toronto's population identify as belonging to a racialized group.

Members of the Black community represented 21 per cent of reported COVID-19 cases in the city despite the fact census data indicates that only nine per cent of Toronto's population identifies as Black.

Conversely, those who identify as white represent about 48 per cent of Toronto's population but only 17 per cent of reported COVID-19 cases in the city.

...

Only about 30 per cent of Toronto's population has a household income of $50,000 or less, according to census information, but that income group represents a little more than 50 per cent of reported infections in the city.

"While COVID-19 has affected all of us, unfortunately it has had a greater impact on those in our community who face greater health inequities," Toronto's Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa said during a news conference on Thursday.

She said in the short-term, addressing the needs of members of the community who are more at risk of contracting the virus involves targeted testing, better communication, and increased access to social supports, including voluntary isolation sites for people who have the virus or are at risk of contracting the virus and do not have a place to properly self-isolate.

"In the longer term however, if we want to have a true impact, a real impact on improving health, including COVID-19, we need to address these health inequities and get to the root cause of what underpins our overall health," she said.

"We need to focus on the social determinants of health, like affordable housing opportunities, access to employment and income supports, and educational opportunities. And yes, we need to address systemic racism."

But no, instead of looking at how systemic racism and economic inequality impacts health making things like the coronavirus worse, we like to shake our fingers at people who want to have fun, visit their families, or just in general do the things people like to do that make life worthwhile.

Aristotleded24

More data about the differential impact of covid on Winnipeg's population:

Quote:
Backed by data from Statistics Canada, the Chambers of Commerce, the Conference Board of Canada and other sources, Markowsky provided some specific impacts of the lockdown that began last March.

Overall, the unemployment rate in the Winnipeg metropolitan area stood at 11.2 per cent in July, an increase of 5.8 per cent over the same time last year, Markowsky said.

The socio-economic impact of the pandemic has affected Indigenous people, visible minorities and people with disabilities at higher rate than other demographics, he said.

The employment rate for men is recovering faster than women.

People from the city's Filipino and West Asian populations experienced higher job loss and a greater reduction in hours than white residents at the height of the lockdown.

Many people in those groups work in the retail, restaurant and hospitality sectors — those hit hardest hit by the pandemic restrictions.

Hands up if this comes as a surprise to anybody?

Aristotleded24

The escape pods are here:

Quote:

Now, pandemics don’t necessarily bring out our best instincts either. No matter how many mutual aid networks, school committees, food pantries, race protests, or fundraising efforts in which we participate, I feel as if many of those privileged enough to do so are still making a less public, internal calculation: How much are we allowed to use our wealth and our technologies to insulate ourselves and our families from the rest of the world? And, like a devil on our shoulder, our technology is telling us to go it alone. After all, it’s an iPad, not an usPad.

The more advanced the tech, the more cocooned insularity it affords. “I finally caved and got the Oculus,” one of my best friends messaged me on Signal the other night. “Considering how little is available to do out in the real world, this is gonna be a game-changer.” Indeed, his hermetically sealed, Covid-19-inspired techno-paradise was now complete. Between VR, Amazon, FreshDirect, Netflix, and a sustainable income doing crypto trading, he was going to ride out the pandemic in style. Yet while VRporn.com is certainly a safer sexual strategy in the age of Covid-19 than meeting up with partners through Tinder, every choice to isolate and insulate has its correspondingly negative impact on others.

The pool for my daughter wouldn’t have gotten here were it not for legions of Amazon workers behind the scenes, getting infected in warehouses or risking their health driving delivery trucks all summer. As with FreshDirect or Instacart, the externalized harm to people and places is kept out of sight. These apps are designed to be addictively fast and self-contained — push-button access to stuff that can be left at the front door without any human contact. The delivery people don’t even ring the bell; a photo of the package on the stoop automagically arrives in the inbox. Like with Thomas Jefferson’s ingenious dumbwaiter, there are no signs of the human labor that brought it.

...

But what if we don’t have to know about the chaos in the world? That’s the real promise of digital technology. We can choose which cable news, Twitter feeds, and YouTube channels to stream — the ones that acknowledge the virus and its impacts or the ones that don’t. We can choose to continue wrestling with the civic challenges of the moment, such as whether to send kids back to school full-time, hybrid, or remotely. Or — like some of the wealthiest people in my own town — we can form private “pods,” hire tutors, and offer our kids the kind of customized, elite education we could never justify otherwise. “Yes, we are in a pandemic,” one pod education provider explained to the Times. “But when it comes to education, we also feel some good may even come out of this.”.

...

Climate, poverty, disease, and famine don’t respect the “guardian boundary” play space defined by the Oculus VR’s user preferences. Just as the billionaires can never, ever truly leave humanity behind, none of us can climb back into the womb. When times are hard, sure, take what peace and comfort you can afford. Use whatever tech you can get your hands on to make your kid’s online education work a bit better. Enjoy the glut of streaming media left over from the heyday of the Netflix-Amazon-HBO wars.

But don’t let this passing — yes, passing — crisis fool you into buying technology’s false promise of escaping from humanity to play video games alone in perpetuity. Our Covid-19 isolation is giving us a rare opportunity to see where this road takes us and to choose to use our technologies to take a very different one.

Pondering

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/sep/01/office-workers

The service economy in financialised city centres depends on the consumption patterns of office workers: commuting every day involves not just buying a sandwich or a coffee from Pret, but helping to prop up an entire system. Were it not for the vast numbers flowing out of stations every morning, the capacity to extract astronomical rents, both from commercial and residential properties, would shrivel – and city centres would no longer be soulless corporate landscapes where multiple franchises of the same chain restaurant can be found within walking distance of each other.

Your push for the lifting of all constraints is libertarian which is more akin to the right than the left. The lower classes always suffer the most. They suffer the most during the lockdown and they will suffer the most in the lifting of it.

Covid 19 is getting the credit for revealing the class divide and starting the debate on whether or not their compensation is good enough. It revealed the terrible working conditions in seniors residences and the fact that they use temp agencies and don't hire people full time so they have to work at multiple homes.

 "The left" supports free transit and pharmacare and national daycare and a national housing program among many other measures that help to reduce inequality. 

 "The left" doesn't want to go back to the status quo. This is an opportunity to accelerate change for the better.