“…And these children that you spit on as they try to change their worlds are immune to your consultations. They’re quite aware of what they’re going through…” – David Bowie
Every day I get on Crackbook to try and feel connected, and there are hundreds of posts admonishing us to wear our masks, to stay home, and to keep our distance. Sounds simple, but like most things, it’s much more complicated than you might think.
Me, In the Beginning…
On Monday, March 9th, 2020, I wandered into my office space in downtown Seattle. All the rest of my co-workers had shaken their heads and were a bit scandalized by my attitude to the whole thing. The whole thing being the impending apocalypse, or the pandemic.
So, there I am in the vacant office pretty much by myself. (Joan was there too but only because she needed the copier and scanner.) And I have an attitude of “Fuck this bullshit! Just more bull crap coming from itty bitty whinny babies. I’m not letting the dumbasses tell me what to do.” Yeah, I have a streak of Libertarianism in me.
But really, have you seen the media lately? There’s so much bullshit out there right now that it’s practically impossible to figure out the truth anymore. “Truth in Journalism” has given way to “Rile them all up and we’ll make lots of money.”
I feel NO shame is deciding it’s all a bunch of crap.
I’m on my high horse and I’m riding with the Four Horsemen.
Since it was Monday, I got my MINDF*CK MONDAY newsletter from Mark Manson, who, I’m certain, is one of the few sane people on this earth. Check him out at:
Anyhoo, I got my newsletter, and I read it. Okay, finally! Someone who can make sense of this pandemic crap AND who can tell me what’s what in a way that doesn’t make me want punch them in the face.
I updated and rebooted my servers, set things up, packed a bag, and went home. I’ve pretty much been home ever since.
The Surface of It
On the surface of it, it seems pretty simple. Stay home, wear your mask, and keep 6 feet distance. We can flatten the curve and maybe not have a million dead in this country.
It sounds reasonable and prudent. And, for the most part, I agree.
But like so many things in life, there are a lot of variables that this simple equation doesn’t take into account, and most of those variables are due to every human being at a different place in life.
Earlier this month in Michigan, a security guard was killed at a Family Dollar Store by a customer who was asked to put on a mask.
The media painted the customers as “deranged” and charged them with “first-degree premeditated murder.”
I realized that the situation was much more complex than “Stay home, wear your mask, and keep 6 feet distance.” The directive is simplistic, and like so many simply things, can spiral in bad behavior.
Where You Stand
For me, and for most of the people I know, “Stay home, wear your mask, and keep 6 feet distance” makes sense.
It makes sense not just from a global pandemic point of view, but also because we can actually do it. It’s possible.
I am blessed. I have a job I can do from home. I have money in my bank account. (And stashed around the house in small denominational non-sequential bills. I grew up hard.) My worries include: will the grocery store run out of chocolate? Will the internet cut out? Can I get my supplements from Amazon? Will I ever get to have another beer in a bar?
I am blessed. But many are not.
Many people live hand to mouth. They have a hard time just buying food, paying the light bill, and being able to pay for the shithole they’re living in.
For many of them, “Stay home, wear your mask, and keep 6 feet distance.” Is a death sentence.
I grew up living hard. Alcoholic mother who was also mentally ill and abusing prescription drugs. Unhelpful dad. I learned early in life that no one is going to help you. You have to help yourself. Mom couldn’t keep basic items in the house. I often had to steal food. Or steal toilet paper from the rec center.
Before I put my foot down at age 10, we had cheap babysitters who’d lock us in the basement, or beat us.
I wasn’t taught to be a human. No one made me wash my face, or brush my teeth. Everything us kids learned, we had to learn on our own.
My grandma often tried to get me to admit that the shoplifting of food was wrong. My attitude was, and still is, if society doesn’t work for you, you don’t have to follow the rules of society. We couldn’t get food stamps because we were the wrong color. There was no real help. So, I stole food.
I love my granny, but she couldn’t understand. And, admittedly, we didn’t tell anyone how bad it was out of fear of being removed from home and going into a system that would probably be worse.
I once said something about my hard background on Crackbook, and someone got after me, talking about how I should have done a fundraiser. As if someone who didn’t know how to wash her face had the ability to set up a fucking fundraiser. Ignorant self-righteous people are the worst, and the most destructive.
Hell, if I were a kid today, in the same situation, we would be completely out of luck. Money for a mask? Ha! Know how to sew one? Double Ha!
Most people in our country are ignorant of what it means to live hard. They’re fairly ignorant about a lot of things. They cry about other people being privileged without understanding they’re one of them. They yap self-righteously, and then they wonder why that security guard at Family Dollar got killed.
I know why.
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
One thing we need to remember is that everyone is at a different place in life. There is no “one size fits all” and any attempt to make it fit will end up in tragedy.
Let’s look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
You’ll notice that the smallest level is the top level. This is the self-actualization level. Most people don’t live here, even if they try to pretend they are self-actualized. In fact, most live at the bottom two levels.
Let’s look at the very bottom level. Here the main concerns are food, water, shelter, clothing, and sleep. These are the basic things a person needs just to STAY ALIVE. It takes all their time and their lives are continually lived as though they are threatened.
Let me ask you some questions…
- Do you think someone who is losing their home cares about the pandemic?
- Do you think they are willing to starve to death to slow the growth of the virus?
- Do you think they are willing to watch their children die just because they’ve been ordered to stay home?
For many people, “Stay home, wear your mask, and keep 6 feet distance.” Is a death sentence.
Now, some of you may think, “well, hey, if they wear a mask, they can buy food!”
You don’t understand what it’s like to search for pennies in order to buy a carton of eggs. Yeah, I did that. I found 50 cents, and I got the eggs. My mom, who couldn’t keep food in the house, laughed at us three kids for eating those eggs. I still have nightmares about her laughing at us.
Let’s start at the worst…
Here is a fictional example of what may be happening at the door of many grocery stores:
We have a family that lives hard. Their parents have been taking under the table jobs to try and make ends meet. They have no savings, and no one to call for help. They live hand to mouth.
The pandemic comes and suddenly they’re not working. Since it was under the table, they’re not eligible for unemployment. They had a problem before, now it’s really bad.
Side note: Some may think they can find help and services, that they can go to the food bank. Not everyone is able to make those connections. They don’t know how. They might not even know those services exist. Wake up and smell the humanity…
They try to get help, but everyone’s trying to get help, and maybe they’re insecure, don’t do it right, and can’t get the help they need. As usual, they’re on their own.
Time goes by. They hear ““Stay home, wear your mask, and keep 6 feet distance.” The media yaps about it all the time. The self-righteous say “feel free to ignore science” and other condemnations that are completely irrelevant to their situation.
Now they are in a very hard place. They don’t have money for food let alone masks. Even if they had money, no one’s selling masks at the entrance of the grocery story. They’re not being sold at the 7-11. They’re not sure how to even make a mask. They become scared. Their family dying of starvation is a real possibility.
More condemnations, more self-righteousness….
They start getting angry because none of this helps them feed their family. Why should they worry about something that MIGHT happen when they have to worry about something that most likely WILL happen? Hand to mouth people don’t have 401K accounts. The future is not the concern.
The mother manages to scrounge up $10. If they’re careful, they might be able to get a loaf of bread, a carton of eggs, and some milk. She hands it to her man and tells him to go to the store.
Now you have a man, who’s trying to do the manly thing of protecting and providing, going to the store to do his duty. He will feed his family.
He walks up to the door and is stopped by someone, who does have a job, and tells him he can’t go into the store without a mask.
The choice is:
Buying a mask (if there is even one to buy, good luck finding one) and letting the baby starve vs. Saving their family by using the $10 for food by disregarding the directive.
“You must wear a mask to enter the store.”
What does this guy hear? Taking their reality into account? I’ll tell you, it’s a version of…
“I don’t care that your children are going to die of starvation. You don’t deserve to eat, buy food, or even live. You are nothing, a piece of shit. Now take your poor ass out of here and let respectable people who understand wearing masks have the food.”
What seems so simple, insisting on wearing a mask to go to the store, has become a threat on a family’s life.
And before you go “pooh! People don’t think like that.” I still get caught up in that kind of thinking sometimes, and I’m a fortunate one at the moment. (Things can always change.)
When you push people into such a corner, when you threaten their lives, how can you expect them to react like a privileged person? Or even a reasonable person? You’ve just, abet unknowingly, threatened their family’s life.
What do you think happens?
The punch is thrown, or the gun comes out.
Is it right? No. Is it understandable under the circumstances? Absolutely.
“Never judge the deeds of a starving man while you’re on a full tummy.” -Mokokoma Mokhonoana
The Rest of the Ding-a-lings
Okay, some of you might understand what I’m saying, and some might still think that starving people should starve for the greater good. And there are people out there who think that. They’re also the people who want to let the elderly die. It’s a philosophical argument.
You might be thinking… ”Okay, Karin, what about all the ding-a-lings who aren’t starving? Huh? Who are going to the beach or the lake? Who are all squeezed into a restaurant having waffles for Mother’s Day? Hum? What about them?”
Like I said, it’s Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Everyone is somewhere on there. There’s no such thing as a fully enlightened person, no matter what your cult guru might tell you. We all have some goober in our noodle.
- An extrovert might convince themselves that it’s okay to gather, as long as it’s the same group of friends.
- An adult child might convince themselves that the Waffle Hut is somehow okay because it’s Mother’s Day. Surely nothing bad can happen on Mother’s Day! (Magical thinking)
- A person who is afraid of the government and the possibility of losing their freedom might push back. (What do you think the “militia” attitude is all about? Of course, bless their hearts, no matter how big their weapon stockpile gets, the government always has more.)
- Some men might think wearing a mask is unmanly and they were brought up to be “manly”. (Calling it “toxic masculinity” is missing the point, but I diverge)
- Some people are more concerned about themselves and their loved ones than society at large. They might get it into their heads that getting the virus will make them immune. They already believe we’re all going to get it eventually. Better sooner than later so life can go on.
- The youngsters might think they’re immortal and that nothing can touch them. Next thing you know they are all jumping into the lake together.
And the biggest thing is that most people live in the Now, not the Future. They don’t have savings, or 401Ks. Paying now for something that might happen in the future is foreign to them. They simply aren’t there. I get it. I don’t have much of a 401K myself, but then I have no interest in living past my decent years. I don’t plan on getting that old. Life has wore me down as it is.
Add on top of that, the uncertainty. When is this crap going to be over? As much as POTUS wants to command that it be over, it may never be over. So, you have people who are crushed by uncertainty. They don’t want to wait. They can’t wait, it’s killing their minds. That’s when you end up a bunch of people at the beach, living it up, because it may be the last time they get to go. I get that too.
We’re people. And people are going to do what people are going to do. All the shaming and blaming out there isn’t going to change their minds. So, fucking stop it! Stop cluttering the issue and let the truth come through, and I mean truth from credible sources, not social media bullshit. All the B.S. is covering up the truth. Not everyone has a Mark Manson, like I do.
What I Do
I know I’m not following all the rules like people would like me to. I know people who have literally not left their property in weeks. I’ve seen people in masks in their own cars. I’ve had people jump out of my way like I’m a pile of trash when I was 20 feet away. Have at it, dudes.
For myself, I take walks. A lot of walks. If I couldn’t take walks, I’d have killed myself by now. I walk about 3 to 6 miles a day. And I keep my head up, my mask off, and meet people’s eyes. I know that many are feeling isolated even when walking. I nod and say hello when they meet my eyes. It’s how I help.
Side note: On one of my walks I met this elderly woman who started the conversation with “I think it’s right for the old people to die so the young can live.” Well, I’m not getting pulled into that! That’s an argument that is not winnable, mainly because every side is coming at it from a point of view that makes it true. So, instead I morphed it into a conversation about dying in general. We talked about hospitals and being hooked up to machines. Worst fears and other general death and dying ideas. I think, maybe, she got what she wanted from it.
I have a mask, actually 2 of them. The each live in one of my two purses, since I always have my purse. But I don’t wear them on my walks. If I’m going into a store, or I’m getting too close to people, I’ll put it on. Lyft has asked that we sit in the backseat and wear our mask, so I do.
But man, I feel like I’m going to suffocate every time I put it on! Every store I go into I bring up suffocating so that the clerk can complain a little about having to wear the mask all day long. They deserve to complain a bit. It’s how I help.
Even though it’s supposed to be for essential travel only, I ride the bus. I don’t touch anything and I wear my mask and I sit 6 feet from others. After 3 miles around Greenlake, I want a ride home! And when someone had to go into the office to deal with the servers, I volunteered to go because I just wanted to go somewhere. Fortunately, my co-workers are too smart to let me be the one to do it, IT stuff drives me nuts and I might have had a mental breakdown.
Sometimes, I have an attitude problem about the 6 feet rule. The cell phone zombies have started wandering the streets again. Do you think they’re thinking about the 6 feet rule? Of course not! They leave it up for everyone else to get out of their way as they stagger down the street. When I’m feeling especially ornery, I don’t bother at all. I love it when they finally look up from their important social media to find me a foot way. Ha ha ha! Fuckers.
Since I’m not spending money so much, I’ve been donating a lot. This last payday I sent money to the Red Cross and ordered 10 face masks from a site who says they’ll donate a mask for every mask you buy, to low income and needy people. So far, they’ve donated 16,000 masks!
I think about that family and the security guard the father killed and I wonder, if someone had an extra mask to give them so they could go in, would that security guard still be alive? I don’t know. But if I carry a couple of extra masks, maybe if it happens at the Fred Meyer in Greenwood, and I’m there, I can give them a mask and change the trajectory. I’m impatient for the masks to show up.
Mask update: the masks arrived a few days ago. I’ve given two away so far, one to a friend who was waiting for her masks to arrive, and one to a homeless woman who hadn’t been able to find a mask. What? What you think she’s going to get on Etsy? Using what credit card? Using what shipping address?
It Will Happen Again
As we go on, things will get worse, especially for those living hard. For those with mental disorders (ie all of us). For all of us. Desperation makes us do terrible things.
I wish that we could let go of the shaming and blaming and mocking people who may either not understand, or just can’t comply. I wish we could find a way to help us ALL through this situation.
And fuck, have masks available if they’re required!
It’s not a simple situation, and has no simple solutions.
And maybe, just maybe, I won’t go back to the office at all. Maybe I’ll just stay home. Maskless…