After COVID19

After COVID19 August 11, 2020

Kai Stachowiak: Future Robotic Artificial intelligence /needpix

COVID19 has shown us the broken nature of contemporary American society.  Not only do many Americans deny the reality of the pandemic, they deny their social responsibility, making the pandemic worse than it should have been. Those societies in which social responsibility is appreciated, people are more willing to be inconvenienced for the good of the whole, which they know, in the long run, will make their own particular situation better. For a single stick is easily broken, but the more sticks are brought together, the harder it is to break any particular stick, until enough sticks are brought together that none can be broken. Likewise, together, we are stronger, better, while acting as if every man, woman, and child should fend for themselves, we will be weaker, making even those who think they are strong, weak and more vulnerable to disaster.

Hopefully, sooner than later, the dangers of COVID19 will be a thing of the past. But the problems concerning society and how we handled COVID will be with us. We should pause, consider the lessons which we have learned, and use them to discern how society should reform itself after the pandemic is over.

If the virus has taught us anything, it should be that we need a government which works for and protects the populace with a proper safety net, so that if and when we face similar or worse trouble in the future, we will be able to handle it without having people’s livelihoods as adversely affected as they have been during the time of COVID19. Job loss has led to a loss of income for millions of American. This means, there is less money to go around. Goods and services are not being bought and sold. And so those, such as landlords, who rely upon people with money to pay for their services likewise face the consequences of such joblessness. Having taken away the base of the economy, the economy risks being destroyed. This is why stimulus money was necessary, for without it, the United States was threatening to collapse under the weight of the pandemic.

We should have learned that it is possible to come together as a society and help everyone, especially those who are most in need. Stimulus relief, even it could have and should have bene better, nonetheless shows us a principle which should stay with us in the future: when dealing with a crisis that affects everyone, we must use our resources to help the most vulnerable among us. And, if we look at how society was already changing, how work and the way people make money was changing as a result of technology, this lesson is extremely important because if we do not prepare for the future with the changes technology has caused to the work environment, we will be living in a world with much fewer workers, and so in a future with countless number of people who might not have what they need to survive. The resources are there to make sure everyone can have a dignified life with food, shelter, clothing, and other needful amenities, and if we do not take that into consideration now, what we saw possible during the COVID19 pandemic will become probable afterward: the breakdown of society as a result of a mass number of people who do not have the resources they need to survive.

The threat of massive number of homeless Americans caused even President Trump to consider those who cannot pay rent, but what he offered is only a temporary fix. We can and must do better. If we take our social responsibility seriously, if we care about each other instead of only looking after ourselves, we can work this out: and this, again, in something we have should have learned during the COVID19 pandemic, something which we should examine further and use to fix the problems which currently lay behind the social structures of America before they do get out of hand.

Likewise, COVID19 has taught us how selfish we have become as a society. The response to COVID19, especially by so-called Christians, is deplorable. We see people having fits when called to act on behalf of their neighbor. People are saying they can’t be told what to do by the government. The  ideology of selfishness, the Satanic ideology of Ayn Rand and Anton LaVey, has become the ideology of so-many Christians who look at the world only in the eyes of their own wants and desires and not in regards the obligations they have for others.

Jesus spoke out against such an attitude throughout his ministry. In the Sermon on the Mount, he proclaimed himself as one with the poor and needy. In the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, he warned people that ignoring the plight of others can lead us to hell. In the Parable of the Good Samaritan, he emphasized what it means to be a good neighbor, that is, what it means to love our neighbor, and in it, he showed us that we must stop any excuses which we might raise if they prevent us from helping those who are in need, especially if they are religious ones. Jesus rejected every excuse, especially those made by religious authorities, or those with money and wealth, which were used to undermine the dignity of others.

Christians need to return to the basics of what Jesus said, to learn to die to the self, to overcome their selfishness, to reject the Satanic libertarian temptation and truly promote Jesus and his work for the common good. COVID19 has brought to light how fundamentally anti-Christian many so-called Christians have become, which is also how and why many of them are capable of supporting the most harmful, the most diabolical government programs which hurt those in need. After COVID19, Christians must either reconsider their actions and promote what Jesus promoted, or else, they risk becoming a stumbling block to the world, leading many to reject Jesus because of what they see Christians do.  Because they should know better, Christians will face harsher judgment for any and all the evil which they promote, as St. Salvian noted:

And so we who are said to be Christian and Catholic sin more gravely, if we commit sins like the impurities of the barbarians. We sin more seriously under the profession of a holy name. Where the prerogative is higher, there is the fault greater. The religion which we profess itself accuses our errors. The lewdness of him who vowed chastity is more criminal; more foul is he who drinks while putting on a front of sobriety.[1]

Christians must now take a stand. Christians must promote the common good, and the social responsibility which is needed to protect the common good. When the common good is threatened, such as when the postal system is under attack, or when various social safety nets, like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and food stamps are being demolished, Christians must stand up, resist the injustice, and promote those Jesus would stand with, the vulnerable poor who would suffer the most due to such injustice.

After COVID19, there can be no excuse left to ignore the social safety net. Doing so will only make us more vulnerable in the next crisis, be it another pandemic, be it the effects of global warming, or be it the effects changes technology creates for society. We see what has happened as a result of ignoring the safety net. Slowly, those governmental agencies which work for the common good have found their funding slashed or their leadership replaced with those whose goals run contrary to purpose of such agencies (as can be seen in the way Trump put Louis DeJoy into the position of Postmaster General). This has made the pandemic much worse. This must be stopped.

The pandemic would not have been as damaging to the United States as it has been if the people in the United States accepted their social responsibility. We would not have had as many people fighting against those protocols which have been put in place to protect the populace, nor would we have had people demanding the poor, the vulnerable, to sacrifice themselves for the sake of the rich; instead, the rich, with their vast resources, would be putting it into use to help society as a whole, knowing that when the poor and needy are properly taken care of and have the financial resources they need, the whole of society, including the rich, will benefit.

We must plan now for the future. We must figure out how to get society once again working together. We must put into place as many social protections which we can. And, when we have leaders acting against the common good, leaders who use the pandemic as a way to make themselves richer at the expense of those in need, we must collectively work together to get them out of office and fix the harm they have done. If we do not, we have not learned the lesson available to us from COVID19, and we risk falling into worse devastation than we can imagine as the dismantling of social safety nets will lead to mass numbers of people without food, shelter, clothing, indeed, without human dignity, a mass number of people who will act in kind to the mistreatment they have experienced, causing a great and terrible response the like of which we, in the United States, have never seen before. The riots which have emerged in the last few weeks are only a foreshadowing of what can happen if such desperation meets resistance from those with power and money, for the riots themselves come out of such desperation. But it does not have to be. Christians, especially, must work so that it does not happen; we must, as Pope Francis indicated, work for justice now, for this is what the Gospel invites us to do:

Renewed contact with the Gospel of faith, of hope and of love invites us to assume a creative and renewed spirit. In this way, we will be able to transform the roots of our physical, spiritual and social infirmities and the destructive practices that separate us from each other, threatening the human family and our planet.[2]

COVID19 should serve as a wake-up call. Humanity has been given the task to once again work for the common good, and with it, take up its place as steward for creation. If we do not, then the pandemic is only the first of a long series of disasters which will soon come to pass.


[1] Salvian the Presbyter, “The Governance of God” in The Writings of Salvian the Presbyter. Trans. Jeremiah F. O’Sullivan (Washington, DC: CUA Press, 1962), 112.

[2] Pope Francis, “General Audience” (8-5-2020). Vatican translation.

 

 

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