Sit Still Sit Quiet
by Jordan Rock
Let me take this opportunity to talk about the bizarre experience of living during a global pandemic, and about how it relates to work.
I know how silly that sounds; we are literally ALL living through a global pandemic right now, we Know how it feels.
But, well, these types of things can be hard to express, and perhaps the strangeness of this situation hasn’t quite set in for you yet. After all, I didn’t start thinking about all of this in terms of posterity until my job evaporated.
Do you still have a job during this crisis? How does that make you feel?
For the vast majority of Americans, it is our modus operandi to be worked into the ground in order to make ends meet.
We work to earn the right to work some more.
When you’re working your fingers to the bone, it’s easy to focus on the aches and pains rather than the society that led you to them.
Even as I write this, it’s amazing to me how badly I want to get back to work.
Not because I liked my job, but because without the anchor of a regular schedule, I can feel my grip on time pulling away from me.
Because I’ve been made to sit still, only venturing out for essential survival materials, my main contact with the rest of the world is being funneled through social media, and the news cycle.
I want to do something, but all I Can do is watch this horror show play out.
For me, this anxiety is familiar ground.
This situation bears a striking resemblance to another major disaster that had a direct effect on my life. That of Hurricane Katrina. Since you’re here, on this website, I assume you’re familiar with it.
Even after my family escaped from New Orleans in the wake of the hurricane, we kept up with the news cycle just to see what had become of our city. We watched along with the rest of America as the devastation played out.
I was twelve years old at the time and let me tell you; that was the first time I experienced true horror. We had heard the warnings, and we had prepared, but nothing can get you ready mentally
- To see your home ravaged.
- To know that there is a high chance that the people you know, and love are drowned or starving,
- To be denied access to survival resources by your government because there simply isn’t enough to go around.
- To pick yourself up wherever it is that you’ve landed and start all over again.
- To look back and see what could have been done to prevent the disaster.
- To research, and understand all of the ways that your infrastructure, your leadership, the very systems meant to support you, have failed you when you needed them most.
Twelve years old is far too early to lose any and all faith in the society you live in, I think. It has been the longest heartbreak of my life.
But, more to the point, that horror was visceral and personal to me. I could look at my streets and see the devastation wrought by the wind and the rain and the failing infrastructure. This virus is different. It doesn’t destroy cities; not directly. It destroys lives. It is at once a distant threat and one that surrounds me at all times. This disaster looks completely different from the last one. I can’t run away from it, because nowhere in America is safe from it.
Today, I stand at the window and think about how oddly beautiful the streets are when they are so damn empty and quiet. I hold back tears when I talk to my friends, who have been given the illustrious title of “Essential Worker” at social gunpoint so that they can risk their lives for someone else’s bottom line. I watch the so-called leadership of America downplay this pandemic and expect us all to play along. This disaster is so much bigger than the one from my youth, and we had so much less warning. This time, the flood waters, as it were, have yet to recede. We’re standing waist deep in this crisis, watching people drown, and still we’re all being told to get back to work.
I explained last time that the United States has proven itself the best at being the worst at handling this world-wide viral pandemic. The death toll climbs by the hour, and even as we hear pyrrhic news about how people that recover from the virus become immune to it, or how a vaccine is in development, they are like fireflies in the void of space. Distant stars, too far to reach.
I’m amazed at how angry I am this time around. Whenever something vile has happened to American people in the last four years of our current administration, its been wrapped up with a neat little bow in the 24 hour news cycle, trotted around for ratings and then tossed under the stampede of fresh horrors running in. There is no solidarity or mourning for this crisis, for the thousands dead and dying. There is only the constant knowledge of it as thousands more shuffle off to risk their lives for a paycheck that doesn’t justify their peril.
I read the other day that the United States is the only country that has not agreed to make the vaccine free and available for its people when it is completed. All I can think when I hear this is that the cure for this plague is going to become a luxury item, and suddenly this virus consuming the world will be written off by the great and the good as a poor person’s disease.
This is growing incoherent. But that’s the thing; our reality makes less and less sense the longer we sit still. We’ve all grown so numb to the horrors of these times, able to stumble through our days as long as we can have a distraction to motivates to slough through all of the nonsense. But now, for so many of us, the constant cycle of work, sleep eat has been disrupted, and all we have is to sit. And those of us that can sit and wait for this to blow over are the lucky ones. And yet, it feels like being held down with our eyes taped open. When you aren’t going to work, you lose track of time. If you don’t set your own schedule, monitor yourself, you lose control. All there is for those stuck inside is to watch as their country mishandles every step of the battle against the virus. From that perspective, it almost makes sense how many people furiously reject the idea of staying inside right now. I can almost sympathize with the desire to ignore the virus and try desperately to live normally.
I understand how hard it is to sit still.
I’m a busy body. My ADHD-addled brain frequently zips through associations and ideas at a breakneck pace, like the world’s least sensical game of synaptic ping-pong, and while that makes me a fantastic idea man, it also means I must be a relentless note-taker with a restless mind.
Add on top of that the trauma of our shared situation, and you get a lot of sleepless nights.
Since this lockdown started, I can’t remember the last time I slept all the way through the night.
And now, with the virus only ramping up, with the death toll climbing higher and higher, with lunatics running around without masks claiming that it is their civil right to put everyone around them at risk of infection, we’re being told that now is the time for shops to reopen, for us to go back out and sweat and bleed for the economy?
I want to be shocked. I really do, but then I think about it.
Americans have been so socialized, so hammered by the idea that the only purpose we have in life is to go to work, consume products, breed and make more consumers that will also go to work, all to line the pockets of the rich and powerful, its almost seductive to wiggle our jobs in front of our faces during a pandemic.
I have a friend in the Bay Area who happens to be an EMT, and listening to the routine he has to go through of undressing on the porch, disinfecting his clothes and then trying to sanitize himself before touching anything inside his house makes my hands shake. When you go through a crisis, you come out on the other side shaken, with the knowledge that your world has changed. You would think that America itself, so rattled by this nightmare would at least acknowledge the horror of it all, that our current administration would be able to pretend for a moment that it cares for its people.
We need work, because a single check from the government is not going to be enough to pay our inflating rents. Hell, for many, it wasn’t enough to pay one month of rent. We need work, because the pittance we received for our previous work has already been spent just trying to survive.
Just what in the world Is an essential worker, anyway?
Far as I can see, it’s someone that has a choice; you can get out there and work, or you can starve. Either feed the beast of the economy with your labor or feed it with your life.
They are the life support plugged into a failed economic experiment; a feed bag strapped to the face of our broken system. A bare neck for our vampiric oligarchy to bite into.
We are as essential as pigs are to a butcher.
No wonder I’m so mad. I’m not mad at the virus, or mad that I’m stuck inside. I’m mad, because when disaster struck me at twelve years old, I got to watch the Bush administration put on a show of caring about my poor, destroyed city. This time, at twenty-seven, I get to watch the Trump administration bail out a bunch of major corporations with one hand and use the other to root around in my pockets for loose change.