Quarantine Day 77. It’s Black Out Tuesday today.
When this pandemic (and subsequent global quarantines) started, I only considered its economic effects. Things like unemployment, rent, housing prices, etc. In hindsight, the gap in this thinking is obvious: the sharpest social changes (both progressive and conservative) happen during the most severe economic upheavals.
To take some US-centric examples:
- The Great Depression resulted in FDR’s New Deal and a shift toward more socially-oriented, sometimes-Marxist thinking among both ordinary Americans and American “high culture.”
- Economic inequality between whites and blacks (due to institutionalized racism and Jim Crow laws) drove Civil Rights Era protests, which drove Johnson’s 1964 War on Poverty (which created food stamps, federal funding for K-12 schools, and Social Security.)
- More recently, the Great Recession resulted in both (1) anger at GOP leadership under George W. Bush and subsequently Obama’s election, and (2) the rise of GOP Tea Party-ists (as well as both left- and right-wing populists, a là Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders) angry at the economic elite (however differently each side defines “elite”).
So when a friend asked “Why now? Why during a pandemic of all times?,” the answer was obvious. Because (1) we’re in a depression rivaling the Great Depression one century ago, and furthermore because (2) there’re more people unemployed or working-from-home that these protests can reach critical mass.
It’s unclear to me the country will go from here, from a social change standpoint. But, I think things will get worse before they get better (as if having Trump as president isn’t already the worst). In particular, Aggressive policing tactics could actually make crime worse, study suggests. And, De-escalation Keeps Protesters And Police Safer. Departments Respond With Force Anyway. It’s a vicious cycle.
By the way, there’re greater calls now to “defund the police.” I don’t think the police should be defunded entirely. But, they should absolutely be demilitarized (I mean, riot gear for peaceful protests? Teargas? Beating up 75-year-olds?). And, much more of today’s policing (and prison) budgets should instead go to social work, education, mental health, and most of all, economic equality initiatives to prevent and de-escalate, rather than to react when it’s too late.