The world has changed, Lori Fox writes. And we're not going back to the old one:
The world we knew is gone.
The life you thought you were going to have is gone.
The lives we all thought we were going to have are gone.
We're still trying to understand what has happened to us:
Since COVID-19 first emerged sometime toward the end of 2019, more than 741,000 people have died and 20 million have been infected, with 121,000 infections in Canada alone. With people locked into their homes, sick or afraid of getting sick, the economy came to a grinding halt, a shockwave of lost jobs and reduced or redistributed consumer spending. Canada lost around two million jobs in April, with the hardest hit – outside of people who were already un- or underemployed – being low-wage workers, of which women and younger people comprise a large portion, groups that were already at an economic disadvantage in the Before.
Those jobs aren’t just going to just magically reappear as we reopen; COVID-19 has reshaped consumer demand and will continue to do so into the future. Many small businesses – restaurants in particular – are permanently closed, and it will take time for something to replace them, if such a thing will even be possible in the near future.
Maybe that's not a bad thing. However, we need some perspective:
For the working class who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, discussions around CERB – which some claim is a disincentive for people to return to work – and how some people, particularly millennials, spend that money, only serves to make the deep-seated class divide in this country more apparent. If $2,000 a month – about $12.50 an hour, or around $24,000 a year before taxes for a full-time worker – means that people are making more money than they were before, the problem is not CERB, but that workers are not fairly compensated for their labour with a living wage. Anyone who would weigh in critically on how that money is spent, moreover, should ask themselves if they believe that only the wealthy deserve financial autonomy, and the pleasure and dignity of human comforts, or if CERB is really just a subsidy for landlords.
The curtain has been pulled back on how our society operates:
The destabilizing effect of this pandemic has laid bare the economic inequality on which our society functions. Class disparity, the resistance to universal income, systemic racism, the militarization of the police and the rhetoric of the current political climate are not the result of the pandemic; they are the endgame of capitalism. We’ve merely paused the machine long enough to see them clearly.
So the question remains: What are we going to do about it?