here has been a lot of effort over the past nineteen months to get the country back to “normal”. The Covid pandemic has had a devastating impact on America and the world. With over 707,000 deaths and over 44 million confirmed cases, it is time to recognize that what we think of as normal is a distant memory and will not return. That said, what has emerged as the new normal? While its not entirely clear, there are a few indications that the culture that we will have is going to be vastly different.
In traveling to several cities over the past few months, I have observed a desolate landscape – in terms of people. Cities appear to be deserted. You just don’t see people outside their houses. No one is milling about in the neighborhoods. Sure, you can see people visiting stores and restaurants picking up goods and food. Very few people are utilizing services – mechanics, laundromats, cobbler’s, tailers, dry cleaners, etc. This is an indication that there is much confusion and fear surrounding our interactions and communications with friends, neighbors, and businesses.
Americans are in the process of reassessing relationships. Relationships to jobs, businesses, and their services. As a result, relationships are being dissolved, reprioritized, and/or reshaped. There are a number of examples – large and small. Dry cleaners are struggling. Some of the large operations have closed a number of outlets and consolidated operations. I used to visit the dry cleaners on a weekly basis without fail. I’m not sure if I have gone to the dry cleaners twice in the past twelve months. Almost everyone I know is reassessing their career goals and current job. A lot of it involves determining if the pay is worth the sacrifice. That sacrifice may involve:
People are learning new skills. Why not Do It Yourself instead of paying for a service call plus the cost of the repair. Use a YouTube video to teach yourself to do a repair or adjustment. Do I really need that five-dollar coffee, expresso, frappe, latte? A lot of people I talk to express dismay at the incompetence encountered when trying to re-engage services. From hotels to fast food outlets, the new team is poorly trained and doing a lousy job. They express a desire to not spend what is increasingly hard-earned money on poor service or poorly prepared food. Violent crime has increased significantly over the past year. More people are stressed out and many are suicidal.
All the signs are pointing to an American society that is broken and disillusioned. Dreams are being shattered and getting farther out of reach. Imagine an America without 24 hour fast food, no one to wash your car, make your coffee, or park your car at the restaurant. Speaking of restaurants – how about restaurants where there are only ten tables and you need to spend a minimum amount to ensure all the support staff are compensated appropriately. No more $13 meals. Think $80 to $100 per person to be seated. This is the result of years of pay inequity that will need to be reckoned with at every level. People are refusing to work for pay that does not sustain them or their families.
While America may not be entirely broken, the lifestyles that have been sold to us for years will be discarded for the one that each of us knows and acknowledges he/she can afford. This will reshape the cities and towns into vastly different societies and resulting cultures. This society may have many conflicts based on old and new dividing lines – money, race, music, sex, sexual orientation, and class. The conflicts and clashes will likely be more intense and pointed. It is equally likely that the common ground we find ourselves occupying will provide a harmony we have rarely seen.
The Angry Man
We all know an angry man. It seems he always speaks with passion even when the words appear