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Word on the Street: Moving on

Steve Campbell

I have to admit, the Covid ‘vacation’ has made me reexamine the way we do things, as families and as a community and a society.
I’m an observer. I watch and listen and learn about how each of us work, as individuals. Sometimes, when the rum is flowing, someone tells a hilarious but embarrassing story and then says, alarmed: “Don’t print that!” Of course I wouldn’t. If you give me $500 in unmarked bills.

While observing the world in the grip of Covid, I have learned many things. I will offer my thoughts to you, to accept, reject or debate.
1) Donald Trump is incompetent, even by idiot standards. Not just as President, but as a human being as well. Actually, I knew this long before Covid, but I am somewhat alarmed that his ability to think of no-one but himself has shifted from ‘narcissistic fool’ to ‘danger to the entire American population’. The sad part is, someday he will have a Presidential Library, staffed by some poor guy who will be forced to do a heart-rending tour of Trump’s tweets. Nuff said on that: The Times doesn’t have enough pages …

2) Let’s make the world small again. Our world shrunk, our routines changed, the liquor stores are making huge profits, the big-box stores are scrambling to find ways to save the empires they created. In many ways, we reconnected with our families but, as we all know, seeing them on a computer screen doesn’t come close to hugging our kids, or holding our grandbabies.
That’s because the way we love involves a lot of touching: A hug, a hand on the shoulder, a face-to-face meeting of the eyes, a slap on the back. They all have meaning that can’t be transferred by a meeting on a computer screen.
Honour this. Because we took that for granted before. I don’t think I’ll ever take it for granted again.

3) Family first, Community next. This comes from a high-school essay on a book by sociologist T.H. Hall, which had a great impact on me. When faced with danger, protect yourself, then protect your family, then your community, the province, the country and the world.
These are the essentials of survival. And it’s time we looked at them again. With the re-alarm of Covid, we retreated. And rightly so. Protect ourselves, from what we might transmit, and what we might receive.
In the Re-opening, we need to move to the next stage: Community first. This is a no-brainer for most of us, but is it?
We are bought by Wal-Mart, and every other multi-national giant that offers you ‘unbelievably low prices’. But do they really?
Our local shops have been hit hard, and I ask you to change your ways. Shop here. Period. The big companies will survive. Hell, they could ask their CEOs to give them a loan for $5 billion if they run into tough times. But we don’t have that option. We live because you believe in what we do. From retail shops, clothing shops, restaurants, wineries, artist galleries … we all count on you. Save 45¢ at a mega-store in Belleville? Do it, if that 45¢ saving means the death of a local retailer, and you’re happy with that.

4) Slow down, Buy less. Despite the fact that we are all victims of TV advertising, and are totally convinced that using Secret will make a woman rocket up the corporate ladder at enormous speed, and that spraying black paint on your bald spot will make women faint with desire, Covid teaches us that we really only need to buy the things we need, not everything we want.
I have three pairs of shoes. Some people have 20. Of my three pairs, I have two really flashy sets of red sneakers for when I go ‘out on the town’, because women tend to avoid looking me in the eye, so flashy shoes are really important. My third pair is a family joke, since they are really comfortable shoes, so I wrapped them in duct tape when they were falling apart, so I could wear them a little longer.
The point is: Slow down on your consumerism. The world will be better for it. The only ones who will cry are the CEOs, who may need to figure out how they can survive on only $4 billion per year. Of course, filling your spare room to the ceiling with toilet paper is also a lesson Covid taught us, so go ahead.

5) Get a grip on your politics. We have seen an unprecedented alliance between Trudeau’s Liberals and Ford’s Conservatives. This could not happen in the U.S., but only in Canada. Both national and provincial leaders have risen to the challenge of Covid, and I hope a new understanding will invade our ‘us vs. them’ system and our parties, unlike the U.S. system, will think more about what’s good for the people than what’s good for the party.

6) Basic Annual Income. This is a frightening thought for some, because it’s new territory. But, thanks to Covid, pretty much everything is new territory.
The concept is to allow a BAI to every Canadian. Dollar values haven’t hit the table yet. But, from an economic point of view, providing everyone with a living wage, while eliminating welfare, unemployment insurance, disability payments and perhaps CPP, could be a reasonable alternative.
I’m not totally on board with the concept, but it does deserve exploring. If it had been implemented at the beginning of the Covid outbreak, it might have saved billions of dollars, and given Canadians the kind of ‘safety net’ we have successfully built in healthcare and Canada Pension.
A Basic Income would provide a base for survival. Unlike Welfare and UI, it would not discourage the rest of us to continue doing our jobs, and would not discourage people to seek work, without the penalty of losing their government cheque.
It could also help us here in the County, where summer money is used to carry us through six to eight months of winter drought. I grew up on a farm, and cash flow was a constant problem. Lots of money out in seed, fertilizer and manpower in the spring, pray to God for a good growing season in the summer, and then cash in when fall comes along, unless the prices aren’t right, then you hang onto your grain into the winter. It’s a wild ride not many people have the fortitude to endure.
It’s the same in retail. Invest early, build inventory, hope like hell for a good summer, pray you made the right choices that customers will respond to, and then stretch your earnings through the next six months, while paying staff and rent and overhead costs.

Maybe it’s time to take a leap of faith and create a new model for a post-Covid age. I’m not a fan of change, but change always comes to my door.
My policy is: Embrace the change and, if it doesn’t work out, back up. This makes change much more palatable. And, if it does work, maybe the 100th ‘new normal’ may take us to a whole new place. And we can grow from there.

Steve Campbell is editor and publisher of County Magazine, and the author of several books, including The County Handbook: How to Survive in Prince Edward County.

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElseSteve Campbell

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