Thoughts

On current overreactions and pent-up frustrations

Rather than expound on these subjects in detail, because there’s a tremendous amount that can be said, I’d like to point out a few things and let you think about them.

The current demonstrations against police brutality in the US are laudable in principle, but they should’ve happened years ago. The fact that they’re happening now shows they’re more of a vent for pent-up frustrations against the coronavirus quarantine and against social distancing than against acts of police brutality. Let’s face it, the global quarantine was an unprecedented event that generated a lot of fear, stress and financial difficulties for people, and going out into the streets right now is an act of reassurance for them, more than anything else. Who could protest against a public health emergency? No one (well, almost no one). But who can get behind a commendable protest against race inequality? Everyone, even if that’s not really what motivates them to protest.

The coming together of these enormous numbers of people, even if some are wearing masks (most aren’t), is quite likely going to increase, not decrease, the numbers of infections and casualties from the virus, leading to its possible mutations into more lethal forms and another possible quarantine, which is exactly what those people don’t need. There is a high degree of irresponsibility in the behavior of these people in the streets, but just try telling them that…

Countries where police violence isn’t an issue in modern times, such as Germany, are overreacting with both mass demonstrations and legislative changes. Then again, Germany is still feeling very guilty for its past, so overreaction motivated by feelings of guilt is a predictable reaction for them. It’s also ridiculous, particularly for a country where there is so much disrespect, violence and hatred directed toward its law-abiding citizens from incoming immigrants.

The onus for the current situation can be placed squarely on the shoulders of the current political leadership of both parties in the US, because they’ve engaged in divisive, polarizing strategies for quite some time. The problematic behavior of police forces can be traced directly up the chain of command to the tone set by the president and other top political figures in their speeches and other communications. Even so, I’d encourage you to not be so naive to think that a simple switch of the presidency from one party to another can dramatically change the situation. This divisive rhetoric has existed at the top levels of politics even during president Obama’s two terms (not that he engaged in that sort of thing, but plenty of people on both sides of the isle in Congress and elsewhere did). And I believe that no matter what political party is in charge, that party can appoint good people to positions of leadership and ensure that the proper tone is set and publicly communicated at all levels of government, right down to the policemen patrolling the streets.

Whether you want to admit it or not, and whether you think it’s right or not, the brutality seen nowadays on the streets is the result of the frustration and anger of many conservative people in the US who’ve felt disenfranchised, under-represented and pushed aside by overtly liberal policies and laws passed in recent decades. I’ve written about this on my site before and I would point you to the exact post, but I can’t find it now. Certain societal changes must happen slowly, because they involve re-defining important concepts that have been in place for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Yet in the last two decades, we’ve seen huge pushes to over-liberalize views on so many subjects, and even more so, it became a crime (punished by law, censure or ostracization) to speak against these changes. This was bound to polarize and anger a lot of people, and what’s happening now is a long-overdue reaction that’s been building up to a boiling point. What you’re really seeing now is a clash between ways of thinking. Don’t think for a moment that just by condemning police brutality you’re going to make this long-standing anger go away. This kind of a complex situation can only be calmed down by at least a decade of completely open dialogue between all sides, where you have to let people say exactly what they think, on all sides. If that means a series of televised debates between community representatives in every major city, so be it, but the air needs to be cleared, over and over and over, until all concerns have been aired, all frustrations vented, on all sides of the issues. You have to let everyone voice their opinions without repercussions, without judgment, without categorizing them as racists, as discriminators, as “behind the times”, etc. But this isn’t happening. Instead, liberal agendas are being pushed through everywhere as fast and as forcibly as possible, so this deep-felt anger is going to continue to bubble up and reach boiling points.

If you look at videos of the demonstrators being aggressed by the police, you can see in a lot of cases how they’re either getting right up into these policemen’s faces and screaming at them, or they’re keeping some distance but still screaming at the policemen. If you’re going out to protest, do your protesting toward the cameras, toward government officials (if they’re present), but keep your distance and leave the policemen alone. They’re not there to act as a “screaming wall” for you or to judge your causes. They’re under tremendous pressure to do their jobs. Why do those people think it’s okay to scream at someone for hours on end, to call them names, to even bait them, and then expect them not to retaliate when they get the chance? Go out, have your say if you must, scream your heart out at the world, but keep your distance from the authorities, don’t be physically or verbally threatening, don’t throw things, and you’ll likely go home unharmed. But in a lot of these cases where demonstrators got hurt, the police were provoked in one way or another, probably not by the people who got hurt, but by people in and around that area. I’m not saying what happened was right or was justified, but it was in some way provoked, and when tensions run high, you don’t need to do too much before violence kicks in on both sides.

There is talk of defunding and disbanding police forces, and putting that money into social workers, community organizers, etc. Other than a few urban areas in the US, the truth of the matter is that police forces are typically underfunded and understaffed. And most policemen are good people with good intentions. But let’s let those cities that want to engage in police defunding experiments do it, and we’ll see what happens when social workers and community organizers are confronted with violent gang members, looters, muggers, rapists and various nefarious individuals who don’t respond to logic and reasoning.

On the other hand, and I speak from my experience of living in the US and in Romania, quite a few policemen (not the majority, but enough of them) can be described by at least one of these adjectives: lazy, incompetent, rude, corrupt, bullies. Those who qualify deserve whatever’s coming their way. While that sort of behavior might be marginally tolerated in civilian jobs, it cannot be tolerated from policemen, who ought to be held to a higher standard, exactly because it’s their job to uphold the law.

An inescapable truth that can be seen quite clearly in these demonstrations is that while people are out in the streets, “demonstrating”, they aren’t working. Worse than that, they’re not letting others work. Businesses who would now be working and contributing to a sorely abused economy cannot work because they’re disrupted by the demonstrations or they’ve been looted, especially where they were needed the most, such as in poorer neighborhoods. All this comes on top of a quarantine and countless missed payments on mortgages, car loans and other promissory notes. The very people shouting for justice right now are going to get a big dose of injustice as looming foreclosures and evictions finally occur. It isn’t going to be pretty if this situation drags on. People need to get back to work, businesses need to reopen, mortgages and other loans need to get paid, etc., or the economy is going to get even worse.

Should things get worse and should police forces get defunded in key urban areas in the US, those people are setting themselves up for severe problems in the near future. Those who haven’t witnessed what late 1970s and early 1980s New York was like, are about to experience it in their own cities and neighborhoods, if things continue along the same path.

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Apricot blossoms
Thoughts

Good things happening because of the coronavirus pandemic

Amidst all of the scary news reports and shelter-in-place rules everywhere, there are good things going on, caused by the very same situation. I thought I’d list several of them here:

  • We’ve all slowed down or stopped our activities and are spending more time at home, with our families. The frenetic pace of the world, chugging on all of the time for no apparent reason, has slowed down quite a bit. We now have time, time that we didn’t have before, to be with ourselves, to sit and ponder, to read a good book, to wake up and look around, to assess our lives, to think about our goals and projects. We have time to connect with those we love, even if it is only through video chats, but it’s more than we had before.
  • The world is a much quieter, more orderly place. Have you noticed how much quieter it is when you go outside? The chaotic movements of throngs of people, crowding our field of view, the constant din of the world pounding in our ears, is no more. Isn’t it lovely? All of the hustle and bustle and sirens and traffic and noise have now disappeared. The idiots who’d rev up their cars and turn their subwoofers up are now indoors, and good riddance to them. They’re keeping quiet and if they’re not, I encourage you all to call the police on them. Now we can actually hear the chirping of the birds in our cities. We can hear the breeze blowing through the trees and by our houses. We can take the time to see it caress the fresh blades of grass that are just coming up. We can actually take the time to smell the flowers.
  • Pollution and carbon emission levels are down everywhere. A tiny little virus has accomplished what decades of talks between high-level world leaders couldn’t accomplish. The planet has a chance for a proper spring, with fresh, clean air and water. This is a massive accomplishment.
  • Cities are cleaner. Not only are some of them actively scrubbing and disinfecting their streets, but they’re cleaner because all of the people who would be mindlessly littering them are now shut in. Each city’s street cleaning crews now have a chance to see the results of their work from one day to the next, instead of seeing idiots throwing garbage on the streets right next to them, as they’re cleaning.
  • The hygiene and public behavior parts of the new social distancing rules are a godsend. More people are finally washing their hands (and hopefully showering more often too). Knobs and handles in public places are finally getting disinfected. People are finally keeping their distance in stores and markets, instead of breathing down your neck in a queue. People are finally covering their mouths when they sneeze or cough. For years and years, I’ve gotten mean looks and veiled threats from people when I’ve told them to keep their distance from me, that I wasn’t comfortable having them so close to me. Now it’s finally happening by itself. For years and years, I was disgusted with the men who went to the bathroom and didn’t wash their hands, and then expected to shake hands with me. No more hand shaking now!
  • Telecommuting is now a must, whereas before it was regarded as a nice perk. I’ve been advocating for telecommuting for a long time (since 2006). I’m glad to see that companies are now making telecommuting arrangements wherever possible.
  • Travel has come to a screeching halt and thank goodness for that. Mindless, idiotic travel had become the norm all over the world. It had gotten so bad that it was normal for young people to fly from one corner to another of the various continents on weekend booze and drug trips, or for sexual miscreants to take “sex trips” to certain countries. And then of course we had the throngs of people, wave after wave after wave, who’d hit the major tourist hot spots in an endless assault on historic monuments, crowding out everyone including themselves. This was wrong. Travel is a good thing, a very good thing, but only when done mindfully, politely, considerately, taking in the sights, taking the time for reflection, taking the time to learn about the cultures you’re visiting, slowly proceeding from one place to the next, being careful not to intrude, not to litter, not to abuse. I truly hope that in the future, when travel bans are lifted, some sort of rules are put into place to ensure people never travel idiotically.
  • Governments all over the world have hopefully come to realize that they must put most (almost all) of their transactions with people online. In other words, as a tax-paying citizen of a country, you should be able to conduct most of your business with the government of that country (be it national, county or local) via the internet, instead of being forced to go to some office and waste your time in a queue. This crisis should speed things along in that direction.

Clearly there are costs for all of this free time that most of us have gotten. Let’s hope that they are mostly temporary, and that they won’t be too much of a burden for us all to bear. It’s easy to let thoughts of “what might tomorrow bring” get you down, but it’s vitally important that during this time, this unusual respite from the daily grind, that we take the time to breathe, literally and figuratively.

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