It’s social work month again, which means the annual ‘list of things’ started of so many years ago. This year I can’t help but feel it is tinged with a sadder view, a look towards the unknown rather than the tongue-in-cheek version I usually produce. This year has been difficult one, yes, I’m in a wonderful new country pursuing a PhD at a top university that has only served to expand my horizons. But I’ve also been ill, so much so that I had to take an interruption of studies to rectify. I’ve started afresh, but felt the loneliness and uncertainty that has come with it. The difficult of being both alone and lonely. And now, seeing the world teetering on one of the greatest challenges it has had to face yet, and so far failing us miserably.
- Our reactions reflect our character
If a worldwide pandemic can show you one thing, it is how human nature acts when confronted not just by an emergency, which tends to bring out some of our best, but fear. There are a lot of areas to blame here, slow response times, government neglect, failed systems, and the blame game all equal a population that will react badly. And just as you can’t blame a child for acting out when they haven’t been taught to express themselves well, so to can’t we blame the masses for not knowing who to trust. For the past few years, Trump and the rising rhetoric he has helped to foster has created a mass mistrust of our educators, scientists, strategists, and academics. The very people who we need to be at the forefront are trying to do damage control on top of outreach. It’s not wonder that people are hoarding items that won’t help them, it’s no surprise that people don’t understand how to stop the virus from spreading faster and more severely than it will- they’ve been conditioned to ignore logic for the fanciful.
- Love is stronger than alcohol wipe, but soap is still king
One of the silver lining points coming from this experience is seeing communities and people work together to do what is right, even when misinformation makes it hard to know what to do. Facebook and WhatsApp groups have provided real time response systems for neighborhoods. Where rules seem muddled, people can think clearly (despite the MIB quote). A group will create panic, but with foresight and planning, people joining together we see the opposite. Love for family, friends, and our neighbors help push back against fear-based actions. Just as long as everyone is still washing their hands.
- Technological determinism is old news
Without technology, this would be a lot worse. While some may argue (rightly) that the constant media hype is creating panic, technology is also what is allowing measures to take hold such as social distancing but remaining connected. Tele-health and work for more jobs, educations, and evaluations. No matter the distance, I can maintain contact with the people I love without posing more risks to myself and others. We can provide education online until thing begin to calm down. And yes, we finally learn what meetings could have been emails after all. I’ve been pushing this field to become more tech savvy for years now, and now we’re being forced to. Good. It’s time to stop shutting out the expertise of technology because it doesn’t fit in with some people’s idea of our profession. It’s time we widen social work’s perspective.
- Worthy vs. Unworthy
Any social work student can rattle off the Elizabethan Poor laws of 1601 to you. The most important take away from that is the idea of the worthy vs. the unworthy poor. In today’s world we see this played out on a march larger scale, and this pandemic is only highlighting the need to fix this system. The fact that the US has barely tested anyone but the rich and famous is a prime example. This virus is no one’s fault, as the GOP reps have now learned as they sit in isolation, but the care needed for it is all of our responsibilities. Our system cannot handle the gutting from a deranged sociopathic presidential administration, more concerned with undoing anything Obama than ensuring the health and safety of the people. We had a pandemic response team. It was gutted two years ago. We could have done preventative care to slow or halt the progression of the disease, instead what we saw was a petty concern over numbers for the re-election, touted as a ‘fake hoax.’ Fear of bills is still ever present. Can you pay? Do you qualify? These questions have no place here.
- Breath of fresh air
It’s easy to lose sight of the positives, it’s hard to breathe in and out when you’re worried about your lungs. But try to remember, like all things, we will see the worst, and we will fight back. Your life is still too important to give up on, because we know that facts > fear. While this illness will impact many people, and some will succumb to it, this is not our death sentence. We still have time to act, we still have time to save lives. So take a minute, catch your breath, and then decide how to move forward. Here are some options.
- Contact your reps, and keep contacting them to see what is being done for your area. Make sure bills are passed that provide funds for prevention, testing, and care.
- Prep, but don’t over-prep. It’s a smart idea to have some essentials with backups, but please bear in mind that if you over purchase you are effectively ensuring others don’t get the same protection. We all need food, medicine, sanitary items, and cleaning products. If you have more than a few weeks’ supply, you’re doing some hard,
- Stop the spread of germs. If you feel unwell, stay away from people. I know not everyone has the privilege to do this immediately, or at all. Again, contact your reps. Find out what the plan is from your employer or school, advocate, and keep up with your hand washing, and droplet precautions even if you’re not yet symptomatic.
- Read literature coming out from doctors and researchers, don’t share information that might not be verified. This includes numbers, miracle cures, and other items that will only seek to heighten panic. Don’t over-populate the health service and professionals, but don’t be afraid to ask questions. That could be the difference between life and death.
- Be mindful of your words. I’m the first to use humor in situations, but you don’t know who is hurting, who has lost, who is afraid for themselves or family. Not everyone is healthy and will take this as a cold. So before you say things like “____(insert mundane everyday thing) is worse than the virus” or “my body is ready,” keep it in mind that there’s a difference in being optimistic and rationale, and callous and cruel.
I hope that in a month’s time I can write the more typical humorous post about everyday life. But I would feel as though I was neglecting my duty as a social worker to not address a very real threat. We’re stronger together in combating this. I believe in you. Now remember, 20 seconds, or your favorite song…
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