If a restaurant refuses to enforce a ban on indoor dining, I have to ask myself, “what other health codes do they routinely violate?” And if you are one of those who refuse to wear a mask, eat or drink at restaurants and pubs, or refuse to enforce the protective orders in place then you are complicit with all these nary do wells and each COVID death is blood on your hands and a stain on your immortal soul

By Phil La Duke
Author of  I Know My Shoes Are Untied! Mind Your Own Business. An Iconoclast’s View of Workers’ Safety, Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention, Blood In My Pockets Is Blood On Your Hands and contributor to 1% Safer

The New Year is always a time for hope, and the transition from 2020 to 2021 is no exception.  Unfortunately, people are acting as if 2021 will magically erase the pandemic, economic uncertainty, and malaise that plagued so many of us in 2020. I have watched with trepidation as social media pages are festooned with hopeful albeit naive messages that essentially say, “Hey, we made it! We survived 2020!” but it’s time we talk about reality. First, COVID-19 doesn’t have a calendar and doesn’t know what year it is, and even if it did it would likely have little effect on the spread of the disease. As of this writing, COVID-19 continues to ravage its way around the globe.  Yes, there are vaccines, but too few people are getting vaccinations despite their desperate need for them. Global conspiracy theorists (read kooks) continue to spread misinformation about the dangers of the vaccination and the sinister motives of the government in encouraging people to get vaccinated, and all the while a new, more contagious strain has emerged—the rules are changing again.

People are becoming dispirited and many are openly ignoring the executive orders put into place to protect the general public.  It’s ugly out there. What’s worse, is there are police officers—people who swore to enforce the law—who are refusing to enforce these orders. I take this problem very personally.  If a restaurant refuses to enforce a ban on indoor dining, I have to ask myself, “what other health codes do they routinely violate?” And if you are one of those who refuse to wear a mask, eat or drink at restaurants and pubs, or refuse to enforce the protective orders in place then you are complicit with all these nary do wells and each COVID death is blood on your hands and a stain on your immortal soul, but as my nephew always says, “Hey, at least you’ve got excuses.”

Personal liberty must occasionally be put aside for the greater good of society when life and death hang in the balance, and when the price of a human life is weighed against inconvenience, belligerence, and obstinance then the Country and even the World must side with the side of life.  Scant few of the greatest generation remain.  People who faced The Great Depression with hardscrabble determination to survive even when things looked completely bereft of hope. Or the men, women, and even children who fought tooth and nail to defeat the forces of totalitarianism. Some carried guns and flew planes, some built weapons of war, and still others sold war bonds or collected metal. People grew victory gardens and endured rationing of gas, sugar, and other staples—each of them doing everything that was within their power because their Country and countrymen needed them.

Unlike this Greatest Generation, too many people today are whining because the masks were uncomfortable.  My late father ate fried dough during the depression and he was glad to get it. He enlisted in the army and even though owing to flat feet he was deemed unfit for combat owing to flat feet that made it impossible for him to march, he didn’t request a medical discharge (which he most probably would have received) instead he was judged fit for service and he served his Country with pride.  His mother sent five of her seven sons off to war, kissing them as they left uncertain if they would ever return, one flying Corsairs over the Pacific and two fighting at Okinawa. From the jungles of the Pacific to the beaches at Normandy many of those who came before paid the supreme sacrifice simply because somebody had to, and if not them then who? This was a generation defined by sacrifice and courage, while today it would seem we have a generation seemingly defined by selfishness, willful ignorance, and cowardice. 

Of course there are exceptions, but there needs to be more.  I’ve spent the last year interviewing heroes of the COVID-19 Pandemic, many of those  interviews gracing the pages of “Authority” and “Thrive Global”  magazines.  For every one of those interviews I discarded two submissions from self important, profiteers who saw greed as altruism, and merely doing their job as heroic; it’s funny what people can convince themselves of. But it is the true heroes out there—not just the ones I interviewed but all of those ordinary people who found the strength and fortitude to answer the call and truly help those in need.  People who sacrificed long hours and risked illness and death to help strangers.  STRANGERS! Just let that sink in.  They risked their lives for people they didn’t even know.  Why? Not for fame, or money, or even a thank you, but simply because they saw a way to help and they rose to the challenge.

And then we have the others.  People who, out of misguided ideology, laziness, and just plain cowardice, will not be inconvenienced to save their own lives. But my point is not to vilify them.  We need to help them to find hope.

Hope is a key element of resilience, and we need resilience both as individuals and part of greater society. The Pandemic has seen a rise in domestic violence (a subject I learned that no one really cares about—at least to the extent that they are actually willing to DO something about it—when I wrote Lone Gunman: Rewriting the Handbook On Workplace Violence Prevention. Suicides are also up. Divorces are up. The isolation and uncertainty are exacerbating many social ills from alcohol abuse to the opioid epidemic and all points in between. Personally I don’t see the pandemic as bringing about changes in our society, rather I believe that the pandemic as facilitating and expediting changes that were already overdue.  If you ran a small business that was a highly valued staple in your community the community will rally around you, but if you were just tolerated as a mediocre retailer—and there are plenty out there—you will likely fail, and that is a good thing. Bad businesses should fail and good businesses should, and likely will, survive.

Also, there has been a glut of restaurants in the niche between fast food restaurants and fine dining and people are more conscious than ever about the value of dining out.  If you have mediocre food, take short cuts, and have less than stellar service chances are good that it will kill your business.  Similarly, the whole concept of a buffet is likely to die a quick death.  Why eat slop from a steam table when you can have a made-to-order meal for just a little more money? Overall people are creatures of habit so I think we will see more home cooking and dining out less frequently.  It, along with the multiple failures of brick and mortar retailers has been a long time coming.

But back to resilience, research has shown that a positive outlook on life tends to promote a stronger and healthier immune system.  Optimism is a choice, but I tend to be more of a pragmatist—I hope for the best but prepare for the worst. And there is plenty of reason for hope that the world will be a better place after the pandemic, but it will take a lot of work to make our society a better place.  The pandemic has shown us how little a social safety net most people have and many other weaknesses of our current society.  This affords us the opportunity to fix these flaws before the next global catastrophe.

Be well and stay hopeful.