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COVID-19 is a Catalyst for a Cultural Movement that’s Cracking Down on Consumerism

Van Trinh
Van Trinh
Apr 5 · 5 min read

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” ― Fred Rogers

Chinatown by Daniel Liang

The Realization

I noticed something while running today. That all of our retail shops are closed. But the construction industry, development of our infrastructure is full steam ahead.

Then I thought to myself, in a couple of years when we look back, what will it all mean? The Coronavirus, social distancing, and non-essential business closures… And I think I’ve put my finger on the pulse.

Operation COVID-19

I’ll be speaking in a metaphorical tongue, because it’s the only way I know how to convey an idea this complex. It may read like the Unabomber Manifesto, and you may think that I’ve gone off the rails, but please hear me out.

COVID-19 is a double agent, an alias of the Coronavirus. On the one hand it’s a disease, but on another, it’s a catalyst for a cultural movement that’s cracking down on consumerism.

Our politicians are doing a nationwide purge of this “virus” that has consumed Western culture. We’re starving it at the very source, starting with the non-essentials. Many retailers will not survive this purge. Like the flood story in Genesis; it’s every man for himself, and the Devil take the hindmost.

Don’t you get it? We’re leveling the playing fields.

Our supply chains have become too dependent on offshore manufacturing. And in some sense, it’s a big middle finger to China, saying, “Hey, we’re still here, motherfuckers!”

Like a Manchurian candidate, COVID-19 has been disguised to infiltrate our economic system and rid us of this disease that has embedded itself deep into our everyday lives.

We’re collectively marching forward, into battle, and it’s starting to manifest itself in society. Just look around. We’ve closed borders, isolated ourselves and “bunker’d down,” in the realest sense, to withstand a culture war that is happening all around us.

Lessons from History

We had SARS, H1N1 and Ebola in recent history and largely ignored it. There have been people talking about the next big pandemic for decades, we’ve had plenty of time to prepare, but we didn’t.

After the war, we realized how good we had it. It caused us to buy even more, out of fear of a time we can’t do so again. Furthering the consumption problem.

The same things were said about the Great Recession. We’ll buy less, we’ll rediscover the things that really matter, the little things, and realize that less really is more. How did that work out?

We make promises to wake up every morning to work out for an hour, and two weeks later they’re back to where we were. We are wired to see immediate threats and don’t want to look at the future. That’s why immediate gratification is so appealing, but the irony is that excess consumption has made people less happy.

Perhaps a few people will consider a better stocked pantry, keep a veggie garden, have a few chickens and become more self-reliant. But if history repeats itself, then as a whole, society will go largely unchanged. In a generation or two this’ll be mostly forgotten. Take for example the Hong Kong Flu (H3N2) of ’68 that killed an estimated one million people— that you never hear about in the history books.

A Post-COVID World

Things will change, though. Big events like this always lead to changes, but we won’t be able to see it until well after. The mistake arises when we try to predict the future, in being overly optimistic or overly pessimistic about it all.

It will be a 9/11 level change. There’s going to be a massive amount of pressure to look at how people move around the world and what they’re carrying with them to foreign lands. There will be a similar amount of suspicion on travelers from Asia as there were on Middle Eastern/Muslim countries.

If anything good comes from this, then this right here is it:

  • Revival of the family
  • Debate on the importance of homeland manufacturing
  • Debate on the importance of homeland security and maintaining borders
  • Debate on the advantages and disadvantages of globalism
  • Goods produced in the US, Canada and Mexico instead of China and India
  • Virus/disease testing will get better

Things will be safer overall, but at what cost?:

  • Watching as corporations rush in to take advantage of a crisis
  • Noticing that our politicians, on both sides, are still playing games
  • Seeing how quickly we panicked and gave away freedoms for security
  • The East/West divide will grow even greater
  • Society enters a 1984/Brave New World type scenario

Maybe we’ll move towards a world where cash is a thing of the past, or maybe Universal Basic Income is the order of the day. We’ll just have to wait and see. One thing is for certain, change doesn’t wait for people to agree. Change comes and drags people with it, whether they’re willing or kicking and screaming.

Looking Back

In a couple of years when we look back on the zeitgeist, the spirit of this time, what’ll be written in the pages of history? I hope it captures a moment when we came together to fight a war against the “other,” who is always, always attacking from the outside. And as a result, we are wiser than yesterday.

Now then, where do we go from here? Well, what are those things that you’ve always wanted to do but never did? What better time than now?

It’s time for a Personal Revolution.

Like a tree with dead branches, you need to burn off all of the dead wood. And It’s going to hurt, a lot. And when it’s all over, you may just be a stump, a fraction of your former self. But at least you have a chance to grow back, and be a better person.

Now, I can write about many other important topics; like the trade war, the stock market collapse, postponing the Olympics, cancelling of the election or the ushering in of a technological revolution, but I’ll save that for another time. Instead, I’ll leave you with a quote by one of my favorite authors:

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” ― Leo Tolstoy

I Love You All.

-Van

A special thank you to everyone on Reddit who inspired me.

Van Trinh

Written by

Van Trinh

Living at the Edge of Reason

Van Trinh

Written by

Van Trinh

Living at the Edge of Reason

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