In the coming days, weeks, and months, there’s going to be a test of Old Money Style. It’s going to come for each of us personally, as communities, and as a society. It will come in the form of the challenges that are being presented by the coronavirus. For some of us, the test has already begun.
In Paris, restrictions on movements are currently in place. Only visits to the grocery store, the pharmacy, doctor or hospital, to take food or medicine to an elderly or disabled person, or to go to work if you cannot telecommute are permitted. You can also exercise–run or walk–within a 2 kilometer radius of your residence. No cycling is permitted. You are required to make these trips alone, and you are required to carry your ID and a signed and dated form detailing each excursion. Fines started at 35 euros per violation and escalated quickly to 135 euros per violation, with the authorities writing 4,000 citations over a 3 day period. Penalties are expected to be increased to 375 euros per violation in the coming days.
Meanwhile, the state of California and other jurisdictions are locking down as I write this in an attempt to curb the pandemic. Freedom of movement is going to be curtailed. As I speak with my friends who still reside in the states, I do get the impression that they aren’t quite grasping the magnitude, scope, and duration of the threat.
They don’t seem to fully fathom the impact this pandemic is going to have on ‘life as we know it’ and how sudden and long-lasting the change is going to be. They inquire about when I might be returning to the states. It warms my heart that they want to spend time together. However, the concept that my wife and I live in a city and a country and a continent that is locked down, doesn’t really seem to be registering.
We leave the apartment for exercise two or three times a day. We grab fruits and vegetables every other day from the grocery store. We pass a friend on the street, stand 6 feet apart, and have a brief conversation every once in awhile. We text and check on elderly neighbors. Then we return to the apartment. That’s life right now, for the foreseeable future.
While we are in no physical danger, and being isolated in Paris would hardly fall under the category of ‘hardship’, it is the uncertainty, the worry about everyone’s well-being, and the lack of social interaction that wears on us. It’s not awful. It, though, deeply troubling some of the time.
That’s the situation here. The economic, health, and social pressures, as bad as they are, have been moderated thus far in France. Parisians, for the most part, have heeded the call made by President Macron, and stepped up. They keep their distance. They moderate grocery store purchases. Each night at 8pm, applause breaks out from open windows on our block and last several minutes: it is an expression of gratitude from our friends and neighbors, to France’s healthcare workers who fighting to save lives all over the country. France is facing the test right now with dignity, poise, and resolve.
Now we, as Americans, face the same test. How quickly and how effectively our government responds to the needs of its citizens rolls out in real time. How disciplined the citizens are in their behaviors and interactions matters tremendously in terms of limited the spread of the virus. Failures or even delays on both fronts will be costly.
What will matter most? The answers are several, but really one, and may only become known to us as we look back on this. How civilized were we in the face of this? How generous were we in the face of this? How chivalrous were we in the face of this? How calm were we in the face of this? How selfless were in the face of this? In other words, how Old Money were we in the face of this?
It’s going to take enormous amounts of foresight and preparation, discipline and sacrifice, fortitude and patience, grace and courage, to address and overcome the threat that is now rolling across the country like a silent tsunami. If you think I’m overreacting now, bookmark this post and reread it in two weeks.
There’s going to be plenty of opportunity to blame politicians (perhaps with some justification) or other countries (completely without justification). We don’t have time for that. Trust me: I’ve witnessed firsthand how quickly things can change. On Sunday of this week, thousands of Parisians soaked up the sun, carefree and oblivious, crowded together on the banks of the Seine. Today, five days later, a few solitary figures jog purposefully on that same riverbank (that privilege may disappear tomorrow with new regulations). Some citizens quickly walk their dogs. Others hurry to the market, stopping only to have their permits checked by police stationed on the bridge.
If you haven’t already, prepare. If supermarkets in your area are sold out of essential items like pasta and canned goods, locate your local Indian market. They usually have ample supplies of rice and beans. Buy several bags of each. These two items are simple to cook and can get you through a long haul of isolation or limited access to resources very economically.
If you require prescription medications, get 3 months supply now, if at all possible. If you can get to a used bookstore, go and buy in volume. It could be a long period of confinement, and internet access may be hampered by half the world sitting at home, watching Netflix. A good long read might be just the thing.
If you are laid off from work or if you’re a business owner suffering financially from this crisis, I believe help is on the way: politicians in Washington DC are fully aware of the consequences come election day in November if they don’t help people now, if nothing else.
If you have rent, a mortgage, or bills on the horizon and are facing a tough situation, talk with your landlord, bank or credit card company and try to work something out.
If you are in the fortunate position of being able to ride the devastation out in relative security, it is incumbent upon you to reach out and help others in the most efficient, dignified, and compassionate way you can. Whether it’s family, friends, or charity, there’s going to be plenty of opportunities to make a difference. Choose wisely and give freely.
Above all, don’t panic. Don’t pretend. Don’t try to profit. This situation is serious, but we can prevail.
I know I’ve only listed a few things in the way of preparation in this blog post. I welcome your comments about what you’re doing to prepare, and what credible links and resources are available online to help, guide, and inform. I’d also like to hear how you are helping others in your personal circle, or in the community.