The Test of Old Money Style

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.

Thanks.

  • BGT

 


30 thoughts on “The Test of Old Money Style

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot about WWll, specifically the leaders of that time. Two book recommendations: Joseph Lash’s 1972 Pulitzer Prize winning biography, Eleanor and Franklin. And just this week I became aware of Erik Larson’s new book, The Splendid and The Vile, a non-fiction work about Churchill during the Blitz. The days we’re living through are tough, and will get tougher. These books may serve as examples of darker times that were survived with grace and stamina.

    1. I look forward to hopefully picking these books up and reading them during these times. Thank you for recommending them, both seem very interesting.

  2. Thank you Byron, for the suggestions and the information as far as what is going on in France as well. Where I live in America, families have already been (for a few years) focusing on getting rid of debts and maintaining a simpler life style as well as learning the essential tool of vegetable gardening. Your books have also been a light for our family and the way we live. Stay strong everyone and I hope we can look forward to a new way of life with more compassion and wisdom both personally and for our communities.

  3. A well-written and considered post. Sending solidarity and wishes for continued good health to everyone from Mid-Michigan. Let’s all do our bit as our grandparents/great-grand parents might have suggested not that many decades ago.

    Best Regards,

    H-U

  4. While I haven’t picked up or read any books specifically, like Katie, I too have thought about WWII, specifically daily life and the sacrifices that were made. Less by Americans and more by the Brits, which may be more comparable when you consider the “war overhead/around us.”

    I will say that the notion of social distancing is one unique element, but beyond that, Americans’ primary sacrifice of sitting around your house playing video games and watching movies, while you are able to call, text, and video chat friends is a rather paltry sacrifice by comparison.

    Most of us aren’t quite to the stage of making sandwiches with mayo and ketchup, mending our clothing, having to stop driving due to petrol rationing, having to grow gardens to make sure we have vegetables to get us through the winter, cracking open cans of Spam, having to send our kids off to the country to keep them safe (to family/friends who may welcome them or just as easily consider them to be a burden) while the parents head off to war and/or work in the converted factories for the war effort, with little more than the radio to keep us abreast of the news as well as entertain us, etc. I do recognize that there are those who truly are struggling beyond this example.

    As of this time Saturday, Illinois will be going to “shelter-in-place” status. Though really, these statuses may not exactly feel all that different.

    Part of me wishes we back in that time. Strong leaders gave hope and confidence.

    By comparison, old money or otherwise, I can’t help but wonder whether Americans have the fortitude, are able to make real sacrifices like this…have we become too soft? This is just the beginning…the real challenges haven’t even begun. This is more than just a few days without Starbucks. Heaven helps us if the Internet breaks.

    But yes, this is a moment in time….true character, good and bad will be displayed. Many will find what they are made of, others fill finally find out what those around them are made of.

    One thing is certain…most if not all of us will be changed because of this. What those changes will be remain to be seen.

    Stay safe BT.

  5. “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero. For OMGs who have always lived this way, the old money principles and lifestyle prove once again to be a steadfast source of comfort and support.

  6. It’s just a beginning and the worst is yet to come, Byron

    boots; in flight, a place in a boat or a seat on a lorry may be the most vital thing in the world, more desirable than untold millions. In hyperinflation, a kilo of potatoes was worth, to some, more than the family silver; a side of pork more than the grand piano. A prostitute in the family was better than an infant corpse; theft was preferable to starvation; warmth was finer than honour, clothing more essential than democracy, food more needed than freedom.

    Adam Fergusson – When Money Dies
    https://archive.org/details/whenmoneydies/page/n1/mode/2up

  7. I was very fortunate to have parents who came of age during the Great Depression and WWII. My father grew up on a small family farm, and my mother grew up in a village on the shores of Lake Erie. When my father’s relatives from Cleveland visited the farm, they always returned home with bags of vegetables, fruits, and meat. This behavior was not thought to be worthy of comment; it simply was what one did. During the war, my mother and her siblings contributed their earnings from working in factories to their parents; again, it was what one did. Life was certainly not easy, but there was a sense of shared camaraderie to prevail over tough times. Making do with what one had, mending, doing without when necessary and self-discipline were qualities that were common and expected. I do think that many Americans have had a very easy life and will find it difficult to adapt to hardship and sacrifice. I am not saying that this will be impossible for us; I am only saying that it will be hard. Your post, Byron, is a thoughtful, pragmatic and realistic look at what we all face and what we all can do. By looking to past examples of those who triumphed over adversity and who acted admirably during the toughest of times, we can make it through these dark days and even come out better and stronger for having done so.

      1. Thank you, Katie, you are so kind! I hope you and your family and friends are doing well day by day during this time. I hope the same for all of us. We really will be able to look back on this one day and know that we all did our best.

      2. Thank you, Sophie. Many opportunities to be of service are presenting themselves at this time, no? You take good care as well!

  8. Perhaps I live in a state where people are pragmatic by nature, but we are not fairing badly up here in Maine. Our state has a history of people helping people. The governor immediately declared a state of emergency and instituted social distancing, asking non-essential businesses to do their work remotely if it was at all possible. Universities, colleges and K-12 schools all moved online, emptying dorms and buildings of students. Schools stepped up creatively. They found a way to deliver school meals by having bus drivers drop them off at the house, which keeps the children fed and the bus drivers employed. And only essential businesses are now open to the public. Several businesses with stockpiles of construction and medical masks have donated them to hospital and medical facilities. People panicked at first and bought up everything in sight, but that has subsided and most essentials are now available again. Facebook is big here and groups are doling out advice, helping neighbors who might be shut-ins, telling jokes and generally trying to keep the mood upbeat even as many of us are sequestered in our homes. It is a given that this state of affairs will be with us for a while, and all are trying their best to cope. Personally, with my researching background, I help our parents page by finding website that parents can use to keep their children entertained during this long time period. Though Christmas is at least 9 months away, there is a song that describes my state perfectly. You can find it on youtube. It is called The Maine Christmas Song. Perhaps it will bring a bit of joy to someone you know who is having difficulties enduring all this.

  9. Thank you Byron for your dispatch from abroad. Here in the suburbs on NYC, I wish more people were behaving in a civilized manner. There is a lot of complaining about the temporary inconvenience, kids home from school and lack of toilet paper. Your simple line : Above all, don’t panic. Don’t pretend. Don’t try to profit. This situation is serious, but we can prevail’ should be on billboards! Sadly I have seen examples of panic, willful ignorance, inconsiderate behavior and worst, seeking to profit from the situation, in the last week alone. To all the OMG community and their families around the world-be safe and stay well.

  10. Hello, not sure if this is where to ask this, but I was wondering if you’re care to weigh in on what Americans should spend their Coronavirus stimulus money on to best boost the economy in the u.s?

    1. Good question, Stephanie. Candidly, I wouldn’t spend it at all. Stack the cash right now. To get the economy going again, we could probably use an infrastructure program. That is the business of government. Once the wheels of the economy are rolling again with jobs investment, direction and confidence, then citizens might again turn their attention to spending. Not before. – BGT

  11. By her own example – as evidenced in this morning’s headlines and photos – Paris provides us the truest measure of class, grace, and gratitude and – most importantly at this time – hope!

    Well Done!

    Merci!

    JanB

  12. I’ve just been eloquently called, counseled, and corrected by a good friend who asked me to add to my comment that:

    Paris is giving us INSPIRATION TOO.

    We can ALL do more and better during this challenging time; can’t we!

    JanB

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