From the very depth of my being, I challenge the right of any man or any group of men, in business or in government, to tell a fellow human being that he or she is expendable.Jimmy Reid
COVID is ripping through the Australian population right now. It’s causing panic, supply chain issues, food shortages, labor shortages, and pressure on an already overburdened health system. So, naturally, it’s a hot topic of conversation.
I was talking about COVID with an acquaintance on a video chat yesterday, and they said to me, “Oh, everyone’s going to get COVID, so stop worrying and start living, I say!”
I pointed out that not everyone who gets COVID will recover, and some – especially those in the high risk groups; the elderly, the immunocompromised, those with existing co-morbidities, pregnant women, the unvaccinated – may suffer severe and lasting damage, and some will die.
“Yeah Nic, I know,” they said, shrugging their shoulders apologetically with all of the privilege of an able-bodied person, “but it’s collateral damage.”
Just like that she flicked her finger at me, and all of my less able-bodied friends, and marked us as expendable.
There’s a lot of that going on right now. Able-bodied people laughing about how they are having Corona parties, so they can just get it and get it over with. People deciding not to wear masks, not to get vaccinated, not to worry about hand sanitising or checking in, or socially distancing. Why worry, right? We’re all going to get it sometime, and it’s not so bad anyway. It’s just like a mild flu.
These people, safe in their good health and invincibility, have forgotten about people like me.
I’m nothing now. I’m just one of the expendable.
A colleague of mine recently posted on social media about how all you needed to do was get the vaccine and then carry on with normal life. Nothing to worry about. Another posted with smug superiority about how you didn’t need the vaccine – you just needed to trust in your own good health and natural immunity, and eat a diet rich in berries, leafy greens and organic proteins.
I’m glad that works for you.
How does that work for my friend, whose life was decimated by a virus from which she has never recovered? She is a proud indigenous woman, who lives on her own, or at times has her elderly dad live with her. She looks after her extended family the best she can, co-ordinating the family around the members who need help, filling in forms for them, looking after anything that requires a computer, finances, banking and so on. Her family rely on her in so many ways. She’s on a pension, unable to work and mostly unable to leave the house. She requires extensive support from NDIS (Australia’s national disability support system) to cope with the functions of daily life. But she just asked her support workers to stop coming, because they won’t mask up properly. As soon as they are out of her eyesight they drop their mask, or take it off. Her doctor has advised her not to get a vaccine, because she is so unwell. She can’t afford organic protein and a diet rich in leafy greens and berries. She barely has enough money to cover her basic living costs. How can she stay safe now? Who is thinking about her? Is she expendable, simply because she can’t contribute to our economy? (By the way – with your chances of catching long COVID, one day your life might unexpectedly look just like hers, or mine. We never knew, until we got sick, that we might have our normal healthy lives ripped away from us, and never be able to get them back, no matter what we did or how much money we spent.)
My friends who have organ transplants. Are they expendable too? Or my friends living with auto-immune diseases, or who have compromised immune systems?
My friends and family with cancer, or who are recovering from cancer? They fought so hard. But are they now expendable? I think of my friends and family who have had cancer and recovered. They recovered, because they were given a chance to do so. Has that changed now we are in a global pandemic? Too bad if something goes wrong with your health now. You’re expendable.
What about the frontline medical staff? They’re exhausted. Run down. They are so busy looking after us that they don’t have time for many leafy greens and berries, or sunshine and plenty of fresh air and yoga. Their natural good health has been compromised by two years of grind and burn. Too bad. Didn’t take care of themselves. Expendable.
What kind of society have we become, if we no longer think about protecting the weak, the vulnerable, the elderly?
When did we decide that these people are okay to be ‘collateral damage’?
Many of we ‘expendables’ are invisible – we look like ordinary people, we do the best we can, we work and live amongst you, and you wouldn’t know that there was a weakness inside us, because we are strong in other ways, and we have resilience and good coping skills.
But now we are expendable because we do not have perfect health, or we are too old, or too young, or too disadvantaged, poor, or disabled. So that marks us as expendable, because obviously it’s our own fault that we got this way, or it’s too bad, because we are worth less than other able-bodied people anyway.
There are so many people like me who are living with fear and anxiety now. We worry about leaving home. We worry about going to work or to the shops or to the doctor. We worry about inviting anyone into our home. Because if we catch COVID, our odds of a good outcome are already stacked against us.
So, I’m asking you to do two things.
One – think about your actions. What can you do today to make the world a little safer for people for whom COVID may be a death sentence, or which will make their lives even more hard and complicated than they are right now? It could be as simple as wear your mask, socially distance, practice good hygiene, and assume you are already infected if you think about going to visit someone who is vulnerable.
Two – check in with people who are vulnerable and who are choosing (or are forced) to be in isolation right now. Can you chat on the phone, or shoot them a text or email? Can you do some shopping for them, or take them around a meal? Mow their lawn for them, or do other chores they can’t?
That’s what it means to be a community.
I read an article recently that might help us all remember what community is. Margaret Mead, an anthropologist, was asked by a student about the first signs of civilisation. They expected that Mead would talk about clay pots, or hand tools, or weapons. But she didn’t. She talked about a 15,000 years old skeleton with a fractured femur found in an archaeological site. The bone had been set, and had healed. The injured person would have been incapacitated for at least six weeks, needing care from others. The injured person was not left to die. They were helped. That was Mead’s definition of civilisation. Care and regard for other community members.
To all of you who are ‘expendable’ I see you. I feel you. I honour you and your courage in fronting up to life each day. I send you strength and love.
For everyone else, I ask that you act with decency, and regard for those less fortunate and more vulnerable than yourselves.
At the end of all of this, who will we be?
I am ever hopeful that we will be community.
Much love, Nicole xx
7 thoughts on “We, The Expendable”
May we all learn to be compassionate again through observing the animal kingdom. Be safe and well everyone.
Yes! Yes! Yes!
I have never been seriously ill, am in the privileged, able-bodied camp, & have no time for such selfish perspectives. This pandemic has helped me to identify the friends with whom I’m ethically aligned & Kondo the rest. As always, your sensible, compassionate outlook is reassuring in the chaos.
Thank you for your reminder to us all of everyone affected by this awful pandemic. I read your post twice and am sorry you feel expendable. Yes, COVID (and all it’s various forms) are raising fears, and tempers, and the global consciousness is suffering as a result. I would like to share my perspective: As an American, I see a healthcare (disease management) system overworked and, in some situations, undervalued. As a daughter, I experienced my (vaccinated) mother in a COVID unit, yet she nearly succumed to the virus because of the “care” she was given. A timely call to the hospital’s administration saved her life, and quite possibly the lives of many other patients. The attitude of some workers in parts of America is “we’re tired and we just don’t give a crap” and those unvaccinated are shamed, guilted and given treatment at a slower pace. I have a dear friend who is a nurse and admire him greatly. But, not every nurse/doctor/specialist deserves that admiration. A recent study in the USA stated that healthcare workers were among the least healthy – that was way before COVID. So yoga was, most likely, not on their radar before the pandemic. As a military wife/mother, I know that my husband and son are labeled ‘expendable’ from the very country they protect. They have been given so many vaccines it’s a wonder they haven’t grown a second chin. And regarding the COVID vaccine, my husband became gravely ill after his government-mandated dose and my father-in-law died just 12 hours after receiving his. My other son, who is so careful (and vaccinated) he is practically anal, is now battling COVID yet hasn’t shamed anyone and is not feeling sorry for himself. The diets of the above-mentioned folks range from vegetarian, to fish eaters, to junk food junkies. However, none of these people – including my own mom would say they are expendable; Mother is actually telling everyone around her to live life to the fullest today, because you never know about tomorrow. Now, I need to point out, as well, that my mother has leukemia and my father-in-law had cancer. I/we wear a mask; if other’s choose not to, they simply keep their distance. I have had the virus; a gift from my above-mentioned husband who had it two months BEFORE it had a name. Am I able-bodied? I guess you could say that. Do I believe that people are expendable? Nope. But, I do know that many able-bodied people have died and many sick people (like Mother) recover and are going right on. What’s the point of my comment? I’m not sure, maybe just to give another perspective. Be safe and stay strong.
When health became a political issue, the attitude of many like your friend exploded. The old saying “do unto others and you would have them do unto you” or in a more modern language “treat others as you would like to be treated'” is often ignored. However, like hope, as long as there are people who still abide by the “Golden Rule” we will survive. For we are the hope of the world.
Nic, thank you for these strong words. I really feel that the pandemic is exposing a fragility and brittleness that was already here in our so-called civilisation, awaiting tough enough times for it to show up. There is a brutal side to our species and our culture. It’s awful to see, but important to see. I also think that in our first-world countries we have assumptions and expectations about certain things that are not at all presumed in less wealthy/developed countries. My partner often speaks about the extremes of India, for instance, where he has spent a lot of time, where there is such great spiritual wealth and knowledge, and yet also often such a brutal and callous disregard for life and the vulnerable. Are we living in a time where our wealthy and developed systems in the ‘first world’ have reached their peak and are beginning to erode? They say the younger generation now is the first in a long time that will not be better off than their parents generation (this is especially apparent in terms of home ownership, isn’t it?). Population growth is steep, also, and the sense that there are so many more humans on the planet than there were 40 or 50 years ago, has also changed attitudes with regard to the sanctity of human life, I think. What will it be like when the population is even more oppressively, competitively huge? None of the current pandemic scenarios exist in a vacuum, this is all part of a complex web of unfolding events and phenomena which perhaps make up our collective karma. There are no simple, easy, magic-pill answers. This is tough stuff. And the fact that we’ve been living in a hyper capitalist culture that has idolised the individual and emphasised competition for at least 2 generations now, means we are not skilled or practiced in thinking or acting like a caring community or intelligently co-operative collective. There are pockets and residues of these skills and attitudes, but they’re a bit like our ecosystems and biodiversity – threatened and endangered.
Big Hugs to you Nicole and everyone who is in precarious health. 💕
That acquaintance it would seem, has not any lived experience to focus her heart or thoughts in a compassionate way.
Karma is pretty fast these days. She had best become more attuned to what heights civilization can and should be. Then she can choose to act to enhance the process towards higher values and kinder behaviors in our communities.
Love to All xxx
A post to make us think, I liked it