Online Convenience

The quarantine has yanked the rope sharply in the tug of war between online convenience and retail industry. As the likes of Amazon and Walmart thrive in the current climate, many other major vendors have suffered remarkably, knocked flat in an already losing battle. In the US, J.Crew, Neiman Marcus, JCPenney, and more have filed for bankruptcy; a most disturbing development since these are nationwide chains. What hope can there be for local businesses if they fail?

Perhaps this is just the nature of our capitalist, economic model. Perhaps, the truly innovative and adaptable industries will emerge stronger than ever when things get back on track. Perhaps, this quarantine has even just sped things up that were bound to happen.

It’s true that Amazon offers a much faster, reliable, and convenient service than most stores can afford to but are we really serving our greater interests in investing all our purchases through them? Don’t get me wrong. I’ve used this site many times, have a Kindle, and think Audible is great! It’s also much cheaper and that’s in Ireland, where it’s not even at the height of its powers! In America with Prime, you can get your treadmill or shelf or box of Sour Patch Kids sent to you in two days! Why would you go through the hassle of a trip to a supermarket or independent retailer when you know that you’ll have to pay more and even expose yourself to the virus?

That’s a hard thing to argue against. After all, we should be social distancing and with uncertain economic times ahead, we should all be saving as much as we can. Indeed, there’s very little room for some high-minded rhetoric. Or at least there would be, if this kind of thinking wasn’t so short-sighted and narrow-minded.

Monopolies are not good. They’re not even in the spirit of capitalism. They pave the way for uniformity and sheer blandness in the products we buy, effectively reduce employment opportunities, and discourage trade unions and workers’ rights. After all, what real incentive is there for benefits, sick leave, and other amenities when there’s little to no alternative options for your employee?

Amazon’s record on employee treatment is, in this regard, exceptionally bad but I don’t want to focus on the titans of modern industry purely because really, we (or the growing majority of us) are also to blame. We simply can’t expect new businesses to flourish or even some of the older ones if we demand this level of convenience. Yes, customer service is important and sometimes we’re on a budget but even for the pure sake of imagination, how about we exhibit a little patience and try to help the little guy out for once? Our world would be a lot better for it and in time, many of our towns might even lose those tumbleweeds soundtracked by slide guitars.

At present, this seems like an almost irresponsible message to spread given that aforementioned pandemic. With a little common sense though, I think most people can visit their corner shop, local supermarket, or bookstore with reasonable peace of mind. They might not be able to prevent a recession from occurring but they can make things so much better by keeping these local industries afloat. Even, the other major retailers in competition with Amazon and Walmart deserve our business. It’s better to have five titans than two!

The choice is yours… for now. I will, personally, be making an effort to shop locally as much as possible when businesses attempt to reopen this summer. Will I buy anything online? Of course. Sometimes I need to for presents if they’re not available nearby and have a date to order by. But if you can’t resist that urge to splurge while browsing then at least have the decency to not buy your Sour Patch Kids through Amazon.

Will Corona Response Be Trump’s End?

Throughout history, it’s often been the case that great crises produce great leaders, should they meet the challenge of their time. Lincoln prevailed in his efforts to pass the 13th Amendment during the bloodiest war in American History. Franklin D. Roosevelt saw America through both the Great Depression and World War II. Even John F. Kennedy, to a less significant extent, bolstered his legacy by navigating the Cuban Missile Crisis (although it must be said, this was a crisis he had a hand in creating). In trying times, petty squabbles are usually put aside, and people do something quite rare; they support their leaders.

That support can be inspiring albeit brief. After the 9/11 attacks, George W. Bush’s approval ratings rose to 90%. His father’s also peaked during the Gulf War, a decade before. In both cases, those numbers quickly dwindled. I would like to suspect the same will happen for Donald J. Trump, whose approval ratings have somehow risen, despite a disastrous response to Covid-19.

I would like to think that because…

The effects of his inaction and bluster are palpable. As I write (Easter Sunday), the death toll in the US resulting from Covid-19 has reached 20,000. Unfortunately, that will continue to rise and many more will continue to be incapacitated to some extent or another. Hospitals are overwhelmed and there are not enough face masks to go around. Trump’s position has shifted considerably from a month ago when he glibly downplayed the extent of the crisis; something a lot of people did, but not those with top-level intel. I’m glad he is now taking it seriously and yes, perhaps it could’ve gotten a lot worse but really, with a competent president, it could’ve been a lot better.

Before this crisis, Trump had already made a mockery of the Oval Office and committed himself to the status of being the worst US President in history. However, a lot of his legacy was also built on the fragmentation of politics and polarisation of liberals and conservatives. The latter, fervent in their beliefs, would not give an inch even if it meant ignoring treason on their leader’s part. That’s pretty despicable and we can get into it another day but what’s fundamentally different about this crisis, is that politics simply shouldn’t enter the equation. Trump’s response is not political dogma; it’s sheer incompetence. Economically and emotionally, neither liberals or conservatives will be spared. The figures speak for themselves.

Alas though, I suspect he might survive this…

His election in 2016 was a fathomless affair so who’s to say this will finally be the straw that breaks the camel’s back? He’s defied reason and become exception at every other turn. Maybe, ideological differences will continue to outweigh any other perceptions. Maybe, this will still not give credence to the importance of a comprehensive health care system. Plus…

Well, you might have heard that Bernie Sanders dropped out of the Democratic race last week. This was a surprising turn for many although even if the primaries weren’t delayed, he was unlikely to succeed (being 300 delegates behind). Effectively, this has rendered “Sleepy Joe” the Democratic nominee. Again, I would like to think he would be a shoe-in to defeat Trump but his interviews thus far have been… they’ve been disastrous. Let’s not beat around the bush. He’s clearly out of his wits; uncertain of what he’s quoting, what he’s saying, and what exactly is going on. Is this a harsh assessment? Yes. But a necessary one. Joe. Needs. To. Get. His. Shit. Together. Hillary Clinton lost to Trump after all. Joe Biden, like her, is perceived by many as an establishment centrist but he’s a) “another old white dude” and b) less smart.

Now, Bernie’s supporters should do what they can to help him get elected. Although he has an iffy track record in several departments and is a less than ideal substitute for a progressive, he is a lot better than Trump. He will be reasonable, he may even work with some of those progressives, and yes, restoring a sense of normality would be a good thing. More importantly though, there’s just too much at stake to take a risk at another four years. Joe and his cohorts are right when they say the character of America would be fundamentally changed by a second term.

I’m not a big fan of theoretic propositions or what ifs when it comes to history. That way lies some Back to the Future II madness. But what if we actually tried to learn something from this crisis. It’s a devastating and frankly depressing time and one which should not be trivialised. To that extent, I’d like to specify that I’m not referring to some vague spiritual reawakening on mankind’s part or for the celebrities involved in that “Imagine” cover to reconvene and do better. I mean, what if we learn to appreciate and prioritise what matters on a practical level: the health care system. For too long, America’s rolled the dice on this one and sorry to say, it’s coming back to bite them on the ass. Politicians have sold out their peoples’ future and now innocent, less well-off people are suffering in the masses.

This crisis couldn’t have been avoided completely but it could’ve done with a steady pair of hands and a calm, reassuring voice. Like Obama’s. Trump is no leader. He’s not a unifier. He’s not smart. He’s not willing to learn. His ego means more to him than the lives of his people. That’s a hard truth for people to accept but we’re running out of time for bullshit. Again, politics shouldn’t matter. How could they in this situation? There’s no use left in blaming all those who voted for him in 2016 but it’s time to start thinking about what it’d be like to have, if not a genius in the Oval Office, a decent individual?