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TheRedneckProfessor

What Does It Mean To Be An Essential Employee?

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In the ten years I've spent as a scientist in the pharmaceutical industry, I've worked on a number of anti-viral treatments, mainly HIV; and I've picked up a lot of experience and skills that, in the midst of the current pandemic, are certainly needed.  However, about a year ago, I decided to take a break from the lab; and I went back to doing electrical work.  I did this for two reasons: I wanted to focus on other areas of my life, unhindered by career and corporate ladder climbing; and because I am often quite disillusioned by the shallowness and greed of Western medicine. 

 

So, I went back to the simple life of an electrician, where I am more-or-less content to put in an honest 8 hour day and then go back home to my family.  As a member of the construction industry, I am fortunate enough to still be drawing a paycheck, while many of my colleagues in the pharmaceutical industry are either laid off or furloughed indefinitely. 

 

Like the dark clouds behind the silver linings, though, this COVID pandemic has created a crisis of conscience for me.  Because people are dying; and I could be doing more to stop it.  I've asked myself if I am being selfish in a time when I shouldn't be.  But I look around myself and think twice.

 

Yes, people are dying.  But many of those deaths could have been prevented, had our leadership actually taken the lead.  How much responsibility must I, as a private citizen, bear in this crisis, given that the very president of the country has stated emphatically that he takes none?  And what responsibility do I have to contribute more to the economy of a nation that denied both myself and my wife of a single dime of stimulus money?

 

Yes, people are dying; but many of those people were stupid enough to vote for this current administration.  Many of them have been too stupid to understand the basic principles of universal healthcare.  Many of them are stupid enough to be taking to the streets with guns and body armor to demand their "rights."  The Social Darwinist in me is perfectly content to let as much of the stupid as possible bleed out of our gene pool while the opportunity lasts and we've got a virus to do the dirty work for us.

 

What does it mean to be "essential," when I, and a dozen other stout-hearted gentlemen, are working overtime to wire up a new church (of all things!) in the rich area of South Charlotte; but my buddy, Spencer over in Research Triangle Park, who designs assays for testing the efficacy of vaccines, hasn't drawn a paycheck, or even been allowed inside his lab, in nearly two months?  Why should my contentment be put on hold, my serenity interrupted, my talents be squandered for a society that prefers communion wafers to MMRs?

 

On the other hand, people are dying.  I lost my dad's uncle last month, a decorated war veteran, the last of my grandfather's four brothers.  Good people.  Innocent people are dying; and I could be doing more to stop it.  

 

Is a person truly the product of their environment?  Should my compassion be limited by the cruelty of others?  When the truth is, we are all of us capable of such cruelty; most of us just aren't honest about it.  

 

Is greed just another form of insecurity?  Is lust for power just another form of insanity? Am I a good enough man to see the insecurity with loving-kindness, without seeing the greed through the blinding fury of rage?

 

Yes, many of them are sheep, blindly being led to slaughter by their "Good Shepherd" in the Oval Office.  Should his love of mutton trump my love of humanity (what little i possess)?  Should their desire to Protect The Lie At All Costs silence me from living My Truth?  Should I not see the sheep through the flock?  Look beyond the assault rifle into the eyes of the scared little boy holding it?

 

I'm as torn as this nation; and maybe none of us will ever fully recover.  The dead certainly won't. 

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I feel your pain. 

 

Just a thought, but it seems to me that in a society as large and  complex as ours, it's not particularly useful to credit individuals with either the solutions or lack of solutions for natural tragedies.  As Jack LaLanne (and many others) used to say, "Some things are under our control and some things are not under our control."

 

Even when we do our best in a situation, the outcome of our efforts is rarely ( if ever)  completely in our control. All we can ever really do as individuals is simply whatever we can do as individuals. What others (elected officials, coworkers or neighbors) may or may not do is frankly not in our control. What others do or fail to do is therefore not something we need torture ourselves about. 

 

Anyway, that is how I see it. 

 

Also, I am in the much touted at-risk age group. However, I know that disease (any disease) is not the reason I will die. I will die for one reason and one reason only:  because I am alive. 

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It's true, @webmdave.  I think this pandemic has been as much a test of my character as it has the character of this nation.  I know I'm a good man.  I also know that you can keep a good man down.  

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46 minutes ago, TheRedneckProfessor said:

   I also know that you can keep a good man down.  

 

I don't know that I agree with that sentiment. Others may attempt to keep me down, but I decide whether those efforts succeed or fail. How I respond is always in my control. 

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32 minutes ago, webmdave said:

 

I don't know that I agree with that sentiment. Others may attempt to keep me down, but I decide whether those efforts succeed or fail. How I respond is always in my control. 

I'd like to think that's true under most circumstances.  But everybody has a breaking point, a point beyond which the choice to keep getting back up is beyond their control.

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Damn it, @webmdave, just let me wallow in my self-pity for a little bit, okay?  😆

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15 hours ago, webmdave said:

Not everybody. Not James Stockdale.

 

Happy - but not surprised - that you are a fan of Jim Stockdale, Dave!  He is one of my heroes.  The documents you linked make great reading.  Anybody would benefit from these ideas but I think they’re especially useful for the Ex-Christian.  We could do a lot worse in any situation than ask: What Would Epictetus Do?  What Would Jim Stockdale Do?  No need to treat them as deities, just as wise people whose teachings rival the best of scripture - without any of the bad stuff.

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I'm with you, Prof. I've thought a lot about this during the last three weeks or so. Many years ago I worked with a woman who, when we were discussing some conflict or issue that had arisen in our large institution, would frequently say, "It all comes down to money." And I think that phrase could be applied to every aspect of our current problems. We have everything we need to solve the problems. We could have stopped the virus, we could care for the sick, feed the hungry, and correct every other problem that we face. There is no excuse for someone to go hungry; no excuse for someone to die because they don't have money for health care. But in the end, my friend was right. Right down the road from here there are dairies that are dumping milk, while some folks not 60 miles away are standing in charity lines to get something to eat. And it's because money stands between the hungry and the food.

 

As I think more about it, money is just the vehicle for greed. From what I understand about some cultures, the individual is subordinate to the group. I've heard that in some places, in response to the virus, they have over 90 percent compliance with mask wearing. People realize that their individual desires are secondary to what is best for the group. Yet the American experience is based on the concept of "rugged individualism." The self is primary; the group is only for affirming the self.

 

I'm reminded of the Indian chief who went back to Washington with Lewis and Clark. He was shocked to see poor people in the street, and said, "In our culture no one goes hungry." And I'm also reminded of the tribe in the American southwest where the accumulation of personal possessions was looked down upon as a sign of greed. Yet here we have a dysfunctional system that is rotting and being picked away like the possum carcass down the road from my house.

 

And what can I do? Damn. Escape? Not possible. Fix it? Not possible. Ignore it like so many are doing? No. The only thing I think I can do is to be the nail in the horseshoe from the fable of how the war was lost. Perhaps, by doing what little I can do, I can keep the shoe on the horse and there will be a collective result. Will there be a perfect solution? I don't think so. Will it be better? I don't know. I think this is the end of the American empire. One thing is for sure. In November I plan to vote.

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I found out today that one of my colleagues at the electrical company tested positive for COVID.  He is 61 years old and has high blood pressure.  He also has a wife and two middle school age kids.   The other guys from that jobsite are all scared; and rightly so.

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3 hours ago, TheRedneckProfessor said:

I found out today that one of my colleagues at the electrical company tested positive for COVID.  He is 61 years old and has high blood pressure.  He also has a wife and two middle school age kids.   The other guys from that jobsite are all scared; and rightly so.

I'm sorry to hear this prof. There is still a good chance that he'll do just fine. Hopefully everyone will come out of this trying just a bit harder to be a bit healthier to reduce the risks they can control. (Not saying this the case with your colleague, but if it is, hopefully he'll come out of this with new resolve after he's recovered).

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On 5/8/2020 at 4:37 PM, TheRedneckProfessor said:

this pandemic has been... a test of my character

More than just a test of my character, this pandemic is becoming a moment of Gethsemane in my life.  I am content working as an electrician.  It was a considerable pay cut; but I'm still able to look after me and mine such that we need for nothing.  My mind is more at ease without the worry of patients being impacted by mistakes on my part.  Even my colleagues, though often as annoying as they are ignorant, are good-natured fellows who are unlikely to go whining to HR on the rare occasion that my off-beat sense of humor takes precedent over my better judgement.  It is My Will to stay here.

 

But somehow, despite having extremely conservative, right-winger parents, I grew up believing in the embetterment of the collective, of putting the needs of others before the wants of one.  Something about having jesus as a childhood superhero instilled in me the virtue of sacrificing self for the greater good.  People are dying; and I could be doing more to stop it.   But it is Not My Will ...?

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19 minutes ago, webmdave said:

Perhaps this may provide some encouragement:  https://dailystoic.com/marcus-aurelius-leadership-during-a-pandemic/

Meh.  I've tried Stoicism; it's nothing to get excited about.  😆

 

Actually, that really is helpful.  It's a good reminder of the better self I'd like to imagine becoming someday.

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👍

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Here's a 27-second video that sums it up for me:

 

 

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Here's what I think in the context of the current pandemic. 

EEAF2FAD-4D06-4288-828A-07E77624463F.jpeg

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I took the day off today and interviewed with two local labs.  Not sure what the results will be.  Maybe they make offers; maybe they don't.  Maybe I accept...

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