Opinion by Allan McNew
Author’s note: this opinion piece was originally submitted to the editor of the Record Gazette, Banning Ca
I found last week’s collage of opinion pieces (recordgazette.net, 3/26/20 electronic edition) to be quite interesting. I think the very best part of it was by a journalist who wrote “take a break from the news every once in a while to keep your mind peaceful…”
It’s amazing how people sometimes react to things. A truly ancient joke: A backwoodsman wrote Sears and Roebuck for a C.O.D. general delivery shipment of toilet paper in his name to the Post Office nearest his cabin. Sears wrote back that he needed to include a catalog number, they couldn’t process and ship without the number. The old man sent this reply – “if I had the catalog I wouldn’t need the toilet paper”.
During the 19th century Gilded Age someone wrote that “capitalism is about turning luxuries into necessities.” In an era of corn cobs, leaves and twigs, toilet paper would have indeed been a luxury as was indoor plumbing instead of the chamber pot stowed under the bed and it is generally no longer necessary to clear out the spiders from around and under the outhouse seat every morning. I have observed over the last 40 years a number of third world newcomers to our nation who don’t understand why we don’t have a trashcan next to the toilet in which to toss used “poo paper.” At first they think we’re stupid, where they come from the plumbing is terrible – anything flushed down the toilet besides feces or urine will ruin the works. And, maybe toilet paper is a luxury back home.
With our need of toilet paper, it came of no surprise that there are some, who have the means, of buying up warehouse size lots of toilet paper at rock bottom wholesale prices in order to create a scarcity in which they can resell the paper at an obscene price, holding the collective nation’s posterior hostage to greed. The Sears paper catalog may be no more, but there are other options, one of which may be all those advertisement mailers that clog the mailbox every week.
In a time of modern convenience and instant gratification maybe we should give some thought to having a 2 or 3 month supply of dry, canned and frozen groceries and, yes, toilet paper. We won’t have to go to the store during a crisis, we can accumulate it as it goes on sale and won’t get gouged by scarcity of product.
Since the stay at home mandate came around with the closing of restaurants and bars to this date of writing, all the grocery store parking lots I have seen look like the day before Thanksgiving with customers on some unspoken mandate to strip the stores of canned goods and especially toilet paper. I tried to go to the store just once. I saw the place packed elbow to elbow in the aisles and front to back at the registers and immediately left. Why not just huddle up in the park and cough and sneeze all over each other? Think of the cashiers standing all day long about 2 or 3 feet away from the endless stream of customers, cash money may be the most microbial infected thing on earth, the ATM point of sale keys everyone touches, and where the cashier handles your credit card the pen which never gets cleaned is handed over for you to sign. Door handles, restroom faucet handles and grocery carts should be obvious, but apparently are not.
Then the political part of the crisis, about which politician has done a better job with corona virus or not, what the “news” tells us with all that newsroom driven political bickering and political opportunism to frame a narrative. It’s getting hard to distinguish between the American main stream media, Weekly World News, National Inquirer and old school Soviet, Pravda style dispensation of “fact.”
Depending on one’s ideological leanings, one may find any one of the following to make sense while the other two are judged patently absurd: Covid-19 came from people eating bats in Wuhan, China; it escaped from a biological warfare laboratory near Wuhan, China; unspecified American soldiers who, in an unspecified manner, from an unspecified location, in an unspecified manner torched off the world wide pandemic originating in Wuhan, China. It strikes me that if one believes using the term “Chinese virus” is inherently racist, that person is most likely to believe the third option. Ideological perception is often dogmatic reality.
The tale of two Presidents and the media – mortal men faulty in their own ways, neither one a god nor a messiah, the mainstream media was unconditionally, passionately in love with the anti-capitalist who discovered personal capitalism after he switched from political activism to elected office, the Anointed One who could do no wrong. The other President, whom the mainstream media hates with all the energy of loving the first, the man who was a capitalist before and after entering office, the evil Emissary of Satan who can do no right. What does this tell us about the media?
It is difficult to put aside one’s beliefs and write objectively, far more so for one who is in a position which can sway public opinion and is a true ideological believer, whatever the ideology may be. Such a person may act as a cog in a machine with a destination rather than a journalist who relates facts from which the public can decide for themselves which way to go. What’s the difference between audience interpretation of fact and fiction? Perception is reality and ideological persuasion is out to make a sale.
I thank journalist Julie Farren for her closing thoughts about the Covid-19 crisis – to enjoy your family, be in touch with friends and take a break from the news from time to time. We’ll get through this together.
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