We are in the same storm, but not the same boat
By Matthew Fraser, Opinions Editor
I’ve seen too many memes throughout the pandemic satirizing rich people who say, “We’re all in this together.” I’m not here to say that they are tone-deaf or that they are out of touch, rather, I would like to point out that they got richer while the rest of us at best just survived. “Rising tides raise all ships” only applies to yachts in this economy, while row boats and canoes are buffeted about or capsized completely. However, touching the myriad of commercials may be, the back-breaking reality for low-income households and the working poor has been completely different.
Though I am reasonably financially secure, the prospect of me owning a house in the Vancouver area has seen no real improvement even as prices go down, and it is certainly worse for any homeless person who may have previously been able to work and find some stability. For those who weren’t even that fortunate the increased rate of overdose has worsened their prospects.
Here in BC, the overdose rate actually outran the deathrate from COVID-19; you could certainly argue that surviving coronavirus as a homeless person is more likely than surviving your next fix. But despite the best efforts of the NDP government that bought abandoned hotels to house the less fortunate, overdose deaths have not let up, sparking an increased demand for the decriminalization of various drugs as well as a better distribution of safe drugs. But even amidst the general price contraction of our rental market, there doesn’t seem to be a place for the homeless and impoverished to fill, instead the ability to increase wealth through property ownership has become a little more plausible for the upper middle class and more lucrative for the already rich.
The push to online classes and work saw Zoom, Netflix, and other digital platforms experience massive windfalls, and for those fortunate enough to become stay-at-home students and workers that has been fine, but for anyone who was on the wrong side of the eviction moratorium or laid off due to the decimated retail and hospitality industries, the near future has been bleak and shaky. Not to worry though, if you have a laptop or a cellphone, you’re in the same boat as Netflix execs and shareholders who saw a whopping $5.8 billion USD in revenues this year. Consider yourself to be rubbing shoulders and sharing caviar with Elon Musk and his extra $8 billion earned in August.
Now I am not one to call for the heads of the rich or even accuse them of evil doings, but the plutonomy we are living in should be alarming, given that it will collapse eventually. The fact that hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people could have their livelihoods decimated as business owners and workers while the highest reaches benefit or get bailed out is a recipe for disaster and unrest that will be more widespread and universal than our current level of BLM protesting.
As the lockdown spectre has become our false reality and the flu season will bring new fears, it is only right to wonder what a world built on wealth and plastered with fiat money will look like in the future. What will become of the working poor as the economy needs them less and less? How does the little guy survive when not even business ownership can keep you safe? It seems like we are far from safe harbors in this storm.