Anne has a Master of Arts in Teaching and a Bachelor's in Language.
Historical Implications of the Pandemic
Everyone has a story. Everyone around us, in one way or another, has a story that involves struggle. We all have had struggles. Maybe those struggles have been different, but we all know what it is like to struggle. If you do a Google search of the word struggle, two very different definitions come up. The first, meaning: “a forceful or violent effort to get free of restraint or resist attack” and the other definition describes: “to try hard to do, achieve, or deal with something that is difficult or causes problems.”
There is a reason for this difference in definitions. Struggling has both a physical and psychological impact upon the human condition. My research revolves around determining what differentiates these ways of struggling and how struggles can affect us not only physically, but also in our everyday life and mental well-being.
We face a very unprecedented time in history, as many politicians have told us over and over again on the news. There are certain words and phrases that have been used over and over again as the world watches what is unfolding every single day. There is a sense of that physical struggle and that key phrase in the definition, “resist attack”, hits home with many because we are in the phase of trying to prevent and resist attack from a silent killer, the coronavirus pandemic.
Now, more than ever, everyone around the world is united by the common bond that we are all in this together, and that we are all facing this struggle together. All of the differences that we may have shared before in our life experiences have now been broken as we all learn to cope and deal with this new time and this new way of living that has been thrust upon us. That is why now, it is more important than ever to tell our story, and to gain an understanding of what this struggle means to us, how it will impact us in the future, and most importantly, how to move forward in this ever-changing world that we live in.
Stock Market Crash
The Great Depression and What It Teaches Us
In order to understand these times and the situation that we currently face, I believe it is just as important to have an understanding of the past and what history has taught us before. That is why, in my research, the first thing I wanted to do was talk about those previous times. When I first thought about writing on this topic, I thought that maybe there was some sort of comparison between the era of The Great Depression that could be made, as many people think that we could be facing something similar due to the sudden frozen economy. Although different in many ways, The Stock Market Crash of 1929 and The Great Depression can teach us important lessons about what it means to struggle, and how to cope with a sudden situation that can change lives forever.
The Stock Market Crash of 1929 was completely unexpected for the United States. Historians have spoken about how shocked people were when this initially occurred. People couldn’t believe what had happened, and didn’t know how they were going to recover. The roaring 20s, as they were coined by historians, were a time of economic and financial gain for many, and the business market was booming. People started to take advantage of the idea of the “get rich quick” schemes by investing in stocks. These types of investments were not just for the wealthy, but the common man could reap the rewards and benefits of investing in the stock market. As time passed, banks and brokers also saw an advantage as they had the capability to lend money to those that couldn’t completely afford to buy stocks, giving them sort of a third-party way of being involved in investments and making financial profits. As people began borrowing more and more money, the market was bustling. There are stories of people who seemingly made money overnight and became rich. These “rags to riches” stories encouraged everyone to get involved. Women even started investing during a time when society was primarily male-dominated, and especially matters of finances were seen as something that only men could understand.
But all of that changed when the market crashed in 1929. The once busy and bustling Wall Street was silent. People stood out in the streets in disbelief. Millions of people lost everything, and poverty began to take over. This initial event sparked the beginning of the era that we call The Great Depression.
The whole world was watching the United States and what happened there, seeing the disadvantages of the free-market, capitalist society, and is a big reason why so many countries had better faith in their communist and fascist regimes. It is the reason that when people like Hitler rose to power and promised better times, that they believed them. They didn’t want what happened to the United States seemingly overnight to hit them.
However, The Great Depression brought its own struggles upon other parts of the world. Countries that had been hit hard after World War I had struggling economies and a large class of poverty stricken people that were waiting for an answer to their prayers. For them, fascism seemed like that answer.
In the United States, however, we knew what governments like this could do to the public; that these self-proclaimed leaders such as Hitler were really only interested in their own political gains, and that these types of governments fail because of the absence of freedom.
Even so, The Great Depression was a time of uncertainty within the United States. Because so many lost so much, there was a new poverty stricken class in the U.S., unemployment was on the rise, businesses and banks were forced to shut down, and there didn’t seem to be an end in sight. President Hoover and an elite class of people were the ones modifying the market to meet their needs, and some say, these unethical business practices are what initially led to the Stock Market Crash of 1929. It was during this time that the term “Hoovervilles” was used for those poor folks that had been evicted from their homes and forced to live in cardboard boxes outside of cities and towns.
There are stories of people on Wall Street committing suicide after losing all of their money, feeling that there was no hope left at all. The struggle of this crash led to physical and psychological impacts that outreached even those that had not invested money in the market. Everyone was struggling. This is a time when America seemed hopeless, helpless, and unable to cope with the losses.
When F.D.R. finally came into office, he promised the people help in his “New Deal” by enforcing restrictions and regulations on the market that would prevent such crashes from happening in the future. People had faith in Roosevelt as a president because he wanted to put an end to these unethical practices and fix the economy.
While there was this glimmer of hope for the future, the rise of fascism in Germany led to the beginning of World War II, and introducing a different type of struggle for the human race; genocide, anti-Semitism, and power hungry countries, the “super powers”.
But what does this have to do with the modern world and our current crises? My research has led me to come to some startling realizations about the world as we know it today, and the idea that the coronavirus pandemic not only spreads its influence across the world through the healthcare system, but also through the economy, and the governments of each country, one can begin to understand this history and how it is connected to our current situation, it will be revealed certain truths about the world today that we must understand. So I ask you to please bear with me as we continue to delve into the deeper issues that our world faces through this historical perspective.
The Rise of Fascism and Communism
In my research, I found that understanding the rise of fascism and communism to be of value when we reflect on our current situation in the world. As stated in the previous chapter, World War II brought on a new mindset and a new wave of a “new world order” to Germany, but before we look into this case specifically, it is important to understand how the post-World War I world became infatuated with the ideas of fascism and communism.
The United States has a long standing history as being one of the forerunners of democracy, and after World War I, there was a rise of revolutions across Europe and the world that sparked this new wave of “democracy” for many other countries.
When we think of the word “democracy” in the United States, we are thinking of freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The freedom of speech, open elections, the ability to have a say in the way your country is led. However, in many other countries, this definition of democracy is more skewed.
For instance, in Russia, democracy meant looking out for the working class man, the “soviets”. It had more to do with this than “freedom” as we know it. After World War I, Russia became one of the first countries to be a part of this worldwide revolution. The Bolshevik revolution gave rise to Lenin, a leader who convinced the public at the time that he had their best interests at heart by introducing a one-party state in which the working class man was the most valued part of society. In Russia, this was all the rage, but in other parts of the world, people were skeptical.
Through the Russian Revolution, we began to see similar revolutions in other countries give rise, but each one individually was tweaked to fit the specific needs and wants of that country. For instance, Mussolini went with a more militaristic ideology of communism in Italy. He himself stated: “Discipline must be accepted, when it is not accepted it should be imposed.” This is the building block of how fascism was created. The “black shirts”, known as fascists, in Italy, were those supporting this harsh truth, and they gained massive popularity, even spreading to other countries in Europe, such as Germany that idealized this more pro-war nationalism view of communism. There were even fascists in Britain who were calling for a massive reform of the British government, but failed to succeed. Across Europe, the revolution of communism and fascism promised the revolution everyone had been hoping for.
While in the United States, during the post World War I era we were looking at a time of booming economy, wealth, and prosperity in the wake of the roaring 20s, other countries were still struggling economically and needed a revolution that promised massive reforms to governments. This is where the polarization of politics across the globe came into play, and what ultimately led to the second World War.
It is our understanding and/or misunderstandings of what democracy truly means that have led to so many struggles across the globe for years. From Hitler’s Germany to Mussolini in Italy and other fascist or communist regimes, it becomes clear that the ideas of “democracy” and building a better future for the people are more of a façade than an actuality. This is why in many cases, communism doesn’t work.
Even so, in modern times, there are still countries around the world that follow a communist style of government, such as China. Recently, it has become even more urgent for people to understand communism at its core, especially as it relates to China. Because China is such an important part of our economic stability in the United States, it is hard for us to confront them about their government and help, just as much as it is hard for the people of China to actually stand up and speak out against their government if they disagree.
This type of government forces citizens blindly into complying with everything they ask for, and silences citizens to actually take a stand against what they see as the wrongdoings of their nation. However, due to the coronavirus pandemic recently, there have been many more Chinese people speaking out, or trying to speak out, against their government.
A communist government, at its core, is a government that is built on lies. They gain the trust and respect of the people, and just when the citizens feel “safe” in this environment, the government takes complete and total control over the people. This is how China has been running its government for decades, relying on propaganda, banning certain websites, and a formulaic education that basks in the glory of its leader. If you are the odd one out who does disagree with this, you are disloyal to your country and therefore an enemy. In the next section, we will delve into China specifically, as well as socialism, and how these ideals now connect with our current situation in the United States.
Communism, Socialism, and The Violation of Human Rights As It Relates to Today
As stated in the previous section, China is one of the countries that has been living under a communist regime for a considerable amount of time. The Communist Revolution in China began in 1949 and established the People’s Republic of China under the leadership of Mao Zedong. The main reason for this shift in power dealt with what the Chinese people believed to be massive inequality among groups of people in China. Rent was high and taxes fed the wealthy and rich “landlords” of society, but those poorer people in China were suffering greatly. This is not that different from the set up of many countries such as Germany, Russia, and Italy before they had their revolutions. There is one key point to this that is very clear; economic instability has led many countries to turn to more authoritative governments in the hopes of fixing this unequal distribution of wealth among the masses. This is where one of the main ideals of communism comes from. The ideas of “share the wealth” and distributing that wealth evenly among the people comes from exactly that, and the scary thing about it is that phrasing is familiar to some of us in the United States, because many politicians have talked about doing this if they were to take office. Does that mean the United States could become a communist country? It is very unlikely for this to happen in the United States, BUT socialism is alive and well in Europe and many United States politicians are pro-socialism, or at least partially supportive of socialism. So, what’s the difference between communism and socialism?
The main difference between these two types of governments is the fact that the term “socialism” encompasses many different forms and types of governments, whereas communism is the most extreme-left form of authoritarian government. So within the realms of socialism, you can have many different ideas, policies, and it is not necessarily a “one size fits all” ideology. Even so, there are characteristics and traits among different theories of socialism that are applicable to all types of socialism: “distributing the wealth”. If you have ever heard the story of Robin Hood, you know the phrase “steal from the rich to give to the poor”. At its roots, socialism works to combat inequalities among the rich and poor and balance out the wealth with a more equal, unified society. Communism, on the other hand, goes a step further than that, proclaiming that extreme measures should be taken to overthrow capitalist governments to create a communist party that controls the government. In Soviet Russia, for instance, this was done through the working man, but behind these revolutions is ONE leader, and that one leader cons people into thinking that they have won a battle that has only just begun. The dictatorship then takes full control. This is how most communist societies are then formed. The fear with socialism is that it could turn into communism for this same reason. So, think of socialism as “Communism Lite”. Not as extreme, but still alarming.
In the United States, we see this type of government as something scary, something that we would never want our own country to come to, but it’s during times like these, worldwide pandemics, that we must be especially worried about this. Our nation is facing a massive shift in economy and society that really feels inevitable. Every day, the government is telling us what we should be doing, how we should be living. We are awaiting instructions from our government on when it is safe to go out. Even if we are told that state governor’s have rights to direct the people, you know the federal government is still keeping a tight hold on the states. In any case, many citizens of the United States are beginning to question whether or not our rights under the constitution are being violated, spawning many to protest in the streets against government orders.
It is exactly these types of circumstances in countries that have previously led to revolutions and shifts in government, so as citizens of this country, we need to keep a watchful eye on these things. We are facing a huge downturn in the economy, and as desperate Americans struggle and rely on money from the government to get by, you can’t help but think, how much closer are we to socialism today than we were, say, five years ago? I don’t think it’s completely insane to say that we might shift towards socialist tendencies after this pandemic, because I already see it happening. It is alarming, but we must keep a watchful eye on what is happening. Although our president is of the Republican party and typically very anti-socialism, in a press release just last week, he was quoted saying “When someone’s the president of the United States, the authority is total”. (Please note this was written during Trump's administration, Biden is now president, but when you see "president" in the article, know that I am referring to the former president).
After this press release, so many Americans were worried, wondering when the country was going to massively shift its government. Honestly, when I heard him say that, I got chills, because my only thought was “so he thinks he’s a dictator now?”. The press and the people were astounded that the president of the United States would say something so extreme, and this after playing a strange video to the public that contained elements of propaganda such as a white screen with black text with phrases like “FAKE NEWS” that only stayed on the screen for a couple of seconds between video clips. This definitely weirded many people out. Then, the next press release, the president took back what he said, stating that the governors of each state have the authority to open their states when they want, and he is leaving it up to them. This leaves many Americans puzzled and frightened. How can our leader say and do such bizarre things and then take it back? How are we supposed to trust this person? These are questions running through the minds of many Americans as we speak. So, what now?
Months later, after this pandemic has seemed to wane a bit with the rise in vaccinations across the country and having our new president, Joe Biden in office, I decided to reflect back on a list of questions I wrote during this crucial time in the pandemic, and see what my answers would be. Maybe my opinions have changed, maybe I see things a lot differently now.
My Reaction Post-Pandemic
In times of severe crisis, the most important opinions we can gather are from the general public themselves. In the last few chapters, we have discussed what some of the potential impacts could be from this pandemic, including changes in economy, government, and policies. These are some of the physical impacts of a worldwide pandemic, but there is so much more to it than that. Just like with the Stock Market Crash of 1929, there are bound to be Americans struggling now more than ever emotionally through this. If we don’t have an understanding of how the people think, we will lose a part of ourselves, and as I stated earlier, this is OUR story.
Below are several questions I wrote to myself during the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, and now, I'm going to answer them reflecting back on everything that has happened in the past year.
How has the coronavirus pandemic impacted you individually?
It has had a major impact on my mental health, I quit my job, and I decided to become a self-employed worker due to the stresses of the pandemic.
- Do you feel that your mental health has declined at all recently? If so, please explain. Yes, I am much more aware of the world around me and stressed about current events. Social media sites seem to stress me out more now than ever before.
Are you happier now or were you happier before the pandemic? Explain.
I'm not 100% sure I can answer this. I quit a job that I had been meaning to quit a long time before the pandemic due to anxiety and stress that was only worsened during the pandemic. So it's a little bit of both for me. Happier but also more sad about the state of the world.
If you were infected with the virus, briefly explain what that was like.
I never was infected with the virus and luckily got both doses of vaccine before I could become infected.
Do you know anyone who was infected? How did that impact you?
I did know a few acquaintances whose family members had gotten sick, and a couple of family members. They all recovered very well and none died.
- Do you support the way the President and his task force have handled this pandemic? Why or why not? Absolutely not. The political games that the former president went through during the pandemic were unacceptable. I think it was very unprofessional.
- Do you support the way the local government has handled this pandemic? Why or why not? The local government has stayed pretty consistent and has been doing a good job with regulations, etc.
- What was your initial reaction when the President said: “When someone’s president, the authority is total”? My initial reaction to Trump's statement was that he's obviously very ignorant and doesn't know how government works in his own home country, because that's not how it works.
- Has this experience changed who you will be voting for in the November presidential election? Why or why not? No, I did not plan to vote for him in the November election anyway.
What is the one thing you wish to tell readers about this experience?
I would say looking back on everything and my writing during that time, and seeing where we are now, I have to say that our country and the world around us I think is more resilient than I thought. I think I was so panicked about everything, and there is still a lot of unknowns, but I think that we are moving in the right direction as a country and as a planet as we continue to fight and face this pandemic together.
While this article is not even touching the surface of everything there is to discuss about this historical time we are living in, I hope it has given you a glimpse into where we've been in the past, where we were a few months ago, and where we find ourselves today in a post-pandemic (almost) world. If you want to answer those same questions from the poll I answered, leave your comments below, as I would love to hear your take on some of these issues. As always, thanks for reading and supporting my page!