The Invisible & The Unseen

From Om Malik’s latest FoMo newsletter:

As I headed back, I saw construction workers building apartments — those glass cages soon to be filled with members of the remote work revolution. I saw homeless people huddled next to each other, fighting off the cold that descends on San Francisco every night. I saw Amazon delivery vans, UPS trucks, USPS vans, and even bikers carrying packages. Others were busy making the roads better for those who might want to ride their “scooters” on them. They had on their plastic masks and their big, thick worker gloves.

It was 7:30 when I got home, and I was just shy of my 10,000 steps. I was also acutely aware of the chasms between the haves and have nots, and how the latter are forced to play a daily game of Russian roulette. You, me, and every other knowledge worker who can work from home, may wax eloquent about the value of remote work, but we all know that is just a big fat lie. Our society, and the comfort it provides on a daily basis, only exists because of the unseen — those who toil because they don’t have a choice to stay at home. Those who, if they don’t work, they don’t eat and their rents don’t get paid.

Sad as it is, it takes streets emptied by a pandemic to make them visible. These are the people who are deep cleaning locations, keeping the grocery stores open, the food and essentially delivered. They are like the nurses who keep the patients in an ICU alive. And I wonder what is that we are doing for them? How much is enough to do for them? Will we, in fact, do anything?

While I’m able to get out and about easily, I’ve been going to local shops to pick up extra groceries (because the supermarkets are out of stock of some items), as well as to my doctor’s surgery and the nearby pharmacy. I’m very grateful to all the staff that run those places, and are keeping them up for as long as they can, as best they can.

I’m acutely aware how lucky I am to have so many options within walking distance of my home. And I really hope that by spending my money locally, I’m helping others to keep going too.

And I hope that not only are people’s eyes opened to the inequality in our society, but they are stirred to demand that government and business act as part of society rather than above it.

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