Suppose you woke one morning to find yourself inside a sci-fi film…
…where no one was allowed to show their face in public. Everyone had to stand six feet apart and line up in rows for basic goods and services. Most small businesses were closed by government policy but corporate chains like Target were declared essential and prospered. People who couldn’t telecommute were paid to be idle. Paid more than what they were earning before the movie started.
No one was allowed to name the virus or its point of origin. To say the words Wuhan or Chinese or was to self-denounce as racist and risk de-platforming. The limits of speech were proscribed by three tech companies in San Francisco which made no apologies. Without an ability to organize online, resistance dwindled. People were bribed with their own money to be docile (TBC: their children’s future earnings) and they accepted it. They gave the minutiae of their lives to Chinese software. They streamed webcams on 5G internet switching from Huawei. They made TikTok videos and attended Zoom cocktail parties.
Drug dealers and pizza delivery and porn prospered. The fat and unhappy got a little fatter and unhappier than they were already. Main Street declined, the stock market boomed. In the name of safety the media normalized this, then the rest of us. We agreed to be faceless in public. There are no emojis IRL to hint at irony or dissent.
Schools were closed to in-person instruction. Students pretended to attend online and were handed “diplomas” in the form of yard signs. They queued up in cars for graduation while teachers danced and waved goodbye.
On any given day only 36% of middle and high school students in Los Angeles participated, i.e., submitted work, took tests, posted on a discussion board. Another 25% logged on, but didn’t participate. 40% never showed up at all.
Knowing the kill rate on distance learning was 64%, the teacher’s union refused to return to the classroom in the fall. They had terms:
1% wealth tax
1% millionaire tax
3.3% income tax raise
$250 million federal bailout
A moratorium on charter schools
Paid sick leave for parents of sick kids
Defunding of police
Medicare for all
Homeless housing as a “right”
That these wishes were not politically possible, or virus related, was beside the point. With taxpayer money, UTLA erected hagiographic billboards to celebrate their refusal to report for duty.
In China, the teachers and students reported for class. In Sweden, they never closed.
If you are a really well-off Chinese businessman you fly your kid to Los Angeles and pay $40,000 to send them to the prep school where Mrs. UpintheValley teaches. You get in-depth, hands-on instruction from her. You get an entire software package designed by her. So do the children of the American professional classes and entertainers and professional athletes. The parents of unnamed prep school voted 70% to return to the classroom and were only prevented from doing so by Gov. Newsom. The minute waivers are allowed, the kids will return. Until then, there is a brisk side business for private tutoring at $135/hr.
If you thought the country was divided by privilege before, what does it look like now? Have another stimulus check. Consult Weedmaps. Buy porn tokens. Those girls in the top picture are America. They can be bought. It says so in their Twitter feed. Tell me how this movie ends.