Our everyday heroes

Medical personnel are the heroes of the moment. On the front lines, working flat out, under great emotional stress, literally risking their lives. Deserving all the praise they’re getting.

But there are many other heroes.

“Grocery Workers Beginning to Die,” read a newspaper story’s April 7 headline. Hardly surprising. The article said many stores delayed providing or even allowing face masks and gloves for employees dealing with the public.

A previous report quoted a woman that she’s looked down on as a supermarket worker. It’s not considered a prestigious occupation. Like mine frankly was. I didn’t see myself as better than people like her, just more fortunate, benefiting from circumstances I didn’t create. Handed a good life on a platter. Others truly have to work for what they get, which is often a lot less. Now they must risk their lives for it.

“Essential” business are kept open, while we’re cautioned to avoid close contact. Many workers hardly can, serving a stream of customers.

Actually they’ve always been essential. Our entire modern society is structured upon a vast interconnected web of people performing myriads of functions. I recall a flight where on the video screen the airline’s head talked about the great numbers of people doing all sorts of different jobs, mostly invisible to us, enabling that plane to fly. And I’ve read it takes twenty-odd people doing varied jobs all across the world just to get a cup of coffee to you.

Much of this is now under strain. One might easily imagine how removing one link in the chain could keep that coffee off your table — or that plane on the ground. Yet it isn’t really happening. My wife wanted to buy a survivalist pack, in case things fall apart, like electricity going out. I persuaded her our civilization is much more robust and resilient than that. People everywhere are rising to challenges. Not even in places worst hit by COVID-19 has the power grid been allowed to fail.

Thanks to millions of everyday heroes, who get up each day and perform their roles in that vast interconnected web that is modern society.

I have no time for cynics who prate about humanity’s dark side, all the evils of civilization. We are not angels, and in building civilization there was no free lunch. It took thousands of years of effort, but what we’ve built gives ever more people opportunities to live good rewarding lives. I salute all the heroes who continue making this possible every day. Like grocery workers.

* * *

A final word. I’d long been noticing just how many of these people, staffing counters everywhere, are African-Americans and other minorities. Seeing them I remind myself their forebears were mostly brought here as slaves. Yet here they are, living upstanding lives, performing all these vital jobs, integral parts of our great societal machine, often with cheerful smiles. Surely testaments to our civilization’s highest ideals.

I also think about those whites actually irked by it. Imagine granting their heart’s desire and making all those people of color disappear. I wonder how they’d like the world then.

3 Responses to “Our everyday heroes”

  1. Olga Z. Porterfield Says:

    And African-Americans are dying from COVID 19 in disproportionate numbers because of jobs, public transportation, density of living conditions etc …

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

  2. Robyn Blumner Says:

    I so agree that this is the moment to realize how valuable all workers are, particularly those who toil for little remuneration day in and day out. They deserve a living wage, health care, good public transit and access to affordable higher education.

    I hope that when this is all over that their sacrifices of showing up for work when everyone else got to stay safe at home is rewarded with the labor and dignity-of-life rights afforded every other worker in the developed world.

    You didn’t say that in this piece. I hope you are coming around to that point of view.

    Robyn E. Blumner *President and CEO*, Center for Inquiry *Executive Director,* Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science 1012 14th St. NW, Suite 205 Washington, D.C. 20005 RBlumner@centerforinquiry.org 202-733-5276

    The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Our vision is a world where people value evidence and critical thinking, where superstition and prejudice subside, and where science and compassion guide public policy.

    On Wed, Apr 8, 2020 at 8:11 PM The Rational Optimist wrote:

    > rationaloptimist posted: “Medical personnel are the heroes of the moment. > On the front lines, working flat out, under great emotional stress, > literally risking their lives. Deserving all the praise they’re getting. > But there are many other heroes. “Grocery Workers Beginning ” >

  3. rationaloptimist Says:

    You raise what is an issue of economics. Sure, it would be nice if everyone who works hard earned a good wage. One cannot wave a magic wand and make it so. The reason McDonald’s workers don’t make the same pay as engineers is because the value their work creates is less. If McDonald’s paid them the same as engineers their hamburgers would be priced out of the market and they’d have no work at all

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