So here we find ourselves, sweating out the most heated, contentious election of our lives, all while boiling away in the pandemic pressure cooker.
The Senate adjourned without voting on the legislation that would have included $120 billion in rescue aid for independent restaurants across America. Surprised? Unfortunately, I’m not. As I’ve written before, it seems Washington doesn’t care all that much for the restaurant industry.
Within and beyond hospitality, so very many people are struggling, doing their damnedest to keep their heads above water and their hopes from sinking down the drain.
Loneliness, depression, domestic violence, homelessness, child abuse and suicide are all on the rapid rise. Meanwhile, the top 1% are cashing in on a booming stock market, and not paying their fair share into a society that has made them obscenely wealthy.
Individualism and self-interest have taken on an extreme, ugly form in the U.S., and made it seemingly impossible for us to collectively care for each other, even in the most difficult times, even in a pandemic. What happened to the sense of collective responsibility that got this country out of the Great Depression?
Self-interest that isn’t “enlightened” is simply selfishness.
Every day I see hard working servers, cooks, bussers, sweating it out, wearing their masks, busting their backs to welcome a public that doesn’t always appreciate the challenges they’re facing during the pandemic. I see customers refusing to wear masks and getting pissed off when they’re kindly asked to, tipping less instead of more, complaining that the food isn’t what it used to be at their regular restaurant before Covid-19.
It’s shameful. And it’s indicative of a sickness of selfishness that’s swept across this country, sweeping under the rug our ability to support each other as a society.
Call me crazy but I actually care about people I don’t know and will never meet. Yes, I worry most about those who are closest to me, my friends and family, but I’ve never thought that my world should be so small as to ONLY care about myself and my immediate circle.
Long, long ago we humans formed societies because it was evident that every individual would live a better life if we came together in the collective effort of providing what was necessary to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We have lost sight of the fact that extreme individualism doesn’t actually benefit the vast majority of individuals.
We need to find our way to enlightened self-interest.
In its simplest form today, it’s the very idea that makes a person wear a face mask to protect other people, because that circles back to protecting ourselves.
In its complex form, enlightened self-interest is the idea that makes us embrace universal healthcare, because nobody should not have access to a doctor and medicine just because they don’t have a job, or because their job doesn’t provide healthcare. Because at some point we, or someone we love, will be hit with a medical issue when they don’t have insurance – or their insurance refuses to cover their treatment – and then the lack of universal healthcare becomes personal. It hurts us as individuals.
There are so many examples of why we need more enlightened self-interest and less extreme individualism in our society today, especially during a pandemic. But, I trust you get the point with just those two.
Whatever happens in Election 2020, whatever happens as we ride the pandemic wave into the winter and beyond, we need to embrace and to live the idea of enlightened self-interest. Yes, we can continue to celebrate our individualism. Yes, we can take care of ourselves and our loved ones. But, when our guiding principle of extreme individualism is traded up for the guiding principle of enlightened self-interest, we don’t have to choose between looking out for number one and taking care of everyone.