In this edition: socially-distant Ramadan, African-American health, the fate of cities, reopening Georgia, Instagram influencers, your pets, working from home, public transit, occult politics, essential workers, Zoom and autism, cosplayers, and third places.
Your daily look at links I’ve saved to my Link Log (RSS) over the course of each day but didn’t necessarily address or highlight here on the blog. These are the links I logged yesterday, and not necessarily links to things published yesterday.
Muslims around the world will observe the holy month of Ramadan under lockdown and tight restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak that has paralysed entire countries.
The rapidity with which the pandemic has consumed black communities is shocking, but it also provides an unvarnished look into the dynamics of race and class that existed long before it emerged. The most futile conversation in the U.S. is the argument about whether race or class is the main impediment to African-American social mobility. In reality, they cannot be separated from each other. African-Americans are suffering through this crisis not only because of racism but also because of how racial discrimination has tied them to the bottom of the U.S. class hierarchy.
In our view, both these claims are wrong, and as a result, there’s no reason to be dour about the future of urbanism, or think that decamping from cities would do anything to lessen our individual or collective vulnerability to future pandemics. Let’s consider each, in turn.
Some Democratic lawmakers in Georgia worry that the governor’s real priority in reopening its service economy is flattening the curve of public benefits. “The first thing that came to my mind when Governor Kemp relaxed the shelter-in-place order was: What happens to people who are currently on unemployment?” says Georgia House Representative Dar’shun Kendrick, who represents the state’s 93rd district. “What happens if they fear for their safety and don’t want to go back to work?”
For those that make a living off Instagram, the quarantine has proven to be a challenge. Travel influencers who pride themselves on their visibility and authority now have nothing to show—and they’ve learned the hard way that reposting old content tracks comes off as insensitive to their followers. They’re one of many who are struggling to generate income right now. There’s only so many flashbacks you can post, after all.
A century later, we aren’t exactly masking our German shepherds or Scottish folds, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t affected. “Just like people, pets can respond with a wide variability to any change,” says M. Leanne Lilly, a professor of veterinary behavioral medicine at Ohio State University. Some pets, Lilly says, are reveling in the constant attention that comes with their owners being marooned at home. Some don’t seem to have any idea that their owners’ routines have changed—or if they do, they don’t care. But still others are finding the sudden disruption to be a stressful experience.
As Roose pointed out, having trouble separating work life from home life is a downside for workers, but not for bosses looking to “squeeze extra efficiency out of [their] employees.” Indeed, employees who now have to work from home because of the pandemic are encountering what one described in a recent career advice column as, “expectations that because we’re at home all the time anyway, we should be online and available at almost all times” and “being asked to do extra work during the evenings…because everyone knows we’re all here anyway.”
As urban research scholars specializing in public transit costs, we worry that this dynamic could result in damaging decision-making. Historically, it has been during times of crisis that agencies have deferred maintenance, cut service and canceled expansion projects. It’s these choices, made under extreme duress, that have crippled American transit agencies before.
It’s natural to call Trump an idiot. It’s understandable to call him deranged. A more sophisticated reaction might be that he’s a conspiracy theorist or a fascist demagogue or an anti-intellectual populist. I have touched on all of these. But today, I’d like to suggest another view: that Donald Trump’s politics are the politics of the occult.
The workers who now find themselves on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic have always been essential but we’re just now noticing them. A worldwide health crisis forced us to realize that we depended on them—and that they’re risking their lives. With the streets empty and much nonessential work stopped, we are finally seeing the faces of the people we need to survive.
This passage is striking in how aptly it describes the Autistic experience, especially for those brought up to work hard to not appear autistic. A lifetime of training in the art of survival through self-suppression leaves a tense, performative, masked ball of anxiety in its wake. If you feel ‘stage fright’ on Zoom calls, stop to consider those Autists who feel that way our entire lives. And we can’t just turn the camera off.
In urban centers large and small across the U.S., the novel coronavirus is devastating African American communities. The environments where most live, the jobs they have, the prevalence of health conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and how they are treated by the medical establishment have created a toxic storm of severe illness and death. (These common, underlying conditions make coronavirus more severe.)
In Rosie the Riveter fashion, Americans with crafting skills—among them quilters, Broadway seamstresses, sportswear manufacturers, origami artists, and grandmothers—have sprung into action. But one group has special mask-making powers: cosplayers, the superfans who specialize in making and wearing costumes. Never has the ability to whip up a Spider-Man mask or a Stormtrooper helmet been so useful.
The bed and breakfast. The music hall. The art space. The yoga studio. The store of the frivolous things, candles and day planners and nice wrapping paper. That one great coffee shop. Those aren’t just places. Those are places built by people. Someone brushed paint samples on the walls to pick just the right color. Someone loved something enough to want to share it. Someone took a risk to create the thing they wanted to see in the world.