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The Interconnectedness of Us PDF Print E-mail
Written by Fred Jonas, Special to the BT   
April 2020

Be mindful of failure in the weakest links

WPix_Fred_Jonas_4-20hat a mess is being created by the coronavirus, and the worldwide reaction to it. Everyone’s behavior has changed dramatically, including that no one wants to go anywhere. At first, it was larger gatherings, and these were either canceled by the sponsors or, eventually, they were even prohibited by “emergency” orders from government. Now everything has shut down.

I recently received an interesting e-mail from a remarkable local music organization, the Grammy-nominated vocal ensemble Seraphic Fire. It included this paragraph: “Please know that there will be a financial stress on our organization, and on the artists [singers and instrumentalists] many of you know and love. Professional performing arts organizations rely on ticket revenue and donations. In order to mitigate the loss of revenue from the canceled concerts, and provide the financial stability for Seraphic Fire to continue planning for future performances and educational activities, we ask that our patrons consider donating or exchanging their tickets for canceled concerts as a gesture of support for Seraphic Fire, its artists, and the students we serve in this community.”

Another coronavirus-inspired e-mail came from the leader of a jazz ensemble called Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica. It’s not what it sounds like; it’s just a funny name. This e-mail was from early in the panic and was dated March 2. It included the funny but intriguing line: “Stop buying those masks! Let the healthcare people who need them have ’em.” And it talked about the then concern that people couldn’t or wouldn’t come to concerts, and it contained a survey that included the question “What would be a fair price to you to pay for an online concert by [us] (to start!)?”

I have no idea what “to start” means. But the final question in this survey turns out to be a prescient one that has to do with a lot more than going to concerts. It asks, “Do you care about interactivity (i.e., chat, conversation, interaction with others, or the band)?”

“Interaction with others.” Isn’t that becoming an increasingly important issue?

I’ve gotten other e-mails that don’t quite mention the matter of what happens to “vendors” when no one is buying anything. But it’s not hard to recognize the underlying problem.

The other day I was talking to the manager of the building where I have my office. We were discussing the people who can’t earn money because their clientele suddenly won’t leave home. He, a Spaniard, mentioned that he understood there’s a sizable population of Americans who don’t have even $500 in reserve. His view of it was that Americans don’t economize and save, and he concluded simply that they should learn to.

It was MLK Jr. who said that it’s fine to ask a man to lift himself up by his bootstraps, but not if he doesn’t have any shoes.

If I were to allow myself a rant, I would also point out that this building manager is an admitted right-winger who thinks that Trump is doing a great job, including managing the government’s response to the coronavirus. He says part of that great job is spending money, such as by sending it to people whose businesses are suffering, which he believes the government “owes” the public.

We didn’t discuss how the government is supposed to spend more while taking in less, but I’ve had that conversation with other right-wingers. I know how it works, and where it goes.

The building manager also noted that the matter of at least partial rent abatement for a few months has been floated, but he isn’t committing to a gesture like that. He (the building owners) has bills to pay, too, he pointed out. That’s true, and I said that maybe the answer is to see how many of his tenants can’t work, can’t earn money, go out of business, and declare bankruptcy. And then he can deal with an empty building. He agreed that this made sense.

The point is, it’s a small world. The world of South Florida is even smaller. The Biscayne Corridor? It’s minuscule.

“It takes a village,” “we’re all in this together,” or any way you want to put it. All parts interconnect; when one thing changes or suffers, so do the others. Anybody knows not to take the grapefruit that’s on the bottom of the pyramid in the grocery store. A lot of things in society are like that. Some links are weaker than others. One way or another, it’s a good idea if everyone remains aware of that fact, and is able and willing to think about what happens when the weakest link breaks.

In our neighborhood, we have three villages (four, if you count North Bay Village), two cities, and some unincorporated county. We’re administratively and statutorily separate, with our own governments and even our own police forces. But we’re all connected, too.

We have a network of “interlocal agreements,” and those extend to the City of North Miami and other nearby municipalities. If there’s a police emergency in one municipality, police from the others can, and do, help out. Biscayne Park gets its water from North Miami, which owns Biscayne Park’s water pipes. We sometimes piggyback off each other’s maintenance agreements with private contractors.

It doesn’t work if we don’t help each other. Blight in one area increases crime in the others.

Anyone who cares about Seraphic Fire or Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica or anything else should consider extending himself or herself with some support. We do it when there’s an emergency (hurricane, earthquake, etc.) in some other area or some other country. We respond to pleas from strangers who have harsh reverses, and who request help on GoFundMe. Why not lend support for things that touch us personally and directly?

I have occasionally had the experience of noticing that I was undercharged for something. Most commonly, this happens in a grocery store. I always point out the mistake. If there’s something I want and I agree to the price, then I should pay it. I depend on these stores. I need them to be there, and I need what they provide. If I participate in cheating them, then I jeopardize not only the store, but myself.

The same is true of the support all of us provide for the arts. Or paying taxes. We need the “vendors,” and they need us. We need even cautious interactions with others. The Banana Republic e-mail I got today said a version of what many have said: “Please take care of yourself and each other.”

We’re all in this together. Especially now, with this pandemic upon us.

 

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