The Hypocrisy of Thanking First Responders

If we cared about first responders, we’d have given them a living wage

Image by Taryn Elliott, from Pexels

When the actors, politicians, and mainstream media groveled before the first responders, thanking them profusely and conveying their heartfelt admiration for sacrificing themselves on the frontlines of the battle against the coronavirus, did these celebrities pause to wipe away their crocodile tears and reflect on the fact that the nurses, paramedics, firefighters, and the other first responders barely make a living wage in North America?

When these wealthy power elites performed their obligatory paeans to the first responders, at the tail end of their podcasts or televised segments that enable them to keep in touch with their legions of fans during the quarantine, did you notice any reservation from them, any sign of contrition or that they understood the magnitude of their society’s hypocrisy?

Here’s what the celebrities should have said after they read their little script for their piece of disposable entertainment or fear-mongering: “Oh, I’m supposed to thank the first responders at the end, too? But don’t they make, like, $20 an hour on average in the US, and $17 in Canada? So wouldn’t they receive the thanks rather like a super-hard slap in the face? Better not to add insult to injury, then, right?”

But we can be confident that no such moment of self-reflection happened, since the disingenuous gratitude filled our viewing screens. Moreover, any society so hypocritical as to pay the workers in the real economy a pittance while awarding celebrities millions of dollars for helping us all waste our time would hardly leap at the chance to recognize that hypocrisy.

Place on a scale those celebrity verbal endorsements of the first responders, adding in the charity events. Now weigh that against our spending most of our free time, year after year after year watching our precious sports and movies; despoiling the earth, the oceans, and the atmosphere out of selfishness and greed; pretending our elected governments are answerable to the people — all while we neglected to protest the fact that first responders, teachers, and the like earn next to minimum wage. How does that bout of “Bless the first responders” look now?

Why the disparity in pay? The main reason seems to be that capitalism brings out the worst in us. Even if we learn to appreciate certain occupations more during a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re in no mood to make systematic changes to our institutions; on the contrary, we’re chomping at the bit to get back to normal, to cater to our babyish attention spans, by bingeing on puff pieces and reality TV and junk food and political platitudes.

Once duly infantilized by the corporate media and the military-industrial-entertainment complex, is it any wonder we idolize those who are indispensible to that decadent way of life? Why wouldn’t easily-bamboozled hyperconsumers ignore the real economy and give a pass to the predatory financial sector with its trillions of fake dollars that are conjured by legal cons? Don’t we make a habit of fooling ourselves by watching hours of television every day, including the fallacious ads and feel-good myths conveyed by our favourite shows? Isn’t that our true role in life, to be dupes who overlook the outrageous, unearned lifestyles of the rich and famous?

There will be no socialist or humanitarian uproar against the low pay for the essential workers in the real economy, including the firefighters, sanitation workers, and soldiers. We pay lip service to them to abide by the dictates of political correctness, as in a global pandemic or when some other catastrophe strikes, but we don’t really care about those workers. If we did, we wouldn’t spend all our free time lost in a dream world.

Regardless of what we may say on occasion, our actions demonstrate we’re most thankful for the delusions spread by the infotainment industry and by political panderers. We don’t really care about real-world helpers, because we much prefer to deceive ourselves; after all, the real world is an appalling place. Did you notice, for example, that the universe is perfectly godless and therefore monstrously and absurdly self-creative?

Since we’re not going to change, can we at least stop adding insult to injury? Can we refrain from pretending we know what’s real, what should be done, and who the real heroes are?

Thanks a bunch, in advance.

Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

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