On Being “Zoomed”

There were seven of us gathered for a birthday celebration. But there was fear in the air as we sang “Happy Birthday to you.” We all knew the possibility of something else in the air. A Swedish study that concluded that those who sing Happy Birthday are more likely to get COVID-19. Those popping P’s and B’s are the root cause. There was an awakening in the Barometer. We grieve for our loved ones and for all families who have suffered a loss. We have witnessed the tough slogs to recovery for those who have survived. But there comes a point when we must begin the process of weighing costs, accept some risks, and return to some presumption that we have control over our lives.

The Barometer is “Zoomed” out. Aretha Franklin sang about this “zoom” thing way ahead of her time, “Who’s Zooming’?” The Queen of Soul sang about being take for a ride in the cause of love. One line is “Who’s zommin’ who?” (Grammatically speaking, it should be “Who’s zooming’ whom?” but we shall grant artistic license.) So it is with our fears and response to COVID-19.

What we have accepted without so much of a whimper is a continuing world without hugs, kisses, and even handshakes. We have accepted restaurants with no atmosphere. Sitting outdoors among the protestors turns out to be expensive – they eat your food before you can. We have accepted masks, even in banks. Butch and Sundance would have loved this brave new world. We have accepted no theater. We banished movies except for Netflix. But, we have our priorities — we have relented on movie theaters only recently because of our longing for films featuring comic characters from the 1960s. This is a world where we witness small, quaint, and personal-touch businesses disappearing. Retailers from Brooks Brothers to bridal stores to Payless Shoes are working through bankruptcy. Business is booming for tailors, however, because they have to alter clothes for the COVID 10-20-pound weights gains.

The politics behind these issues are so strident that half the country would not take a COVID-19 vaccine even if it were successfully tested. Distrust is so high that the pharmaceutical firms joined together to take out full-page ads in major newspapers promising to develop their vaccine “with high ethical standards and sound scientific principles.” Funny, that probably should have been an assumed business strategy for no altruistic reason, just the fear and reality of class-action suits. In this era, ethical and scientific integrity have to be spoken/printed aloud. Now the pledges to take the vaccine when it is developed are being demanded and offered in a beneath-childish scenario that the Hatfields and McCoys and the Capulets and Montagues would have found beneath them.

We have created a no-school world, something we dreamed of as children but were denied such by adults who knew better. Now the adults are forcing children to stay home as children beg to return to school. Out of the mouths of babes comes wisdom in a time of hysteria. Forget sports. Forget weddings. Forget honor guards at veterans’ funerals. Forget funerals unless you can pick and choose 10 people who will be permitted to attend. Forget travel for fear of being stuck there for months when you planned for a week. Forget concerts. Forget church meetings. No political rallies. No gyms, unless you wear a mask during aerobic exercise. Does that sound healthy?

Despots dreamed of such complicity. It’s John Lennon’s whining dream come true, and all without an army or battle or even actual laws. Kings with proclamations met greater resistance. There were always a few peasants willing to foment high dudgeon and storm the castle with pitch forks. Today the peasants are inside, binge-watching and baking banana bread.

So, what do we have? Humanity sitting inside, apparently hoarding Lysol spray and toilet paper (grocery stats bear out the purchase trends), not shaving, not dressing (even for Zoom meetings), watching mediocre or bad (on so many levels) films, not exercising, not learning, and getting about 4 weeks to the gallon. It does not take a social scientist or medical expert to assess the mental and physical health risks in this prescription.

Have we really thought all of this through carefully? Do we even think about the level of micromanagement of our lives when there is now a warning label on singing “Happy Birthday”? Here’s one girl who is willing to say, “You better think about what you’re trying to do to me.”

The Queen says everything better, especially when it comes to zoomin’:

Guess you believed the world
Playin’ by your rules
Here stands an experienced girl
I ain’t nobody’s fool.

About mmjdiary

Professor Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies from the W.P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, retiring in 2011 after 35 years of teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in ethics and the legal environment of business. During her tenure at ASU, she served as director of the Joan and David Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics from 1995-1999. In 2006, she was appointed faculty director for the W.P. Carey Executive MBA Program. She has done consulting work for businesses and professional groups including AICPA, Boeing, Dial Corporation, Edward Jones, Mattel, Motorola, CFA Institute, Southern California Edison, the Institute of Internal Auditors, AIMR, DuPont, AES, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Motorola, Hy-Vee Foods, IBM, Bell Helicopter, Amgen, Raytheon, and VIAD. The sixth edition of her textbook, Case Studies in Business Ethics, was published in February 2011. The ninth edition of her textbook, Business: lts Legal, Ethical and Global Environment was published in January 2011. The 23rd edition of her book, Business Law: Principles and Cases, will be published in January 2013. The tenth edition of her book, Real Estate Law, will also be published in January 2013. Her book, A Business Tale: A Story of Ethics, Choices, Success, and a Very Large Rabbit, a fable about business ethics, was chosen by Library Journal in 2004 as its business book of the year. A Business Tale was also a finalist for two other literary awards for 2004. In 2000 her book on corporate governance was published by the New York Times MBA Pocket Series. Her book on long-term success, Building a Business Through Good Times and Bad: Lessons from Fifteen Companies, Each With a Century of Dividends, was published in October 2002 and has been used by Booz, Allen, Hamilton for its work on business longevity. Her latest book, The Seven Signs of Ethical Collapse was published by St. Martin’s Press in July 2006 and has been a finalist for two book awards. Her weekly columns are syndicated around the country, and her work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Reader's Digest. A collection of her essays, Nobody Fixes Real Carrot Sticks Anymore, first published in 1994 is still being published. She has been a commentator on business issues on All Things Considered for National Public Radio. She has served on four boards of directors, including Arizona Public Service (1987-2000), Zealous Capital Corporation, and the Center for Children with Chronic Illness and Disability at the University of Minnesota. She was appointed to the board of advisors for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operators in 2004 and served on the board of trustees for Think Arizona, a public policy think tank. She has appeared on CNBC, CBS This Morning, the Today Show, and CBS Evening News. In 2010 she was named one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders in Business Ethics by Trust Across America. Her books have been translated into four different languages. She received the British Emerald award for authoring one of their top 50 articles in management publications, chosen from over 15,000 articles. Personal: Married since 1976 to Terry H. Jennings, Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Deputy County Attorney; five children: Sarah, Sam, and John, and the late Claire and Hannah Jennings.
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