March 2021

How essential is your work?

It’s a question I first came across when writing about venture capitalist Vusi Thembekwayo. It’s also something many have been asking during the pandemic given that the most essential workers (those cooking, cleaning, farming, fishing, driving, delivering, and more) are often over indebted, underappreciated, and increasingly in need of support to survive because they’re out of work. Worse, COVID-19 is plunging millions of people back into extreme poverty.

This becomes clear when you look at the global housing crisis, which has left people of all ages living on the streets, from school kids to the elderly to those trapped in-between. And while there have been some inspiring stories of tenants evicting their landlord and communities taking over a hotel, there have also been others of people being exploited by unscrupulous property owners and bad government deals, leaving them in dangerous situations with their lives at risk.

A helping hand

Even though many countries are struggling financially, it’s clear that states need to step in. Indeed, there’s a chance that the pandemic might pave the way for universal basic income, as well as access to national health insurance and other means of providing help. The same goes for businesses, many of which need to transform their toxic work environments to stop exploiting workers (including independent artists like writers and musicians) and start paying minimum wage at the very least.

In the meantime, individuals like you and me need to do our part; not necessarily through extreme measures like donating a kidney or adopting a few dozen kids but perhaps by volunteering at a charity near you. Just because you’re not Warren Buffett doesn’t meant you can’t make a difference, much like Norman Mailer writes in The Executioner’s Song (also available on Audible):

There is no such thing as “nothing”. There is always something.

Give what you can.