Critical events often bring self-reflection and changes that can guide us to something greater.
It was recently in the news that long-time CNN host Chris Cuomo has been reconsidering his career as a public purveyor of political views and balanced perspectives. Cuomo has been on the air for a long time now, offering his show, in his words, as a ‘balanced perspective’ on all things political, essentially giving equal voice to opposite and dissenting voices. After being diagnosed with Covid-19 and being locked down at home in fever dreams where his dead father and older brother, Andrew Cuomo, appeared to him, the latter dressed in a tutu wielding a magic wand, Cuomo has had a change of mind about what he does for a living. On air he has talked about his lone fight at home with coronavirus, his symptoms and his progress. Now, he’s telling us he wants to quit the business because what he does for a living, and the toxic format he helped create, isn’t worth his time anymore.
Sometimes it takes a near-death or other major crisis for us to rethink where we put our time and what we do with that time.
There are a lot of problems with major network journalism these days, including the political TV talk-shows, like Cuomo’s, that pit guests against each other for the sake of viewership and ratings. Chris Cuomo was paid millions of dollars a year to play the middle and gather a ‘balanced view’, which was never balanced but manufactured for maximum confrontation and conflation that reaches millions of people looking for answers and truth who, instead, get the jacked-up spin.
So I am glad Chris Cuomo is rethinking his career, though he might also have a change of heart walking away from the bully pulpit and limelight. As he put it in an interview on SiriusXM, “I can do it [walk away] because I saved my money.”
Not all of us are as lucky as Chris Cuomo to have salted away millions to make his next career choices as easy as falling back on a fluffy mattress made of money.
No doubt there are many more of us now who are rethinking our careers, or are forced to rethink them, because the jobs are just gone. People are forced to float away from the mooring of what used to be meaningful to them; the further you drift, the harder it is to see and get back to land. Millions of people are now cut off from opportunities at least until the restrictions of our current situation are lifted, and maybe forever.
There’s been a lot of talk about the economy roaring back when this pandemic backs off. But, will that really be true? With so many businesses gone, or nearly strangled out, which of them will come back? With so many people laid off, how many of them will stay loyal and sticky to the companies who laid them off? It’s hard enough to find talent in the best of times. If you are a company who had to furlough or lay off staff, which of those staff are waiting with bated breath to rejoin you? Possibly very few or none. They will all drift to something else, go somewhere else, and start something new.
More and more people are telling me that they are reconsidering their career, what they do for a living, and what satisfies them. With a crisis on every doorstep, our thoughts turn to our families, our children, our way of living. It’s common that people work to achieve a better life, meanwhile disliking the work they believe will get them to their ultimate happiness. As though happiness is outside of ourselves somehow when it’s not. Again, a great many of us are caught in socio-economic situations that require us to pick up the crumbs of any jobs that are available to us, with a lot of people working more than one job to make ends meet. But even these people, like gig economy workers, or warehouse workers, are reconsidering, for themselves, if it’s all even worth it.
So, if you are rethinking your career or your purpose right now, I’m not surprised. But what can you do when you don’t have the options that a rich TV personality has? Or if you do not have technical skills that allow you to more easily work from home? There are many people who not only cannot afford a computer at home, there are many who don’t even really know how to use one. What is available to these people who are having the exact same human response to a crisis that has, and is, devastating people and families and careers around the world? And with little or no money and protections available to pivot to a new life?
These aren’t easy questions with easy answers. To contemplate the bottom falling out for the poorest of us is a sad thing to contemplate. And, as a society we can’t really let it happen, as people, even if the political will seems faltering or half measured. This is the time for every individual to ask: What do we want for ourselves and everyone else? And how did we get here that we should care about Chris Cuomo quitting yellow journalism, versus caring about a single mother with three children and a GED who has no real options available?
Well, we could redistribute some wealth. It feels ridiculous that someone on TV hired to pump up the population on issues makes so much more than, say, a real teacher. Or, how is it that minimum wage or universal income find constant opposition, yet we never really question how much CEOs make and add to the society we share? It’s time to re-evaluate what’s important, things like equity, equality, our social contracts, our environment, and how we can do a better job going forward to make sure that every person in society, willing to be in that society and contribute to it and build it up, can be rewarded for being part of the greater good.
Change is a personal thing, and changes such as these hit directly at the heart of home. But change is also a cultural and societal one. And it will take all of us as individuals to not only selfishly reconsider what we value personally for ourselves, but in so doing, consider also what it is we value as a society. Real, positive personal change can only happen if we are also looking out for the good of all and everyone. Hopefully it’s a contagious idea.
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