Is this pandemic of 2020 the best of times or the worst of times?
There’s no shortage of bad news, so let’s focus on the good news.
Pandemics are good.
COVID-19 is making us more robust, more resilient, and more capable of fast, effective action.
We cannot do anything about the virus or prevent those who will become ill.
We’ve learned so much about the fine line between prudence and nincompoopery, we’ve seen the measure of leaders and fools on display daily – and that ought to make us smarter in our actions and in how we cast votes.
And causing everyone to seriously reconsider so many things we take for granted, some we should never take for granted again.
We are learning what keeps us safe v. what keeps us ignorant. The simple things, like disinfectants, cleanliness, space between people we don’t know intimately, masks, and hand washing. And not touching our faces. Who knew?
But when has there been a time before, when globally – and at the same time, we were under the grip of such a strong force for harm? I don’t know of one, but today I’m living through this one. I’m working through this one. I’m striving to be thriving – more than anything I’ve done in recent years, working harder than ever, and hopefully smarter than ever. I’m focused on health and being fit with more determination (and some reassuring results so far …) than I ever remember. Not to avoid COVID-19, but I can be healthier and capable of doing what I need to do for whatever comes next.
I’m sure similar ‘let’s learn from this’ statements were made after WWI, after the last pandemic, after the great depression, after WWII. After the atomic bomb. After Chernobyl. After 1968. Each time the world has come to grips with a crisis of great magnitude, we are supposed to take action to prevent it from re-occurring. How are we doing so far? Lamentably there is so much that needs to change that what has – so there is no shortage of things we can do to improve life. And to sustain life.
We are not through this. It might be over in a few months, but that’s unlikely – because a year or two until a reliable vaccine is developed, produced in billions of doses, and administered to everyone.
I’m not holding my breath or expecting to be near the front of that line. At the front of that line should be: ALL children, then frail and most vulnerable elderly – then the rest of us.
I want the shot – but I want every dose directed to those most in need, and in the neediest countries, before I get mine.
Now, back to my explanation of positivity.
We’ve seen dramatic changes in the world. For instance, race riots and war protestors in the U.S. in the 1960s brought about enormous change and stopped a war. Was it enough change? No, but it was substantial. More recently, we’ve seen the iPhone and all its copies put a phone, a computer, a music and movie player, and countless other tools in one device in our pocket. It’s changed the world. #metoo changed things. Not enough things, not fast enough, but a lot has changed, and quickly.
Now we have COVID-19 – an accelerant of change, wealth re-distribution, public policy change, education revolution, and virtual elimination of hugs and handshakes, in a few months. It will be many years from now when we have history books to detail who was right, who was wrong, how many people died, and the long term consequences.
And we’ll have other history books, recording how nearly eight billion people coped with massive simultaneous changes, embracing new ways of living, loving, and working. Books that record how we innovated cooperated, created, and solved problems at unprecedented levels – doing much more with much less, learning again how precious life is, and how great we can be. It’s not a group of eight billion acting in concert – that’s too large-scale (and possibly scary) ‘getting everyone on the same page’ expectation.
Alternatively, I see eight billion individuals revealing who we are, what we are made of, and supporting people who need our help while looking out for ourselves – and that is a sense of community we’ve not seen since barn-raising bees, and threshing crews prevailed in our pioneering culture here on the prairies of western Canada. When everyone’s neighbour mattered, whether you liked them or not, we need to be living that way again. Our technology is different, but our humanity shouldn’t be out of vogue. It should be evolving.
In recent days we’ve seen a ‘voting with your feet’ phenomenon. It involves social media advertisers withholding their advertising, and putting their money somewhere else because they don’t have the tolerance for what some companies are doing. That’s citizen democracy. It won’t sink the Facebook’s of the world, but it seems to be giving them a wakeup call.
The world doesn’t get better all at once.
And while we are working through these times, the earth turns every day, and every other thing happening is still happening.
Weather, disasters, accidents, births, deaths, new things, new discoveries, new ways to solve problems – every day contains many bad things, but like far more good things that never show up on page one of your newspaper.
As for China dealing with Hong Kong and with the Uyghurs (has the world forgotten the Holocaust?) – will the world sit on its hands?
If we all stopped buying anything made in China, would the world change?
Would they get the message?
Change in anything can happen if we want it, and when it is necessary.
COVID-19 ought to be our clarion call to change the world.
First, we change ourselves by changing what we do and what we think.
Then we change someone else’s thinking and beliefs.
And they tell two friends, and they tell two friends …
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead
P.S.: if you don’t believe unelected citizens can make changes, how many days did it take for Prime Minister Trudeau and the WE Charity to walk back their positions? The public inquiry will reveal what’s truth, what’s a lie (with all those contradictions, both the Trudeau government and WE are not being truthful), but I think it was less than ten days. Margaret Mead must be chuckling.