HOLD ON A MINUTE; this is what it is – HUMAN CAPITAL
Sunday, May 3, 2020
I see this as ‘our collective will to prevent unnecessarydeaths’ colliding with ‘our collective will to have our lives and economy functioning as we’ve become accustomed to.’
No census takers will measure it, but we should expect every pollster is advising their politician clients to juggle these values carefully – because no electorate wants blood on their hands. Neither does any politician. Still, the outfall of COVID-19 is a no-win situation. If the virus is beaten, the economy will pay the price. If the virus continues to kill, politicians will pay the price, and economic forces will likely depose leaders and move country boundaries either way.
We want to live in the manner to which we’ve become accustomed.
We face a seismic shift of priorities, values-questioning, and deep-dives into our feelings. Those are things we’ve likely never done all at the same time, and we certainly have never had the entire population of the world engaged. Never. Not in 200,000 years.
We like phrases that explain things, or market things, trendy words.
For example. Orange is the new black, all the news that fits .. etc..
Here’s a new one: health is the new wealth.
Lately, our perspective on everything is shifting.
Some might say, “Of course,” or “at last,” or “the earth will end at midnight.”
Can you imagine life 200,000 years ago?
Handfuls of early humans with low life expectancy, they spent their days fighting off predators, hunting and gathering and mating; might they have encountered risks that threatened 100% of our species?
There is no way of knowing how dangerous it was. Since then, threats of extinction declined, life expectancy has leaped from 17 to 100, while our population has grown exponentially. No event has ever engaged our collective consciousness about our survival as much as in these past few months. This is no Y2K event – it isn’t a false alarm, but rather a loud wakeup call. In the cold war days, or during WWII, there were horrors and atrocities, but none like this one.
I wonder if some plant or animal species was facing a similar threat to its existence – if anyone of us would be motivated to stop this threat, at all costs, to save our species?
The weapons that seem to work best are keeping a safe distance from one another, cheap masks, and time. Time for the virus to do its work, time for hospitals to cope with a tempered flow of sick people, time to mourn the dead, and time to rebuild an economy. To restore, or rather to reinvent, how we do senior residence services and how we process meat.
We’ll have fewer old people, and more vegetarians, when we recover.
It’s not the greatest story ever told, nor the most significant thing ever done, but an invisible, silent enemy is going to wipe out a lot of population; so far, it doesn’t look like it could kill us all, but it is certainly shaping up to be the most massive war ever waged, and nobody can see the villain. We’ve all seen that ugly coronavirus shape – but we can’t put on gloves and go into the ring against it or amass our weapons on a battlefield against it.
We are collective investors/stakeholders, by our actions, in the most massive unplanned venture in history. By comparison, parting the Red Sea seems like something you’d do on a Peloton bike.
Building pyramids, locking up Galileo, sending Columbus to the end of the earth – or putting humans on the moon, never marshaled or risked so much human capital. Financial capital too, but for now, I’m focused on the human brand of capital.
Recovery isn’t the same as re-opening, though those messages get mixed and mixed up by politicians and talking heads telling us what to do, what to not do, and who to blame.
Who to blame?
Seriously, we’ve not yet found anything to stop or kill this enemy – and now precious resources are being directed at finger-pointing about who should or should not have sounded the alarm louder than they did, or sooner than they did, without recognizing culpability of those who chose to ignore warnings!
I digress …
I’ll save my rant against politicians for another day, and get back on my thought train:
This is not a bad dream.
It’s a transformational life-altering effing reality.
One for us to capitalize on, or to squander.
The commodity involved is health, which for many of us, is the new wealth – don’t leave home without it. Better still, stay home and protect it.
Everyone on earth is a stakeholder. The COVID-19 virus doesn’t discriminate in choosing its victims, though it seems healthy younger earthlings have better natural defenses, while older ones are not fortunate. Wealth, in current times, does not equal health. Given the cost of fighting this virus, and reorganizing our financial lives to pay for the consequences of evasive measures, it seems like most society-wide problems, the poor, the sick, and the elderly pay the dearest price – paying with their lives. The rest of us pay with our wallets. Generations to come will figure out how to pay off the debt of it all.
Seniors-care homes and meatpacking plants are the current areas of focus – as if governments have ever given such attention to elder health or food supply integrity. Well, they are now.
If you listen to the President of Brazil, it’s all nothing. He’s playing hoax politics-a-la-Trump style. He’s unleashing risk there where the devastation will make rainforest defoliation look like a picnic.
This is not an unfolding event like a car crash or bombing or 9/11 disaster; this is not something for which there is a DIY book to tell us how to cope, though we all need one. This is not something for which we need a face-to-face therapy session or a 1-800-psychic helper.
This is what this is, just like a 100-year flood is never the same because a city rose up where a village used to be, this is not 1918 – not because virus pandemics behave a lot differently, because the virus does what viruses do. What is different is that the world, as we know it now, is not only so unlike 1918; it is also radically different than 2018. No, that’s no typo. Can anyone tell me, at any time in the last few years, that the world didn’t radically change at a faster pace than ever? For example, a decade ago, I was using a Motorola flip-phone that made only phone calls, but I like it. It was a great phone the way a watch used to be a great watch. Now, both are antique ‘single-function devices.’
PTSD is something I’m peripherally aware of, and I wonder if we could get Drs. Freud, Jung, Adler, Frankl, and Phil all lined up if they could collectively diagnose us today? And, if they did, would they diagnose us the same way a month from now, a year from now, or would we all be as well off with an Ouija board?
We all seek answers, but it seems like there is no time for that – we need direction, we need someone to tell us what to do?
In this contrarian world of freedom, misinformation, fake news, and alternative facts, in this time when access to knowledge is greater by many-fold what we’ve ever had before, we are all asking questions for which there seem to be few answers and no consensus on whether any of them are true.
Here are the answers:
We don’t know.
Nobody is sure.
This has never happened before.
And I don’t have to provide you with the questions that go with those answers.
So, here’s ‘da ‘ting …
The world is unfolding like 195 simultaneous lab experiments; we are lab rats. Every president or prime minister has a lab, doctors, hospitals, equipment, and drugs at their disposal. They also make rules, public policy, issue orders, hold press conferences, and use both new and old media to transmit messages with moderate success in getting citizens to comply. This seems different than a lab experiment with real rats or rabbits – when those in white coats conducting experiments control who receives the treatment and who gets the placebo effect. In some countries/labs, the overseers delegate (or abdicate) the performance of regional sub-experiments (i.e., China with Wuhan v. the rest of the country) or let 50 people conduct their own (i.e., United States … 50 governors running their own, though many of those have mayors executing wide variations on those plans and schemes)
It seems to me we can mostly avoid the PTSD trap by viewing it all as a reality-show with new plot-twists every week. It’s a movie-of-the-week stretching into a mini-series stretched into a lineup of shoppers outside a store, patiently waiting in line, 6’ apart …
We are lab rats in search of cheese, with our greatest reward being the dream of nuzzling up to another lab rat … because we need more connecting, than we need more cheese.
Yes, public policy, virus-management, drugs, doctors, and hospitals will solve the COVID-19 mystery, but we all know the cure for us – the treatment for our collective PTSD is connection; it will be some modest recipe of return to life’s pleasures and therapy. It will be delayed.
It will not be solved by the lifting of a lockdown.
Some might argue that it will never be solved or cured because normal, routine/habit, is now a relic construct of our past. We will never be the same. For most of us, unborn children and grandchildren will not know this phase of their history – great for them to not experience what we are, and hopefully, collective wisdom combined with treatments and vaccines will save them this angst.
I think 21st-century life will not look like 20th-century life – and we are starting to get a strong sense of that. I don’t think we’ll head back to some stone-age existence until after the next/worse pandemic that ultimately decimates this planet’s humans.
For now, COVID-19 is a warning.
Everybody is listening to orders, restrictions, and lockdowns – but don’t hear or heed the warning.
Maybe humanity will be lucky to delay another hundred years for a global pandemic.
But, as anyone who runs a casino, and everyone who checks their lottery numbers knows, it’s not about luck – it’s the math.
Presidents, Primer Ministers, Governors, Premiers, every citizen is hearing the noise, but most are not hearing the warning.
The world will not end for another 4-5 billion years.
Humans, like so many other species risk disease, territorial battles, shrinking habitat, and food supply risk – we’ll recover from most setbacks.
Still, our survival is not guaranteed because we listen to the noise and ignore the warnings.
We get warnings all the time but only listen to the loud noise.
People die all the time of all kinds of ailments, many of them contagious, but we don’t mount a world war against them. It appears we have a battle between politicians and medical experts – and we do, but that is not the fundamental underlying tension in my view.
I expect, in years to come, we will see a lot of facts and fictional scenarios reported to us through NEWS, research, mini-series, and apocalyptic movies – painting the picture of how bad we feared it would be, and how bad it really was. Economies of most countries will debt-finance recoveries, science and business will bring us new products and services – and technology will bring us new ways to more-safely go about our business, our health care delivery, our supply chain for food and other essentials. In time we’ll probably colonize other planets or the moon, leveraging new science and a more in-depth understanding of viruses. For a few years, every new thing will ‘go viral.’ We should expect no less.
What troubles me more than any of the above, is how and where we’ll find our way as individuals. We will all be ‘survivors.’ History teaches – Auschwitz and abuse extremes, PTSD in warriors and citizens – that every war leaves both scars and casualties on the battlefield, on landscapes, and on people. We’ll see it on our faces, we’ll see it in our mirrors.
The question for me is whether we’ll see it inside ourselves and be able to both survive and thrive.
I am on the positive side of the line here – I believe most of us will be resilient. Some will thrive. Some will fail. The rest of us will soldier on, many people struggling with a war within them that will never end.
Consider this question: Will the U.N. and W.H.O. get stronger, disappear, or be replaced?