Wednesday, April 08, 2020
Look On the Bright Side. Think of How Much We're Learning!
Every cloud has a silver lining. Well, perhaps not every cloud.
Covid-19, however, may have a silver lining. How could a contagion that leaves in its wake so much death and destruction have a good side? Permit me to explain.
Think of Covid-19 not as an ordeal we'll struggle to survive through over the next 12 to 18-months. Think of it as a dress rehearsal, a means of finding out our strengths and weaknesses, a lesson in what we've done right and where we failed. Think of it as a global "stress test."
We're going to learn a lot about ourselves and some of it won't be flattering. We're going to learn a lot about this community of nations, what works and where it fractures. We're going to learn a great deal about neoliberalism and the toll it has taken on us at every level.
Data. We're going to have data coming out our backsides. Everyone is going to grab "their" data and then run off and try to make sense of it. Oh, won't that be dandy. Grifters like Trump - and that type is legion - will be cutting and pasting like an evangelist preparing a Sunday sermon. They'll try to persuade us that up is down and night is actually day and enemies lie in wait here, and here, and over there too.
If we're lucky, we will have the wisdom to make productive use of that data. It will help us imagine the next great challenges that the science types tell us are looming, locked and loaded. It should help us understand the reality of true emergencies, something that hasn't been part of our First World consciousness since Great War, Part Deux. As the kids might say, "shit gets real."
Preparedness. There's a subject we'll need to touch upon. What does a baseline of preparedness look like? What I wouldn't give to see the pandemic playbook Obama handed over to Trump before it was pulped by the Mango Mussolini. That's the sort of thing we'll need to create for ourselves.
We're learning these events can resemble "come as you are" parties. What you've got is what you bring and, if you're short of something, chances are everyone else will be too. This time around it's medical masks, ventilators and medical infrastructure straining under the load. Next time it could be something else such as food insecurity, for example.
Beware leaders who want nothing more than a return to "normal." There isn't any normal any more. That's what got us into the mess we're trying to survive right now. Normal is why we had so little resilience to meet this pandemic. Neoliberalism saw no profit in resilience. It imposed an era of "everyday low taxes" and razor-edge "just in time" economics that lavished enormous wealth on the few at the ultimate expense of the many.
We need to learn that it's not enough to declare a climate breakdown emergency one day and approve the construction of a massive bitumen pipeline the very next. If an emergency exists (and does it ever) then you act accordingly. The emergency, which threatens your nation and your people, becomes your immediate priority.
I hope we learn the invaluable lessons of the Covid-19 pandemic. I hope our leaders learn those lessons. We can't let them take us back to the edge of the abyss. Not again.