Fourth week of confinement. Hope you are doing alright. Staying sane and healthy.
In a bit of a lengthily way, I wanted to share my take on all the things I read about the crisis we are in and how things are unfolding.
Oh, I’ve decided to add some pictures of Roman architecture, as a reminder of fallen civilisation. I thought it was quite fitting! Although, by no way, I am saying that is where we are heading. Not trying to be a prophet of the doom!
My hopes for a better future
When I wrote about Building a better World, I was full of optimism that this virus was going to bring out, the best of us.
I thought that for the ones of us who got out if it unarmed and fairly safe, financially at least, it was going to be a sort of lesson on what we truly need, how much stuff makes us happy, how much partying is really required… I thought that for most people it was going to be a time of self introspection, a time when people find a new appreciation in the simple pleasure of life. Like being with one’s loved ones, reading, crafting simple things, watching a sunset maybe, exercising at home, without tones of equipment, doing things with what one already has and enjoying the process.
Probably stupidly, I was fairly optimistic about the consequences this will have on the environment. Less pollution for the time being and with new found inner peace, maybe less pollution in the future too. Reports are showing that the unprecedented level of CO2 is affecting people in more ways than ever thought and that this has made them more susceptible to the virus.
The list of hopes I had was fairly long. Including a fair drop on disposable cups usage and other plastic disposable of all sorts. The realization that working from home more often was good. That we didn’t need to import so much stuff. When the things in your house has travelled more than yourself, an alarm should ring.
But at last, I came to fear that humans will never learn, as their plastic coffee cup are now replaced by their plastic gloves, which they seem to throw away with the same carelessness.
At last, future starts to look very bleak
Economy forecast are gloomy, to say the least. The bail outs for corporation are massive and the people seems to be left behind by most governments. If left behind during this crisis, they will surely be left behind during the crisis that is coming.
The United Nation has just issue a warning on the looming food crisis. Our global food chain has been under stress for a while now, because, obviously of climate changes, but here comes an additional challenge.
From shipping companies on lockdown like the rest of us, to air freight being restricted, from labor being in shortage, to borders being closed, supermarkets are having a hard time keeping things in stock. It’s not just because of the hoarders.
You may want to believe this is temporary. I want to believe it too. But when a whole season of fruits and veggies will be lost, what will happen? Prices will surge and a lot of people will go hungry. You and me, maybe at some level as well.
This isn’t just something happening somewhere else. We are all connected on that front. Basic fruits and vegetables prices will go up everywhere.
Spring plantings has been delayed in the South of Europe already and probably everywhere else. Silently. Some countries have banned shipment of certain goods oversea, as the concern for domestic supply grew.
If you are American and think this isn’t a problem for the US. Bear in mind 2/3 of the apple juice Americans drink comes from China! And yes, there is a shortage already. OK, it’s just apple juice, you can live without. In truth, it’s the same for many many other goods.
Food prices will surges, people will go hungry. This is something most of us have never had to go through. We are unprepared.
The unprecedented economic fall out awaiting us is frightening, with billions around the world, loosing their livelihood.
The health passports which are being discussed in various countries, will most likely create a new way to divise people. The cured on one side, and the pestiferous on the other.
People are hoping for THE DAY the lockdown ends, the partying and hugging… It won’t happen this way. As many countries are starting to discuss it, we’ll be released little by little. And chances are that we will continue to look at each others from a distance, still hopping to not get sick and yes, we’ll still be wearing our masks. There will be no hugging for a very long time!
There will be no partying either. Most restaurants or other gathering places will remain closed for a long time and a lot will never recover from it.
Oh, yeah forget about dating too! Although chances are that you’ll get a new badge, on your dating profile, showing you as ‘cured’ or ‘vaccinated’!
We may be social animals but socializing will have a different meaning for a long time. Fear of the others, of being contaminated, will prevail. It’s a good thing for the time being but it’s a disastrous thing in the long run which will cause divisions amongst people.
And when the people are divided, there is no hope for democracy, social peace, equality, justice or else. You can see the premises of this in the news. It’s not hard to see the long term legislations everywhere which are appearing after only 3-4 weeks of lockdown.
The list goes on….
The Wold after the pandemic
The UN has a report for the World to recover in 3 steps. I encourage you to read such report. It is optimistic in essence but if you read between the lines, it may show you that the foreseen crisis is one, like never seen before.
The 3 steps are basically:
- Stop the pandemic
- Handle the social, economic & multidimensional impacts
- Recover better by building sustainable societies
The report concludes a follow.
The COVID-19 Pandemic is a defining moment for modern society, and history will judge the efficacy of our response not by the actions of any single set of government actors taken in isolation, but by the degree to which the response is coordinated globally across all sectors to the benefit of our human family.
With the right actions, the COVID-19 pandemic can mark the rebirthing of society as we know it today to one where we protect present and future generations. It is the greatest test that we have faced since the formation of the United Nations, one that requires all actors -governments, academia, businesses, employers and workers’ organizations, civil society organizations, communities and individuals- to act in solidarity in new, creative, and deliberate ways for the common good and based on the core United Nations values that we uphold for humanity.
Will people step up to be the best version of themselves?
For every feel good story, you have hundred of bleak stories. It’s always been the case. Humans are clearly capable of the best and the worst.
The question will be which will come out during our darkest hours? As I said above, I’ve been hoping for the best to win. I’m now reconsidering this position and dread the day I’ll have to accept that the worst won.
Still hoping that time will prove me wrong!
So what shall we all do?
During the confinement phase
For the time being, the best course of action for most of us is to stay at home, in confinement. We are in step 1 of the plan, and all our efforts should be on reducing the transmission of the virus.
Some of us might be amongst the front liners or amongst the unsung workers who keep infrastructure running (water, sewers, electricity, internet… yeah you are still flushing!). Some of us might be able to help our neighbors or family members in need and that is great as long as it isn’t an excuse to go out. Again for most of us, our job is to stay at home.
Like many other introverts, I listed a few tips on how to best get organized at home, but I will add to this soon.
As this as now been explained times and times again, this will flatten the curve enabling healthcare system to not be saturated and enable them to save lives.
However this will not mean the end of it. As it has been explained as well, between 60 to 70% of the population needs to be immune, for the world to return to ‘normal’. That represents billions of people, not a couple hundreds. You read this right. Billions of people still need to get sick, but at a slow pace, so we have what is called heard immunisation. This is going to take months.
The slow process of de-confinement
I’m by no way saying that we’ll be in confinement the whole time, but we will still live through weird times, with some measures still in place to restrict transmissions.
So after that first strict confinement phase will come a long weird period where measures will be probably a bit weird and uneven. There will be periods of time where we’ll have to go back in confinement, at least in certain areas.
During this period, for most of us, the best course of action will be to keep our distance as much as possible, keep up the good hygiene system in place and stay healthy.
This is probably going to be the hardest period. It’s going to be long, uncertain and we’re going to witness, first hand, the devastation caused by the pandemic. Closed signs on you favorite coffee shop, for sale signs in your neighborhoods, homelessness on the rise, suicide rates, child abuse and domestic violence will be at their worst, reports of people being arrested for steeling food will rise, queues to get simple food items will become the norm, black market will probably flourish…
In some countries, other sicknesses will probably emerge again but might go unnoticed for a long time. Currently 4.2 billion people lack access to basic sanitation… this isn’t going to get better. This is a terrible thing for us all. If 4.2 billion people can’t even wash their hands, the virus spread can not be stopped.
During this time, your resilience will be tested.
Of course, there will be lots money injected in the economy. Probably with little effects.
Earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, and extreme fires will be harder than before to handle. You must have noticed that these didn’t stop, right? The aftermaths impossible to deal with. Think of Puerto Rico.
Although for centuries, violent death was accepted as a part of life, most of us have been spared for decades and we’ve mostly been living in a safe world. A world where we were able to put human lives above all else. This will be shattered and as time passes we might revert back to ancestral believes and, like doctors recently had to do, we’ll have to choose who to save or at least accept that no everyone can be saved. This might become the newest / old norm.
It will be difficult, to say the least.
Rebuilding a better world
Fast forward in 2 years or so, when most of the world population will been immune, either by recovering from the sickness, either by vaccination, life will be different.
Some foresee conflicts between the ones who will want to rebuilt as it was, i.e. who will want to reproduce the same mistakes that lead to this crisis happening, and the ones who will want to reinvent society.
I’m not quite sure this will be the case because people will be different by then. There won’t be space for the ultra capitalist, the self obsessed, the selfish, the anti-vaxxer, the conspiracy theorists, the stupids…
This crisis had already forced changes on a lot of us. Not just because we are confined. But it has forced some recalcitrant people, although not all of them yet, to accept that expertise matters, that government should be run by serious people & that maybe what is important is not what we were lead to believe. No, matching your nail polish to your lipstick isn’t important. Neither is the size of your car in your garage. (oh, stereotypes alert! but you get the point).
Hopefully this trend will continue. And there is hope that it will because plagues like this one drive changes, they always have.
First because plagues force reflection & introspection. They bring new understanding at the individual level. New aspirations too. This one specifically forces us to get a new understanding on how much our fates are interlinked. We kind of always knew it, but now we see it in action.
Second, because, as history shows, plagues & plague like events have always impacted society structurally and rather profoundly. There are many examples of this in history but if you don’t want to think too far back, just recall the place of women in modern society, before and after WWII. Women replaced men in factories during WWII and it changed everything.
So there won’t be a place for people who try to tell us that we need to rebuilt things the way there were. There might still be a few who try, but there won’t be anyone to listen.
Instead, we will all want (hopefully) to hear the voices of the compassionate people, the doers, the makers, the ones who will promote radical social changes, new democratic and community base structures.
Now if you’ve read far more intelligent people than me and their takes on what our future holds, you will recognize that I’m actually, and despite what I thought, being very optimistic about our future.
This BBC article for example sees 4 possible futures and barbarism is amongst the possible outcomes. Yes so I’m still optimistic it seems!
I particularly liked the part on how so many people work pointless jobs, how many best paid jobs only exist to make money… That got me thinking a lot about my own job… but it will be for another time.
This article ends by saying:
Social change can come from many places and with many influences. A key task for us all is demanding that emerging social forms come from an ethic that values care, life, and democracy. The central political task in this time of crisis is living and (virtually) organising around those values.
Let’s make it happen…