The year 2020 is a year that is going completely different from my general expectation. I could not have pictured this in my wildest imagination. I’m still trying to check all the predictions I can lay my hands on to see if any came close in predicting what we’re experiencing, yet to find much correlation between what we collectively thought will happen and what is happening currently. And we’re just in 1Q (first quarter). While the best approach to handling this definitely involves not panicking, it will be very useful to sit in reflection and retrospection. And we all actually have the time and space for this, so… I decided to pen mine down.
After reading Tyranny of experts by William Easterly, I learnt to be very careful with different “expert opinions” that fly around the web. It is very easy these days to get word out and many are doing that, so I reasoned it is only common sense to increase my bs-filters. This is not an expert opinion(I am not one), but just a few thoughts I wanted to put down and share. Jack Ma famously said “there is no expert of the future”. We’re all experiencing the future for the first time, and no one travelled back from the future(the tech does not exist yet right?). I have to add that I respect experts, people that have sound knowledge in their areas of expertise and are doing their best to inform the public.
A lot of things lead to the drive for globalization with it’s many benefits. IT brought a lot of good changes to the world, and we can sit and enjoy a lot of this as traditional borders in different sectors are gradually being eroded and removed. It is generally good. It is also humbling to sit down and identify some of its loopholes and vulnerabilities, and then we can be more prepared for the future. The spread of COVID-19 is a graphical illustration of the way we’re all connected. We have one of the rare instances when “divided we stand” is actually the case. Everyone is encouraged to social-distance and self-isolate, as we are all compelled to take measures these measures not just for personal benefit but for the benefit of our families, friends, and humanity.
Ebola was just a warning. I went back to rewatch Bill Gate’s TED talk about The fact that we’re not ready for the next big outbreak and it perfectly makes sense now, earlier on it seemed like there was more time before the outbreak.
We can see a fact clearly demonstrated, that all humans are born equal, irrespective of social status, financial net-worth, where you live, etc. COVID-19 can get you if the proper measures are not taken. This is has made me think deeper about others around me. Suddenly all the things that formerly mattered no longer do, the only thing that does is breathing and staying safe. Even a lot of our personal problems do not. We as humans should cohabit and coexist, we are really not playing zero-sum game, or a game where winner takes all, contrary to how it might seem in many circumstances. So while we will lose material things in different proportions and some people are more vulnerable than orders, we are fundamentally all grounded. This should only spur us to take more measures in lifting others, for we only rise by lifting others.I will look at inequality differently now, and I think we should all do. There are times when we cannot build walls high enough to keep others out and somehow protect ourselves from the problems that exist globally. What are we going to do, if we don’t actively think of finding effective, long-term solutions to those problems? We cannot hide from them, at some points we cannot ignore them. We have to confront them and solve them in effective and sustainable ways. COVID-19 is not a Chinese virus as some would like to think, is a virus going after humanity and only the poor, or those who live in “third-world” countries, the same way HIV is not only after the sexually promiscuous, and Ebola was not only after Africans. We should think deeply about these things.
Then I heard terms that were hitherto unknown to me – Herd immunity. It was flying around the internet and I had to try to understand it since some thought it could help the UK with COVID-19. But I also saw a different term demonstrated – Herd Stupidity/Covidiot. Now I am not trying to sound disrespectful to you my dear reader, or claim I am completely above this. I hope you believe me. The length we all can go when we are collectively in desperate situations is unimaginable. It became clear to me that the people desperately trying to escape war-torn, poverty-stricken and impoverished places en masse using extremely dangerous means are human – as human as those fighting for toilet paper and groceries, and maybe even more human than those trying to hoard those essential things and make a quick profit by taking advantage of others in vulnerable times. Next time I should first of all look at them as who they are;humans first, before giving them tags like refugees, immigrants, etc. I think it will make a big difference if we all do. We are all humans, and who says we will not behave in the same way or worse if I found ourselves in similar circumstances?
But I am not writing to make us feel guilty of anything. I just want to reflect more on the world as it was before 2020, because the world will never be the same again. A lot is changing drastically, and I don’t express that there will be a time when a reset button will be pressed, and we will all magically return to pre-2020 order. We have a chance to reflect and build a better world, one with better chances and opportunities for humans, irrespective of whether you’re born male/female, in a village in India or somewhere in Finland, to rich parents or poor ones. There are few times when we have a chance to slow down and fix things instead of breaking them, and this, I think is one of them. I want to use it wisely.
There are many other things happening globally, a lot of good news, but COVID-19 has grabbed the headlines. The story about locusts invading farmlands that will cause food scarcity is there. Climate change is still actual. But there are a lot of good things happening also, and we will live to share those good stories post COVID-19. We can see a new set of global business leaders who will think differently and more humanely I expect. Businesses who don’t want to make profit at all cost and ignore the true losses in terms of environmental impact of their business, global inequality and just risky consumerism. There are businesses we generally expect to be greedy capitalists responding quickly to need around them like 3D printing ventilators, Gamers thinking of using their beasts(gaming PCs) for our good, there are governments working to ensure people are catered for during this time. These are all good news we will one day share. While sometimes I ask myself if all these good changes will last after the crises and if it is not just frantic efforts to be noticed/avoid criticisms, I like to think optimistically now. We all need to be optimists now, but not in ignorant ways. And heroes are usually discovered in times like this. We should all allow the heroes in us break forth!
A special mention has to be made of the true warriors fighting for us all – health workers at all levels in all countries, researchers, scientists. Now we should know where to put our priorities. These people should never have to fight for their earned pay, and we should actually consider increasing them in places where it is nothing to write home about. There was a post making rounds on Facebook about researchers and footballers’ pay. While entertainment is good, some of our collective values and priorities have to shift to the most important things, and this should reflect in how we spend our collective income. We should not make our Doctors in Nigeria or anywhere else go on strike, the true cost in terms of lives) are unquantifiable in monetary terms. And so will our military budget be relatively irrelevant in times like these.
If we look sincerely, there is actually nothing new under the sun. All of these issues have been experienced before. Locusts, climate issues, diseases and pandemics, etc. Why do they somehow still catch us off guard? I don’t have an answer to that. But I think these are times for us to embrace new ideas that can help us foresee these things and avoid them where possible, or be better prepared to handle them. Joseph foresaw famine coming to The Kingdom of Egypt thousands of years ago and good measures were taken to help preserve humanity. So did Noah hear the voice tell him about an impending doom – the flood. We will not all be Josephs and Noahs. But we can choose to be wise and act wisely.
2 Chronicles 7:13-15 GNB
“Whenever I hold back the rain or send locusts to eat up the crops or send an epidemic on my people, if they pray to me and repent and turn away from the evil they have been doing, then I will hear them in heaven, forgive their sins, and make their land prosperous again. I will watch over this Temple and be ready to hear all the prayers that are offered here”
The passage above seems like a description of 1Q 2020. So it is not really new. But if somehow looks new every time. Below is a picture a friend shared on Facebook days back and it just captures my message.
There are a lot of things we need to fix. I should personally contribute in the smallest ways I can, as it will have a cumulative effect. It would be great if we all did.
“And when the danger passed, and the people joined together again, they grieved their losses, and made new choices, and dreamed new images and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully, as they had been healed.” ~ Kitty O’Meara.
In the real sense, we are all connected.