The situation is not good. It is useless to go around it. The coronavirus has destroyed our fun, the future we had in mind, sometimes our bank account. It's a global nightmare. We all wish it never happened. I have a duty to say it, also out of respect for those who have lost their lives: what does not kill you, makes you stronger. Yes, it is commonplace. The clichés are rhetorical, banal, often stupid. But often they are also correct. And this could be in the specific case. The coronavirus could leave us a better world after it hit like a tsunami on our lives.
Saying that sounds crazy, doesn't it? Every day there are more and more deaths, errors by the authorities, people losing their jobs, scary theories about the virus and gloomy predictions about what this new, Great Depression will be like. But again, the information circus doesn't eat healthy. It only feeds on two ingredients: panic and anger. It doesn't show us a big picture.
In part he doesn't want to. In part it cannot. The whole picture is complex. Nobody has a clue what will happen with this coronavirus .
We tend to think less of scientists who put forward timid experimental models, because they seem too uncertain to us. On the other hand, we give credit to "experts" who launch themselves into predictions as if they were sorcerers. Why?
Human beings have an innate predisposition to believe people who seem confident. It is no coincidence that there are so many courses that aim to build or improve self-esteem.
This blog has often hosted opinions from both experts, but if you ask me you will not be sure. I don't know what will happen. But I know it's not all already written. Events affect us, but how we react is our responsibility. We can spend this time worrying about how the world will change. Or we can spend this coronavirus time to create a better world.
Fabrizio De André had a rather clear point of view: in his “Via del Campo” he wrote that nothing comes from diamonds, while flowers are born from manure. In times of science, even the words of the poet are useful, because the coronavirus is really an avalanche of manure. It could give us a way to unite in a more global society. Or turn us into a planet of wary tribes. It depends on us.
Because it's time to merge
Historically, pestilence and disease have always killed the poorest. The Black Death actually increased the standard of living of the peasants. It killed so many that the survivors could ask for and obtain better terms.
It's simple, the poor often have worse overall health conditions. When subjected to a new disease, they get sick and sometimes die more easily. The irony is that there is a tendency to identify disease as the cause, not society.
In the US there is a wide debate as to whether Covid-19 would affect some groups more, such as people of color. But it's true? The epicenter of the disease was Europe until two weeks ago. And Europe was much worse than China.
Would anyone have ever imagined looking at a graph (based on the data we have, perhaps revisable) and seeing Iran doing exponentially better than the US?
Rich and poor, black and white, men and women. Everyone gets the virus . The elderly are more at risk, as are people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, obesity, hypertension. Although in this sinister form, the virus unites us. It makes us feel the same in other ways. We are all together. And all exposed.
Isolation connects us
We complain about the quarantine that forces us into the house. But let's face it: we were lucky. The quarantines established in the Middle Ages punished disobedience with whipping and torture that even included the cutting of the ears. There are now fines. If that's not enough, think about the fact that there was no web in the Middle Ages. From home in recent months I have seen ordering food, reading, watching and listening to almost everything, talking to anyone, working, taking gym classes, graduating, getting married.
We are not isolated. We can connect with the whole world. See that Italians are having the same problems. And the Iranians. The Russians. The Americans. Never in history has there been such an opportunity for connection on a global scale.
We against him
Humans have always been driven by the "us versus them" tribal mechanics. Throughout history, men have always been against other men. From another country, another religion, another political inclination, another ethnic group.
But now it is "us against the virus". Flattening the contagion curve makes us stay home to protect the community. It teaches us to do our part for the common good. We've been very good at splitting up, usually. Often against "the others". Now all, if we want, we can be "the others".
Everyone is helping
Examples of a sense of duty are before us every day. We see people all over the world doing the same thing, and often making small, big gestures towards others. This is why we are more inclined to help each other. Heroic medical personnel, companies that donate money or products. They change their entire production, or they bring food to the elderly and the needy.
This kindness will not go away. We will not return to previous levels of selfishness. And do you know why? Because helping is a bit like exercising. You never want to get off the goddamn couch, but when you do, well, it's great. Both reluctance and satisfaction are evolutionary traits. The first allowed us to conserve energy and the second helped us to play a role.
Company executives will also have a surprise after this. The explicit goal of the companies is to make profits. It's great for shareholders, but not so great for employees. No one has ever felt inspired to "increase a billionaire's fortune by another half a million". Profit is not a human goal, it is what happens when you forget what human means.
Now companies have crossed the line. They are doing things to help without a profit, often at a financial loss. It is not out of altruism. Mostly they do it to look good. And because it is dangerous for the bottom line to appear numb. The second most discussed topic after the pandemic news, are the responses of brands.
When the crisis ends, executives (and employees) will not like to go back to pursuing corporate goals such as "an increase in brand loyalty by 0,5%". New missions are needed, because the system has already shown heavy limits and if it is not renewed on the values it dies. There were already some companies committed to doing good in the world in addition to making a profit.
Now most of them will have to (ob torto collo) adopt this goal. A world where companies flex their obsession with profit a little could become, after the coronavirus, a very different and better world than the current one.
For science, a new "kingdom" and a different way of "reigning"
We can only work on a problem if we have a shared understanding of it. Even in the Spanish flu of 1918 there was no shared understanding of the disease. People gave different names to the same disease in different countries. And each country had a different theory of transmission mechanisms. Well: it took almost 90 years to get a pure approximation (in 2005) of the total number of infected people. With Covid anyone can open a map on their mobile phone and see the data in real time. Of course, there are even large approximations, but there is an abysmal difference.
The past decade hasn't been promising for science. Between the "flat earth" tensions and the advent of "show scientists" who do not like balance but indulge in pedantic bragging rights, we have moved away from science. We combined personal truth with objective truth and everything became a matter of opinion. This doesn't work with a virus. It doesn't matter what you think. The only thing that matters with the virus is whether you are objectively right.
That's why people want REAL scientists again. People who help us with difficulty, and not without self-criticism (these unknown in many recent "phenomena" that we see on TV) to create a model of this disease. One thing we are slowly catching up with despite the huge amount of fake news and scammers.
Trust in science will matter. It will provide shared themes. And if we have shared themes, we will work together to make the scenarios better. Our "echo chambers" keep us divided like a modern tribalism. Science can perhaps become the glue of humanity.
Those who crave power should never have it. Often the very people who shouldn't be involved in politics enter politics. Those who care about cooperation and community or global issues, or want to do good, avoid getting involved because politics evokes terrible things in them. The "politician" for many is a character who evokes emotional manipulation, sensationalism, unfounded opinions and hypocrisy.
For some time, many of these people have been trying to "do" politics. This crisis is severe enough to cause most of them to do political things, even in spite of themselves, to help people. This is making them understand that they will have to get their hands dirty and also get involved politically, otherwise the world will continue to suck. Perhaps this coronavirus crisis will bring out a new generation of politicians who will make the world and the current political class even better in a few years.
Many global institutions appeared after another planetary catastrophe: World War II. WHO was one of them. In its history it has managed to eradicate smallpox, a disease that has killed 300-500 million people. It has successfully prevented SARS, MERS, Ebola, and swine flu from growing to dangerous proportions. Yes, it appears that it has failed to stop Covid-19. But you have to understand that it has no real power. It cannot force countries to do anything, it can only advise. And he has to ask for funds, so he risks accusations of bias (the latest, those of US President Trump).
Much of the current scale of the problem is due to countries ignoring WHO advice. The time has come to realize that we also need global institutions for global problems. This means that WHO has to address global health problems. And it means much better international cooperation. Countries will have shared reporting, monitoring and integrated response plans. This will create a more multinational identity than a national identity.
And we will also think more about other global problems, such as climate change. After the coronavirus, we may (should) decide that we need a global organization to address the climate crisis, which contributes to a better world on an environmental level.
Prevention is a marathon
This crisis is basically short-term. How long do you think it will last? In the history books we fly over wars that last for decades, plagues and events that affect entire centuries. If our grandchildren read that we have been locked in the house for a year, two, even three years, what difference will it make to them? Sure, it's tough for us. But it will also force us to think about who will come later. It will make us learn to think a little more in the long run. Most of humanity's problems are due to our need for instant gratification: eating and getting fat, being perpetually dissatisfied, buying compulsively, being anxious.
The coronavirus is a global pandemic resulting from poor long-term planning.
For a while now we will try to prevent something similar from happening. And we will think of other bad situations that could be prevented. We will pay more attention to the long term, and this is something that historically leads to unusually good decisions. Because the many wise people who have left us, our dear grandparents or elders, cannot have died in vain.