Why future generations will look upon the COVID19 Crisis fondly
The year is 2070.
My grandchildren and great grandchildren have gathered around to watch a special Coronavirus 50th year anniversary telecast, commemorating one of the most significant events in recent human history. However, the mood is not sombre or mournful. Instead there is a pervasive ambience of reverence for the challenges that my generation faced and the changes that occurred as a result of it. They will ask for stories of how we shut down entire cities, how people were forbidden from socialising, and even worshipping their Gods in public. But, most importantly, they’ll ask about how we rebuilt and laid the foundations for the society they now enjoy.
I’ll tell them about how we galvanised as one people
Within three months of the outbreak, we began to realise that both rich and poor could die of this illness. Every race, every religion, every country and every age group sustained casualties. We all lost friends, parents, grandparents, teachers, colleagues and even children. While the early temptation was to blame one group or another, eventually we realised we all had a part to play. We recognised, as we tend only to do in times of tragedy, that we all bleed, cry, and die the same. A parent’s anguish is the same in any language, and the high definition images of grieving broadcast across the world united us in our sorrow and in our compassion for each other.
Muslims celebrated the re-opening of churches and synagogues, as Jews and Christians did the opening of mosques. People of all cultures attended Chinese New Year celebrations and filled the sky with lights for the Spring Lantern Festival, displaying our solidarity and jubilance in the relief of sanctions. We hugged. We embraced. We spoke in broken foreign dialects a universal message “I’m so glad to see you. Thank you.”
I’ll tell them about how we stopped and focussed on what was most important
While our initial urge had been to make ourselves as busy as possible trying to hold onto life as we knew it, within six months we’d started to realise that we could get more done with less. We found that some of our work habits were actually hangovers from the first, second or third industrial revolutions and no longer necessary. Some were even counter-productive. They’ll laugh as I tell them how many useless meetings we used to go to before we realised we could just send a group email.
I’ll explain that when we realised that we could do eight hours of work in five hours, we initially tried to fill that extra three hours with more work… but soon realised the best return on that invested time was actually engaging with our spouses and children. In the absence of outside social interaction, husbands grew to know wives, children engaged in deeper conversations with their parents, and mutual understanding grew. Not only that, with gravitas to the fragility of our older citizens, children talked to their grandparents on mobile devices every day, rather than seeing them just a few times a year. Bonds were built, stories were told, and wisdom was imparted.
Holidays were no longer about where we could afford to go, but rather what fun we could have together in the back yard, what games we could invent, and how we could make each other laugh. I’ll tell them how families became united again, after several generations of being pulled apart by lifestyle and career forces.
I’ll tell them how we learned to love our planet more
They’ll be shocked when I tell them how companies used to send executives from all over the world to Switzerland, or Bali, or Cancun for “strategy retreats” or “summits” costing millions of dollars and untold environmental impact, when the exact same conversations could be had using any number of online platforms. To them it will seem reckless to travel so much for no reason. And I’ll agree.
I’ll explain that the dramatic improvement in web-conferencing and telecommunication technology that came out of the isolation phase meant that many workers no longer had to return to a physical office when sanctions were lifted. Many knowledge-workers instead moved their families to outer and rural areas, easing congestion in major cities and decreasing commute times for all concerned. Again, this led to greater time with friends, family and social groups along with lower pollution.
I’ll show them pictures of how Mother Nature roared into action, reclaiming her oceans, forests and skies as our interference faded. How stunned we were to see how quickly our negligence could be undone when we were sent to our rooms! I’ll explain sadly that it still took many years for all countries to play their part, but that the great Corona Crisis gave us a blueprint of what was possible.
I’ll tell them how we shifted who we idolised and who we empowered
When we could no longer go to concerts, we realised it wasn’t the musician we missed but the energy of the crowd and the driving base in our soul — something that has been with us since beating drums around a fire thousands of years ago. When we couldn’t go to the cinema anymore, we realised it wasn’t the actors we missed, but the sharing of laughter, excitement, fear or relief that we experience when watching a movie together — something that was hardwired listening to old story tellers throughout our history. It was something we rediscovered telling stories around a firepit in our back yards. When there were no sports to watch, the opinions of athletes no longer seemed to hold much weight. Rather what we missed was a common goal to support, a common team to cheer for. That team became humanity.
When celebrities died of the disease, we recognised them as mortal, like us.
Most importantly, we saw leaders from around the world either rise to the occasion, or drown in their own incompetence — often dragging their struggling populace down with them. Over time, we began to elect leaders based on their ability to lead in crisis, communicate clearly, and demonstrate behaviours we wished to emulate. Candidates that sought to divide us were rejected, as we began to learn this only weakened us.
I’ll tell them how we never again took our safety for granted
I’ll warn them that many of us in what used to be called “first world countries” took our safety for granted. We thought that pandemics and virus outbreaks were things that happened in other countries, and that our expensive medical facilities and world-class doctors would stop it from happening to us. We didn’t bother keeping supplies, because we thought our supermarkets would always have what we needed. We didn’t check on our neighbours, or even know their names, because we’d figured they’d always have enough like us. And we didn’t build communities or take responsibility for our security, because we never thought that someone living in our street would get so hungry that they would steal from us… or worse.
They’ll look at me incredulously when I tell them that the first thing that we fought over was toilet paper.
Most importantly, I’ll tell them that the biggest learning out of our lack of preparation was not to stockpile so that we would be okay, but so that we always had enough to share with our neighbours. We realised, as all societies in history have in times of crisis, that our strength is our tribe and the tribe is our strength.
Yes… there are a great many stories to tell, and we will be proud of what we accomplished in the wake of the COVID Crisis. And while what we endure will pale in significance to what our own grandparents and great grandparents had fought through, to our own descendants we will be heroes that crafted change and solidarity that brought an unprecedented era of prosperity.
At least, that’s the story I hope we can tell.