A world where elements such as death, taxes, and way of life were formerly considered immutable. Not so any more. I believe that life, not necessarily for better or worse, will change. I believe that as the resilient species that we are, we will adapt to that change and become better and stronger. Adversity teaches us this.
Two excellent examples of the human spirit coming to the fore would be:
- The Blitz, the 56-day Nazi bombing campaign against Britain. Winston Churchill and his cabinet were amazed and heartened to witness the outpouring of human goodness—altruism, compassion and generosity of spirit and action. Churchill was awed by the selflessness of the emergency workers, police, ambulance drivers, firemen, front line medical personnel, as well as the besieged citizens, all galvanized into action as a result of the terrifying conflict being wrought upon them.
- 9/11 or the 2008 Financial Crisis. Both being events that reshaped society in lasting ways, from our travel habits and home purchases, to the level of security and surveillance we’re accustomed to, and even to the language we use
The above examples are parallels with what we are now witnessing. Those on the front lines against coronavirus – our doctors, nurses, emergency medical personnel, pharmacists, teachers, caregivers, store clerks, utility workers, small-business owners and employees. Many are suddenly burdened with seemingly impossible tasks, all the while at risk for contamination and death which was never in their mandate.
These new Crisis moments have also presented the world with opportunities: more sophisticated and flexible use of technology, less polarization, a revived appreciation for the outdoors and life’s other simple pleasures. No one can predict exactly what will come, but here is an attempt at a path to the ways in which the many facets of society as we now know it—government, healthcare, the economy, our lifestyles and more—will change.
Some of the anticipated changes:
A global, novel virus that keeps us contained in our homes—maybe for months—is already reorienting our relationship to government, to the outside world, even to each other. Some changes these experts expect to see in the coming months or years might feel unfamiliar or unsettling: Will nations stay closed? Will touch become taboo? What will become of restaurants?
On a personal level:
The coronavirus pandemic has revealed gaping holes in our care infrastructure, as millions of families have been forced to confront this crisis with no precedents. With loved ones sick and children suddenly home from school indefinitely, parents have been forced to make impossible choices among their families, their health and the possibility of financial ruin. After all, meaningful child care assistance is extremely limited, access to long-term care is erratic at best (as witnessed by the terrible tragedies in long-term care homes and nursing facilities). Too few workers have access to paid family and medical leave, which means that missed work means missed pay.
This latter has also been compounded by the abysmal fashion in which front-line workers (PSWs) in these facilities have been treated. Low wages and benefits have resulted in PSWs having to work in a number of facilities just to make ends meet while the for-profit Seniors’ Long Term Care and Retirement Home chains continue to skimp on care while their executives have salaries that most of us can only dream about.
The rise of telemedicine.
The pandemic is already shifting and will continue to shift how and where our healthcare delivery takes place. For years, telemedicine has lingered on the sidelines as a cost-controlling, high convenience system. Out of necessity, remote office visits could skyrocket in popularity as traditional-care settings are overwhelmed by the pandemic. There would also be containment-related benefits to this shift; staying home for a video call means not having to risk using the transit system, sitting in the waiting room and, most importantly, being able to stay away from patients in need of critical care.
Tech – Regulatory barriers to online tools will fall.
COVID-19 will sweep away many of the artificial barriers to moving more of our lives online. Not everything can become virtual, of course. But in many areas of our lives, uptake on genuinely useful online tools has been slowed by powerful legacy players, often working in collaboration with overcautious bureaucrats.
A new, healthier digital lifestyle.
Now we can use our time with our new electronic ‘toys’ to re-structure the kinds of community we can create through them. Entrepreneurs can offer time to listen to pitches. Master yoga instructors can teach free classes. This is a different life on the screen and a far cry from playing inane video games or responding to banal Facebook or Instagram postings.
The personal becomes dangerous.
With recent events, such as the Yonge Street massacre, the Danforth shootings, the Lac Megantic tragedy, this recent senseless tragedy in Nova Scotia, we discovered, as a nation, our vulnerability to calamities we thought only happened in far-off lands.
This loss of innocence, or complacency, shows us that we can expect to change our way of living. We know now that touching things, being with other people and breathing the air in an enclosed space can be risky. How quickly that awareness recedes will be different for different people, but it can never vanish completely for anyone who lived through this year. It could become second nature to recoil from shaking hands or touching our faces—and we might all find we can’t stop washing our hands.
The comfort of being in the presence of others might be replaced by a greater comfort with absence, especially with those we don’t know intimately. Instead of asking, “Is there a reason to do this online?” we’ll be asking, “Is there any good reason to do this in person?”—and might need to be reminded and convinced that there is. Online communication will be ratcheted up: It creates more distance, yes, but also more connection, as we communicate more often with people who are physically farther and farther away—and who feel safer to us because of that distance.
Finally, some long-held ideas will vanish and do not need to re-surface. Covid-19 has forced people to navel-gaze and discard beliefs that no longer stand up to scrutiny:
- All men are not created equal;
- Money can most assuredly buy happiness, not to mention food, shelter, medicine and peace of mind;
- America is not the greatest nation on earth;
- Tomorrow is not another day.
One last thing — the illusion that we all have more time? that has to go forever. Carry on treating the people you love as if every day might be the last.
Terry Lynch – 416-315-1787