Lessons I hope we learn from COVID-19

After a week of isolation, my hopes of a quick resolution to the current pandemic appear dashed. Watching the events in Italy, the writing is on the wall: the coming weeks will see great loss of life. I hope this virus is simply a nasty flu-like season we must get through. I hope this is only a fire-drill from conservative epidemiologists. I fear it is not.

While Fin is off at work (animal shelters can’t simply close), I’ve spent a lot of time staring out our living room window thinking. Adversity should encourage growth. During this adversity, here’s the things I hope we learn.

Solutions to complex problems are not magic creatures conjured into being by the demands of industry or government. I fear we won’t learn this one – social media is currently a frenzy of demands that government or industry “do something”. Smart People will figure it out. If only Orange-Man used execute power to… If only industry would… Spinning up factories, redirecting supply lines, researching a vaccine – all these things – take time. Ask any engineer that’s gone through a death-march project. As my father-in-law would say, “Want in one hand. Shit in the other. See which one fills up first.”

Societal praise for presenteeism is killing people. Despite decades of repeated notes that school Perfect Attendance awards heighten bad flu seasons – schools persist in heaping praise on the least responsible category of people. I’m not sure when this started, after-all – social isolation of those sick has a long, long, long history. Hey there Boomers, if you want me at work with COVID-19, I’ll be happy to lick your keyboard. We need to end this sick fascination with workers that never quit despite spreading their germs to everyone around. If you haven’t called in sick for XX years – you are an asshat and don’t care about your fellow workers. Well, that is, presupposing you have a choice…

Be a person. How is it companies and governments can’t get their collective heads far enough out of their asses to notice basic humanity? From work place policies that ignore frailties of human nature to government unbending government bureaucracy incapable of considering individual circumstances. After a week of throwing out so many rules, the world marches oddly on. How many disabled people are shouting “I told you so” about work from home and sick leave policies created by 60s era thinking?

Life is fragile. Our world exists from time spans and violence incomprehensible to the human mind. The largest man-made nuclear detonation in history doesn’t even register as a rounding error compared to the energy of the Chicxulub crater impact (for the mathematically inclined 0.00005% of energy involved). Forget about global warming – the world economy was brought to a halt by a single mutation of billions of constantly mutating microbes.

As a society, we need to revisit basic resiliency. As our capacity to grow food and build shelter increased, so did our desire for more things. Companies and people stretch themselves until even minor roadblocks represent life-altering events. The poor barely have money to eat, while the middle class and wealthy barely have money left over to eat. Now, time to break from pontificating about modern fragility and work on the garden.

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