Why I Am Hopeful About Coronovirus Crisis
While we may be seeing the back of the crisis hopefully soon, it is imperative we do not lose out on the lessons it has for each one of us – individually and collectively.
We are going through a time where the word ‘positive’ has taken on a negative connotation. Therefore, I will watch my words and the point I am making.
I think of myself as a cautious optimist man or an optimistically cautious man, don’t ask me the difference for I may not exactly know it – what I know for sure is that things do work out eventually- if not immediately.
While we may be seeing the back of the crisis hopefully soon, it is imperative we do not lose out on the lessons it has for each one of us – individually and collectively. It is said that we are condemned to repeat the lessons we don’t learn, and who in their right mind would wish to repeatedly suffer to learn a certain lesson?
Here’s what we can learn from the coronavirus crisis that will result in something of significance:
Safer World – Anyone?
Nassim Nicholas Taleb wears many hats. He is a scholar, statistician, a former options trader, and a risk analyst. He is most famous for his seminal work on randomness, probability, and uncertainty.
His books sell by the millions and evoke a sharp response from fans and critics alike.
Taleb can be accused of many things but ‘sitting on the fence’ is certainly not one of them.
He ruffled more than a few feathers when he said that “Every plane crash brings us closer to safety, improves the system, and makes the next flight safer—those who perish contribute to the overall safety of others.”
While that is a rather radical thought, and a bit repulsive too, if we were to reflect on it the truth of that statement stares at us unambiguously. Isn’t it a fact that despite all limitations Air Travel is still the safest mode of transport known to mankind? Yes, air crashes do happen rarely but the thing with air travel is that no aberrance is considered routine. Each and every aberrance is documented and steps taken to prevent it going forward – for all flights – everywhere. It becomes the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP). Thereby contributing to air safety.
Ditto for diseases and pandemics.
This certainly isn’t the first health hazard facing our people and our planet nor it is going to be the last one.
Therefore, lessons we learn here will help us navigate our way out of the crisis and contribute to preventing a pandemic of this magnitude in the future.
The Western African Ebola virus epidemic contributed to the creation of some protocols that we see health care professionals observe in dealing with COVID19.
Even the drug protocol that has given us some ray of hope comes for Ebola treatment, Malaria treatment, and others.
There have been countless conferences on the VUCA world or the Future of Work, Remote Working and Work-Life Balance. And thence comes a virus which makes us go the full continuum from denial to dreading it.
However, as small mercy it conclusively settles all the debates on the above themes. Coming to think of it the world cannot get any more volatile than this. The ‘Future of Work’ came unannounced and it was hardly recognizable since it wasn’t anything like the experts foretold. And no, it isn’t future anymore. It is here. It is now. There are numerous researches on the effect of ‘Work on Life’ and not enough on the effect of ‘Life on Work’? Anyway, it helps that I don’t see anyone whining about how travel is tearing through their ‘work-life balance’. That debate is settled.
No need to discuss the pros and cons of working remotely. It is the only option. The slogan changed ‘virtually’ from ‘Go Virtual or Go Home’ to ‘Go Home and Go Virtual’.
Before the crisis, many of us had had an exaggerated sense of ‘who we are’ and ‘what we do’. The crisis and the prospect of our own mortality have disabused us of all such misplaced notions.
It feels like we were all on a treadmill pacing quickly, but going nowhere in particular. The crisis has afforded us the pause that we needed to get off the perpetual treadmill. Be grateful for an opportunity that wasn’t afforded to any previous generation, to pause and reflect on ‘Where we were going? and ‘Where do we want to go from this point onwards’. We don’t have to be a prisoner of our past. Only honest reflection will set us free. It is imperative that a lot of paradigms that we held dear, so far, will change. We may see ourselves and what we do and why we do it in a new light. But we should not be worried about that. After all, no one ever died of reflection.
Collaboration, Not Conflict is the way
If there is one lesson for countries and people alike it is that collaboration is the way forward, not conflict.
China helping the world with what approaches are effective and what isn’t in the treatment of COVID19. The idea and intent are to help the world benefit from China’s response and suffer a little less in the process. President of USA requesting India for a medicine that is believed to be
effective in treating certain COIVD19 complications and the Indian PM obliges. The governments of the world haven’t seen anything like this before therefore, they are coming together and collaborating like never before. There isn’t no one-upmanship or ‘mine is better than the’ kind of a futile rivalry. Dealing with a crisis like a coronavirus needs everyone to play as a team. In the battle against coronavirus, countries are as safe as the weakest link. The risk of it reemerging looms large if any country is battling it. Therefore, there is a rush to develop a vaccine that can safeguard the humankind. Countries are keenly following and rooting for any scientific development coming from anywhere in the world.
Compassion is Critical
Let us be honest, till not long ago, we thought that COVID19 is a disease that happens to others. We had imagined ourselves to be immune to it by looking for flimsy evidence in our DNA, culture, and climate.
Mahabharata tells us about the conversation between the Yaksha and the virtuous Yudhisthira.
The final question that Yaksha asked of Yudhisthira was “What is the most wondrous thing in the world?”
To which the wise Yudhistra replied “Every day human beings see so much of suffering around. And yet they feel that can’t happen to them. That they will live forever. That is the most wondrous thing."
One would imagine that this was thousands of years ago and human beings would have learned and evolved from this. One would be wrong to assume that.
Look around you will see everyone running around in endless loop going about their business, confusing activity for achievement.
But why look around, if we are reflective, contemplative and willing to admit. All we need to do is to look in the mirror.
Aren’t we ourselves running around hoping that rushing to that next big thing will matter in the final analysis?
How many of us can truly claim that what we do is driven by passion and not by paycheck?
And even that passion of ours, is fueled by a desire for 'Greater Good' or 'Great Goods'?
Therefore, in these times, it is encouraging to see the circle of our compassion, care and concern extend beyond our immediate families to the less visible, less fortunate and less similar.
I know of groups of individuals, who have taken the responsibility for supplies of essential goods to less fortunate families in their neighborhood. And this goodwill is devoid of any selfish need of recognition, political or religious affiliation. In fact, the Mumbai police have acceded to the pleas of many Mumbaikars that they are allowed to execute a plan to feed animals and birds who aren’t
fed since their benefactors are under lockdown. It is important to remember that we don’t own this planet, we are merely a tenant here and share it with others. It is important we remain good tenants and leave it a bit better than how we found it.
In Conclusion: Context is Crucial
If we look at an ECG graph, we will easily observe some peaks, many valleys and a few nonlinear lines for the remainder of the graph. Now, if we were to look at our lives closely will it also not look like an ECG graph denoting few high points (peaks) and too many setbacks (valleys)? However, on the whole, these make life worthwhile. Like an ECG a human being incessantly strives to avoid the straight line for that denotes death or boredom, which is synonymous in many contexts. Psychology tells us that crisis often consists of some ‘life-changing events’ that when leveraged well offers the significant opportunity of growth to the one willing.
The question is when we look back at all of this, say in 10 years, would we see a crisis or would we see a window of hope for us, the world and the generations to come?
Will we be able to course correct and stay off the ‘self-destruct’ mode we were so accustomed to? Will history record this as a turning point in the history of homo sapiens?
I am hopeful because human history suggests that almost always possibilities have won over pessimism eventually.
Phil Knight, Founder of Nike says it best in his autobiography “The cowards never started, and the weak died along the way. That leaves us, ladies and gentlemen. Us.”
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house