Global attention on the Corona crisis is unparalleled – I certainly never saw such global attention for such a long time focused on one topic only. Not even the opening of the Iron Curtain in 1989 can really compare to this situation, where all over the globe people take the same measures and try to stay informed at the same time. Yet the discussions concern a huge range of different aspects – so how can we start to orientate ourselves in this extraordinary global debate?
The first image that comes to my mind is the Curve. The curve illustrates where the Corona crisis is discussed through FACTS AND FIGURES. The normal distribution curve that lifts up steeply into unknown heights, and the large area between the peak and a horizontal line indicating the carrying capacity of our health systems. Everyone is now trying to get that peak down; people call is ´flatten the curve´ – in fact it is stretching the curve over time, since the total of people getting infected and people getting sick is likely to stay the same. But we need to fit the new cases into an existing capacity of hospitals, hence we are in this race to stretch the curve.
But we all also talk about our own situation: how do we self-isolate in practice? How do we cope with this physical distancing (many of us seem to have more calls, messages and virtual meetings than ever before, so socially we are still very active)? How is virtual collaboration working for us? What do we like in this lockdown situation, and what do we hate? And how do we deal with not being allowed to see people who we love – and who live just half an hour away?
This BEHAVIORAL aspect of the crisis is certainly going to have a major long-term impact as we all learn new skills and practices and discover new things. It also helps to cover up a third aspect that we may try to avoid – yet this aspect is hugely influential and demands massive energy from each one of us. We all have friends or relatives who are vulnerable, have preconditions or are simply old, many living in countries with insufficient health systems even on good days. A common friend of ours lives right in the middle of a top crisis region, has a severe health precondition himself, two small kids, and his wife is a doctor in a local hospital and is managing a catastrophic situation for several weeks. She can´t now get home as she needs to avoid infecting him.
This factor is FEAR, and I think it is important we admit the scariness of this crisis – we don´t know who will be hit, who will live, how it will affect our health, but each one of us is really worried. It´s no time for stiff upper lips but certainly a time for courage.
Finally, it´s about the FUTURE. The internet is full with discussions about how the economy will be affected – will it change to the better? Will it collapse? Is it the end of oil? Is now a good time to invest in oil and gas? Is it the end of everything? Will we all learn to live better lives? Is it the final chance for a sustainable economy? What role will the bail-out packages play?
Just consider one surprising development: the extent to which the role of the state has suddenly changed. After decades of hearing the mantra that the state should privatize almost everything, we now see state-led requisition of businesses in order to produce what is actually needed. Governments are in control, what they say needs to happen, massive stimulus packages are being thrown into the battle, governments have the center stage. Neoliberal recipes look shaky and government leadership is in high demand.
The entire experience feels as if humanity just got a massive message from God in form of a virus-shaped kick up the backside. Will we learn? What can we do to learn? What can we learn?