In the Great Pandemic of 2020, all of us have good days, and we have bad days.
On a bad day, this writer authored a ten-point list of predictions, none of them good.
They included: the rise of demagogues on the far Right and far Left, each preaching their own brand of xenophobia and exclusion. Another prediction – not so far-fetched – that the economy would continue to collapse, along with cities and key infrastructure.
Corruption. Tax revolts. Surges in theft, mental illness and domestic violence.
The ten-point list did not go over well. People didn’t like it.
So, another list was prepared. This one also had ten points – but was far more optimistic, and was based on things that this writer has observed. Things that are actually happening, right now, right here.
People will treat each other in more neighbourly way. All over, this is actually happening. The Internet is full of emotional accounts of citizens – on their own initiative, and often at their own cost – ferrying deliveries of food and medicine to those who are sick, or alone, or isolated. There has been an upswing in kindness, everywhere.
People will find creative ways to socialize while social distancing. The Internet is helping them to do this: virtual birthday parties, Skyped get-togethers of friends, online jam sessions, FaceTime group chats, remote tours of cultural places that are far away. Global Internet usage is up by a third – and WiFi calls by as much as 82 per cent, says AT&T.
People will become more creative and productive, because they have the time and the motivation. My own consulting firm, which long ago embraced a decentralized client-service model, uses online tools – videos, graphics, testimonials – to achieve public and government relations goals. And we’ve gotten busier since the pandemic started.
People will not let the arts wither in isolation, and they will find ways to connect to new audiences. Right from the start, this has been happening. Boston’s Celtic punk legends, the Dropkick Murphys, hosted an online concert on St. Patrick’s Day. Why? Their lead singer, Ken Casey: “At this point no one’s thinking about finances, we’re thinking about lifting spirits and getting through this thing…” Nearly ten million people watched their free show.
People will reconsider past views about politicians and institutions, and re-assess. Ontario Premier Doug Ford, for instance, has become much more popular because of his candour and approach during the pandemic – at one point even driving his truck to a Markham dental equipment firm to receive a donation of thousands of medical masks. An early CBC analysis found that 60 per cent approved of the Ontario government’s approach to the pandemic – a figure most expect to grow in the next round of polls.
People will adjust and find new jobs and new ways of supporting themselves and their families. Coronavirus could – and probably already has – driven unemployment to 20 per cent. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business projects a third of small and medium-sized firms will not survive the pandemic. So, say groups like Colleges and Institutes Canada, it is critical that governments help provide training for post-pandemic work – and governments, federally and provincially, are pledging to do so.
People will accept that there is a right and proper role for government, and reject the Trumpian anti-government populist orthodoxy. In fact, even in the American libertarian heartland, a USA Today/Ipsos poll found wide support for “drastic interventions,” quote unquote, by government. Conversely, as the death toll goes up, support for anti-government types like Trump goes down – so, one ABC News/Ipsos similarly poll concluded that a majority of Americans now disapprove, or strongly disapprove, of Trump’s laissez-faire approach to the pandemic.
People will pay more attention to mental health, because many are experiencing how truly fragile mental health is in times of crisis. Calls to mental health crisis lines have exploded during the pandemic – so provinces like Ontario have ramped up online mental health services, and Ottawa has pledged to spend millions for kids’ mental health initiatives.
People will come together to find a cure for this beast, because so much depends on it. In Canada, vaccine clinical trials are underway at six different universities. And globally, more than three dozen companies and academic institutions are working to find a vaccine for the coronavirus. “There has never been such a rapid global collective effort to fight one disease,” said Karen Grépin, a public health professor at the University of Hong Kong. “Never.”
People will love each other more deeply, because they are seeing how quickly life can slip away. During this unprecedented crisis, this writer has lost friends and family of friends – including one long-time Calgary friend, Mike Bezzeg, who was killed in a tragic road accident, after taking food to a self-isolating acquaintance. Mike’s death – and every death during this terrible time – reminds us of the fragility of life, and how fleeting it is.
For Mike, and for all of the ones we will lose in the Great Pandemic of 2020, we need to lean towards – and work towards – the good days.
Because they are coming back. They must.
Photo Credit: Toronto Sun
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