Will We Waste the Lessons of the Covid Crisis?
We find ourselves at a critical moment in the world’s history. Our country has weathered a global pandemic and economic collapse just a decade following a catastrophic financial crisis—the Great Recession. We have survived, but is that enough? Don’t we want more for every citizen and our communities? For ourselves and our families?
A sense of urgency can serve as a catalyst to improve our lives, but we must avoid falling prey to the hysteria trap set by many in politics and the media. The world is not ending. And clearly, the 2020 coronavirus pandemic has accelerated many changes and advancements in the way we work, including greater flexibility in where and when. This, in turn, has created tremendous workplace diversity from a geographic perspective.
The global pandemic has also energized innovation and progress in the way we obtain professional services. Perhaps the biggest example is telemedicine, which leverages technology to make a board-certified profession available to everyone. Other professions, including legal, are right on the heels of telemedicine. LegalShield’s vision of accessible, affordable, and accountable lawyers for everyone is approaching the tipping point.
This global pandemic has also revealed that we must accept far greater personal responsibility through healthier lifestyle habits. While 93% of COVID-19 deaths occurred among those 55 and older (and 0.2% were younger than 25), the most jarring fact is that 94% of those who died had an underlying medical condition – hypertension, diabetes, respiratory conditions. The US is an out-of-shape country! Another disturbing factor is that this virus disproportionately hurts minorities, where these comorbidities are prevalent, due to poor diet, unequal socioeconomics, and inadequate access to healthcare. And doesn’t better self-care extend to our environment? Absolutely!
What else has this painful pandemic brought to light? How about the critical need to overhaul the education system? Specifically, every student needs internet access and an appropriate device to enable that access. We need to seriously retrain mid-career workers trapped in dead-end or slowly disappearing jobs, enabling a transition to higher-demand, higher-paying occupations.
Now is the time for change.
At the beginning of the Great Recession, President George W. Bush spoke to world leaders of the G7, admitting the mistakes the US had made, vowing to fix things, and then asked for help. He said, “We will be stronger together. We must show humility, responsibility, resilience, and solidarity.” He won the room and thus began the unified effort to recover. As we consider our individual choices to be part of the solution for our environment, economy, health, and education, I wish to focus upon these four virtues as our guide:
Humility: Governments are pumping a staggering amount of money into the economy. Stimulus for households and businesses is flowing. While people can claim they are entitled, I suggest we all humbly acknowledge that this cannot last, and ask ourselves, “What comes next?” Many people have the natural tendency to feel pretty good with more money in the bank. The unfortunate side effect of the stimulus is a loss of ambition and desire to work. Here, the words of American industrialist Henry J. Kaiser come to mind: “Live daringly, boldly, fearlessly. Taste the relish to be found in competition – in having put forth the best within you.”
Responsibility: Governments around the world need intelligent fiscal policies. In the past year, many people simply needed money to get by. But now, real job creation to address the inequalities of the past decades needs to be our focus.
We need smarter investments in infrastructure and technology to create, not replace, human jobs.
Governments around the world must construct tax policies that incentivize technology to support labor rather than supplant it.
We must address pollution and clean energy with initiatives that are job-heavy and capital intensive. We need regeneration not redistribution.
Finally, even with mass vaccination, individuals must remain committed to keeping themselves healthy and others safe through mask-wearing, hygiene, and social distancing.
Resilience: While I believe our economy will get better this year, I also believe we must plan for future failures or crises. Not because we want it to be true, but because war games or scenario planning builds our current capacity to anticipate and navigate in this brave new world. Building resilience means building buffers. For our world, for our nation, for ourselves; for example, earning more, saving more, and reducing debt. Yes, now is the time for fortitude.
And speaking of “brave new world,” we live in a time when the largest institutions in the world – Google, Facebook, Amazon, federal and state governments—continue to use fear to maintain and expand control. This is being done through data. Anyone who is under the age of 30 has had their entire life recorded. The data is perfecting, and it is being used to shape human behavior. When everything you do – your movements, what you say, hear, watch – is recorded and tracked – you are not free.
Everyone who aspires to power, from huge transnationals to state governments, understands that data is the lever of influence to shape and control human behavior. For some, it is to make money. For others, it is to manipulate opinions. For others still, it is to win votes and achieve power. Whatever their reasons, we have the responsibility to protect our privacy, reputations, and legal rights. Technology can help, but vigilance and action are required to make it work.
Solidarity: Beyond everything else, each of us has a choice: Will we unite and rebuild or continue the divisive, partisan arguments and personal attacks?
When it comes to social provocations and political tensions, we must create the “better normal.” It starts with your behavior. Build bridges, not barriers. Focus on the problem, not the person. Our communities have real issues such as the ones I’ve highlighted– the economy, environment, education, and healthcare. We can agree we want things to improve. We can agree that we need effective government and private sector co-operation to serve the needs of the many, not the few. As the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”
The time is now to open the doors of opportunity to attain higher standards of justice and security. The time is now for change. The pandemic may have illuminated chinks on our armor; are we seeing opportunities or needed change? Nationally? Personally? Let’s hear your thoughts.