Whether we find a vaccine, figure out how to treat it or simply learn how to live with it, one thing we know for certain is that the coronavirus and the state of the world it has hastened will come and ago. And when this current crisis ends, and it will, one question among many other pognaint and powerful ones many will ask is: Have we as a species learned the right lessons that will allow us to change our communities, systems, and world for the better? Or will we simply double down on our worst and most destructive tendencies?
Humanity at Our Worst
Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.Yoda, Star Wars: The Phantom Menace
Fear is a powerful emotion, especially for many who live in communities and places that have never been directly impacted by nature’s wrath and power—drought, earthquakes, disease, tornadoes, tsunami, hurricanes etc. But, worse than nature’s forces, its our reaction to them that often times make or break us as communities, nations and species.
Guided by fear (and the manipulation of it), our most destructive and toxic habits as a species thrive. History has shown many dark passages and chapters in our past (both distant and recent) in which we became more isolationist and xenophobic, oppressive and regressive: concentration camps, hate crimes, genocides, and more.
Humanity at Our Best
We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness—not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there’s room for everyone and the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone.Charlie Chaplin, The Great Dictator
But there have also been times in which we learned the right lessons in the aftermath of tragedy and catastrophe. The formation of the United Nations in the aftermath of World War 2 and its hope of becoming a peacekeeping force that would help resolve conflict around the world, the creation of Doctor’s Without Boarders 1968 by doctors who wanted to go help the sick and injured in war and disaster areas, or South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission which was created to address the injustices that occurred during apartheid are just a few of many examples in which humanity learned the right lessons.
COVID-19 and It’s Many Lessons
COVID-19, like many other challenging moments in human history, both man-made and natural, exposed our points of weakness and where there was room for improvement in our communities and countries (and world), our systems and policies, our laws and regulations, and our leaders and institutions.
This virus exposed the flaws in our healthcare systems worldwide. It illuminated many societal socioeconomic disparities that not only impact people’s access to healthcare, but how they are treated once within those healthcare systems.
Some environmentalists will argue that COVID-19, much like the Bird Flu, Swine Flu and Ebola, is in part or entirely a product of human beings encroaching on animal habits. The lesson being that the more we encroach on natural habitats the more we are likely to continue to encounter these new deadly viruses and diseases.
From paid sick leave (or lack thereof) to safety in the workplace, the virus exposed issues related to workers’s rights. It exposed how, even in the most thriving and booming of economies that have the resources to do better when it comes to the rights of employees, workers are not given the economic and health-related protections they need to keep themselves and their loved ones safe and financially secure.
There were lessons to be learned in how different leaders around the world responded, and how those responses had positive and/or negative results. From the missteps of China and the United Nations to the competence and great leadership shown by leaders in countries like South Korea.
Even how we as individuals and communities responded carries with it some insightful and sometimes harsh lessons. From the selfish and explotative hoarders and price gougers to our selfless first responders and responsible lockdown rule followers, our actions as individuals and communities sometimes had a direct impact on the welfare and well-being of not only our loved ones but the larger community.
These are just a few examples of many more lessons that people smarter and more impacted than me could go on to list and expound on; lessons many of us would only hope we embrace and use to better ourselves and society as a whole.
Our Fates Are Intertwined!
You develop an instant global consciousness, a people orientation, an intense dissatisfaction with the state of the world, and a compulsion to do something about it. From out there on the moon, international politics look so petty. You want to grab a politician by the scruff of the neck and drag him a quarter of a million miles out and say, ‘Look at that, you son of a bitch.Edgar Mitchell, NASA Astronaut
To the objective and intellectually honest mind, one of the biggest lessons is quite obvious: in a world in which our economies, politics, travel, religions, health, resources, social structures, security and general wellbeing are interconnected and codependent, our outcome as a species, in order to coexist and thrive, is better served by rewiring the way we percieve ourselves in relation to others we may consider different (or defficient) and building bridges.
Stuck on this small planet, our fates have always been intertwined as much as we might try pretend they aren’t or make it so. Be it by race or borders, wealth or religion, political affiliation or any other creative tool, method, or mindset we’ve created to isolate and divide, time and time again, many tragedies and events have always taught us the same lesson over and over again. You take a step back and you quickly realize that many low points in our species history have ALMOST ALWAYS been resolved and remedied by us setting aside our petty and most toxic mindsets and coming and working together.
And the Coronavirus will be no different: we will find ways to work together across labs and expertises, socio-political differences and geographic. My only worry is that after we conquer this disease TOGETHER (some having been stubbornly forced to), we’ll forget we did and revert back to our default setting until the next man-made or naturally occurring crisis: a crisis we might not survive if we don’t start embracing our oneness and using that new spirit to preempt tragedy and suffering.
Kwapi Vengesayi is an Amazon bestselling author whose books explore captivating musings and thought-provoking conversations about love, relationships, life and our human experience. You can find his book on Amazon. You can also follow him on Twitter @kwapiv or subscribe to his blog at kwapiv.com