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Where’s the kaboom?

At least, that’s how I pictured the end of the world – including the roman centurion’s helmet. And make no mistake, this pandemic IS the end of the world as we knew it, or at least, the beginning of the end. I don’t mean in a calamitous, population-decimating kind of end of the world. I mean, in the way we live and work and play and be. And politic.

The COVID-19 pandemic has and will be devastating for many hundreds of thousands of people. On March 22nd, for example, there were 1,604 deaths worldwide, bringing the total to 14,611,  and 30,372 new cases were reported for a total of 335,362. New York’s reported cases totalled more than all of those reported in either South Korea and France. (On a more positive note, the 22nd was the 4th consecutive day of no new cases being reported in Wuhan and a 90 year old grandmother recovered after almost dying from COVID-19)

Recently, there has been increased talk of recession, and massive support packages being released in almost every country the world over. In Australia, between Federal and State governments, hundreds of billions of dollars are being made available in an unprecedented manner – but still, many will miss out. In Denmark, the government is paying 75% of the salaries of employees of private companies – if those employees stay at home (toughly the equivalent of $2.5 trillion dollars over 13 weeks) Australia appears now to be following suit. With the PM’s latest announcement today (29th March 2020), these measures may need to be maintained for some time.

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Real, lasting change never comes without pain. That pain can be the very thing that stops the change, but we must persevere. There are already hundreds of stories of courage being shared, and thousands more to come. This courage, this compassion, is coming to the fore, and it will redefine us as a society. It must redefine us as a society, because if it doesn’t, we will go through this again and again and again.

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So what are the lessons to be learned here? I imagine that most will have a different view – both a strength and weakness – but here’s my take at the current time (and I claim no points for original thinking in this)

  • Pride comes before a fall
  • Over-population and population density
  • An infinitely expanding economy with finite resources
  • Technology is under-utilised
  • Crisis drives innovation
  • We need to work together even if that means staying apart

Pride comes before a fall.

Australians have always had a very casual attitude toward authority, and it’s something we’ve been proud of for a very long time. This time around, though, it’s doing far more harm than good, as we continue to fail to isolate, and COVID-19 spreads further and faster. This time around, we need to swallow that pride, and stand up for our mates, but staying away from them. And everyone else. Japan is the almost diametric opposite, in terms of civil obedience, and it has done them well.

Over-population and Population Density.

The world is over-populated. Pure and simple, While there may be some argument as to whether we have the resources to maintain our current population, there is no room for debate hen it comes to supporting the continued increase. More so, COVID-19 is highlighting another danger of high density populations which we were aware of, but have never paid attention to. The more people you pack into an area, the faster disease spreads. We’ve known this for a very long time (the mid-1300s Black Plague, anyone? Guess how that ended? Quarantine… then fire). Even as late as 2018, there were warnings that we were not ready for this (Bill Gates was one). We cannot continue to crowd in to the cities, and press up against each other. There are many reasons for spreading out, and slowing population growth, but this puts the need under a blazing spotlight. Sir David Attenborough has a few things to say about this. This leads to the next point…

An infinitely expanding economy with finite resources.

As Dr. Haydn Washington via Dick Smith has previously noted,  to push for continuous growth above all else, in a world where resources, while vast, are finite, is insanity.  Environmental issues aside, this by itself is enough reason to switch to renewable energy and reusable resources. The single biggest reason against doing so is purely based on finances, and economy. This push to constantly expand drives the need to congregate, and the consumerism which our economy thrives on.  In a society where the bottom line takes precedence, we are going to continually fall.  We need to look further ahead, and beyond ourselves We need to get out of our comfort zone and be prepared to truly work together.

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Technology is under-utilised.

Something else that is being highlighted now is the under use of existing technologies. Working from home? Easy done for many – but not before COVID-19. Manufacturing companies switching products to cope with sudden demand in a different area.  All kinds of “innovations” in technology are appearing – but many have been available for years.

Whether or not they continue to be used once this situation resolves – or to what extent they continue to be used – remains to be seen. Much of that will depend on systems that could be more than what they are, but are not, because of short-sighted political point scoring (like the NBN).

Crisis drives innovation.

Every time. EVERY time. Understandably so, too. We respond best when the need is greatest. Can you imagine, then, how much we could change if our perception of the way our society currently works is as grave a threat as COVID-19? Or nuclear war? How much could we accomplish if our natural state was to innovate and improve?  Imagine if our priorities were different and our scientists were paid tens of millions, instead of our entertainers?

We could have Utopia. If enough of us want it, enough to make the change happen.

We need to work together even if that means staying apart.

More than anything else, after fires, and floods, and now pestilence, the single biggest lesson for us as a society is that we all need to work together – no exceptions – if we are to continue to thrive (not the same as expand). The panic buying, the irresponsibility of the mainstream media, the greed of the corporations, the disrespect for authority, the abuse of privilege and power . We cannot afford it anymore.

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