I’ve had a problem with crowds as long as I can remember — I can’t stand them. Football matches, supermarkets, cinemas, shopping centres, etc. They drive me crazy.
Not because I’m anxious around people or socially awkward, but rather because masses of people in crowds seem to forgo their individuality and behave like automatons. On the city streets, navigating idiots who stare blinkered into their mobile screens, presents a particular irritating challenge.
You see, I’m fundamentally introverted and enjoy my own company over the company of others — that’s just how I’m built. So nothing has really changed for me since Coronavirus, other than the space where I previously found myself alone now has other people.
On a serious note, however, cities to me are impersonal places.
People pass each other on the street, immersed in their own private world taking no notice of others. Homeless people with complex psychological needs lie in doorways, and the disadvantaged become statistics. Governments with primary concern for fiscal matters pay greater heed to commercial interests than they do human needs. The disadvantaged seem to suffer until such time as those tasked with decision making feel the direct impact of conditions.
High density populations create additional problems such as production of household and commercial waste, transport pollution and, of course, increased likelihood of the spread of infectious diseases. It is a narrow short-term focus, a collective ignorance of the real need of people and prioritisation of economic concerns that bring about the change we are witnessing.
No one is to blame, yet everyone is to blame.
“Our contemporary Western society, in spite of its material, intellectual and political progress, is increasingly less conducive to mental health, and tends to undermine the inner security, happiness, reason and the capacity for love in the individual; it tends to turn him into an automaton…”Erich Fromm, Psychologist
The entire global commercial complex has almost ground to a halt. Markets have crashed, perhaps millions are out of work and international movement of people has ceased. Although Greta Thunberg and co. might like to think it changes behaviour, street demonstrations and well informed speeches highlighting our shortcomings on environmental issues, don’t. Instead, Black Swans force change.
Coronavirus was (is) a Black Swan, and rather than trying to predict them, Nicolas Taleb suggests, we need to adjust to their existence. Black Swans are a dramatic feature of evolution and force consumers and commercial interests into a corner. The condition of having no other option, changes our behaviour, and what we are seeing with Coronavirus is the inescapable effect of universal evolution. This is not just evolution of humanity, but the evolution of a broader universal entity, of the entire earth.
I have long held the idea, as I listened to warnings of impending planetary doom from environmentalists, that humanity is incapable of destroying the earth. In suggesting so, we highlight our own naivety and underestimate the evolutionary forces that gave rise to us in the beginning. We posit the hypothesis that we are somehow outside nature when in fact we are a product of it.
I am in no doubt, that the human race will be brought back into line, forced to work with this planet instead of against it. The current global conditions reflect this, but I think in the near future humanity will look a little different than it has done for the last forty or fifty years.
As global commercial interests and the survival of the species is under direct assault, things are shifting in a major way. Just as war amongst ourselves brought about major technological changes, the war against coronavirus may bring about major social change.
Restaurants, cinemas, clothing stores, movie studios, public events, schools, colleges, government departments and many other features of what we considered normal life have shut down. Some will never open again. The change to how we live has come like a blunt hammer blow to people and communities and many are struggling to cope.
It has highlighted to me how utterly limp, and incapable we have become as a species. We have such total reliance on societal systems that many communities, just like the businesses, will disappear altogether.
Humanity, scientist and inventor Buckminster Fuller wrote in 1980, is moving ever deeper into crisis — a crisis without precedent.
Coronavirus is neither good or bad, and it is careless to focus on either especially in times of large scale flux. As Fuller further wrote;
The black hole is not a negative. As implosion is to explosion, the black hole phenomenon is to the inside-out, expanding Universe. The black hole is the inverse phase — the outside-inning phase — of cosmic evolution.
With regard to the evolution of humanity, Fuller goes on to say;
The individual decision-makings and unforeseen happenings around the world and the Universe at large, altogether synergetically produced historical results not contemplated by any. Such non-contemplated-by-any results constitute evolution.
Coronavirus is, therefore, evolutionary. It is merely the means by which the gestalt organism that is planet earth has corrected for the behaviour of human beings. It's the vehicle by which this species may evolve psychologically and socially and survive the next 100 years and beyond. It is necessary and inevitable.
So as we attempt to come to terms with the apparent negative outcomes, we can choose to either collapse under their weight, or accept them as Fuller and Taleb suggest.
“No matter how sophisticated our choices, how good we are at dominating the odds, randomness will have the last word.Nassim Nicholas Taleb
On a positive note;
- We may be witnessing the end of narcissistic capitalist greed which has been hell-bent on tearing up the planet and sacrificing lives for the sake of profit.
- Growth of collective community mind and a reduction in polarisation, racism and other forms of social elitism and bias.
- Decentralisation of the workforce and a move towards independent workers operating from home. We have been seeing the shift towards the gig-economy in recent years and Corona will certainly speed this transition.
- Instead of commuting to work for up to four hours a day, and leaving our children with minders 5-days per week, there is a greater opportunity for closer connection with family and with self. Jobs will be lost, but skills won’t. As we find ourselves unemployed, there is the opportunity to become self-employed.
- Less vehicular traffic on the roads will lead to improved air quality in cities and the environment will begin to heal. According to some sources, this has already commenced.
- Slowly, or perhaps not slowly, we will realise that the rules we thought were so important, do not apply. Water and electricity services need not be switched off for inability to pay bills. Interest on unpayable loans can be written off, and people need not be turfed out for not meeting their mortgage payment.
The tough times are only beginning and after the isolation and control period has passed, there will likely be widespread social unrest — I’ll be surprised if there is not. We will also see a widespread fear-based motivation amongst people to conform to perhaps draconian laws and regulations. Pharmaceuticals will be wealthier and more influential than ever, and governments will have an increasingly well-behaved, compliant population.
Regardless of the continued negative outcomes, we have a choice; either recoil under the pressure of it, or figure out a new way of doing things.
Change is difficult, it’s supposed to be. I know corporations have marketed to the idea that ease is somehow to our advantage, but it is not. Life is inherently changeable, not fixed. Most of the time the changes are negligible, but occasionally they are large and rarely they are massive, as we have seen.
Life is about stimulating our organism sufficiently on an ongoing basis such that we can cope with these large scale changes. It’s like attending the gym and lifting heavy weights for months and years on end, then one day you’re in a car accident and you survive by virtue of your strength and ability to withstand the trauma.
Coronavirus is the car accident.
“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance.”Alan Wilson Watts
I have enjoyed your writing and the design of your blog whenever I visit. Deep insights written simply. Clearly. Easy to understand. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and observations. Leads me to look at life and situations with new eye view. Thanks
I’ve been sensing a shift for some time now and Coronavirus has accelerated it. It ssems that people are gradually becoming willing to accept that change is necessary and we will all just have to go with it. Your very considered post puts it quite succinctly and I enjoyed reading it, as well as the comments. I liked the quotes you selected too.
In the face of Covid-19, my thoughts turn to similar situation from a century ago. I’m thinking of the “Spanish” influenza. 500 million infected (about a quarter of the world’s population at the time). 50 million dead (more or less). That was between January, 1918 and December, 1920 — two whole years. I don’t know if Covid-19 will take two years to play its cycle out, but I’m not making bets either way.
In reflecting on your six summary points, they represent potential for enormous positive change. But there are huge forces set against those changes. I like the changes, but I wonder if they are really possible. I’m not making bets either way.
Yes Rob, I think we are entering, or rather we have entered, a significant period of change to how we live. In 50 years time how human beings live and work will be very different. Many thanks for reading!
You conveyed my thoughts EXACTLY! As I was watching, reading, researching and listening to the plethora of information and opinions on this current crisis, my brain was overflowing with jigsaw pieces of my own feelings and conclusions about this. all the while trying to remain as objective and non-judgmental as possible. Your article put the puzzle together! Thank you!
Hi Gayle, glad you got value from it. Many thanks for taking the time to read!