Mind Matters — Crisis As Opportunity

How quickly life can change. Got to admit, I never expected life to change all across the globe so abruptly. Not so abruptly perhaps if you are a scientist paying attention to the signals from China or a self-serving politician who figured the stock market would tank because he had been forewarned of an imminent pandemic.

Now that we are quarantined en masse, how will this change us? No matter how difficult the situation, how we respond to it is our choice. Will we as a nation be generous of spirit or hoard toilet paper and hide guns?

Many Americans experience only first world problems. (That is not to say there are many Americans who can’t claim the same.) Now, however, a pandemic is having us rethink our priorities. Personally, I am frivolous with my use of toilet paper which I have begun to self-ration. I look at food more carefully—not being as nonchalant about letting things land in the compost bin.

How do I know how the anonymous farm workers from Mexico who work in the fields of California will manage between the Scylla and Charybdis of sickness and closed borders?

How will delivery people manage to stay healthy? How will our postal service workers keep going? What of trash collectors? And Workers up and down the food supply chain? And, of course, especially health care workers. We rely on so many anonymous lives to maintain our lives. It is laughable that anyone could believe they are independent and self-reliant. Ayn Rand, the consummate icon of the “I,” relied heavily on numerous people to take care of her financially and emotionally.

We are all in this together. We see with this pandemic how incredibly connected we are . unlike natural disasters that can devastate large areas yet don’t go beyond a given geography, this pandemic has traveled the globe. Did it take a microscopic organism to stop us in our tracks, teaching us to see that what affects one of us affects all of us? I remember volunteering in various disasters, then leaving to go home—sometimes the disaster was only miles away—and I would see people walking around enjoying their day oblivious to the incident not that far away.

Few people cared about the ebola outbreak in Africa until (white) Americans were infected and came back to the U.S. Covid-19 may not be as lethal as ebola, but it is also far more able to be ubiquitous, knowing no socio-economic bounds or national boundaries. Of course, while the affluent can be affected their medical support and infrastructure to sustain them will be more secure than for those with little or no means. Will this pandemic teach us anything about equality vs inequality?

The Chinese character for crisis is also the character for opportunity. Crisis indicates a crossroads, a time for choice, hence an opportunity to choose the good. What will people across the globe—Americans included—choose in this time of trial? Will we unite together (keeping our social distance!) and care for each other—notice each other? I discovered today that a young woman, a refugee from Afghanistan, who works at a Dunkin’ Donuts, was given a forty dollar tip from a customer who thanked her for her service. Indeed where would we be without immigrants who continue to face adversity each day? Where would we be without all the people who care for us in hospitals? Who stock the grocery shelves? Who make deliveries? When this crisis is resolved, will we have used the opportunity to transform the world into a more equitable place for everyone? One can hope.