We are ALL in this together – What if this crisis might serve us?
In the midst of all the confusion, fear and uncertainty, we shall not forget to look at COVID-19 from all perspectives. What if this virus, this pandemic, this global emergency helps us to unite, reset and bring us together? Do not get me wrong, the intention of these few words is not to downplay the current situation. We now officially live in a state of emergency, a societal challenge where have the privilege to watch a drama, a movie, in real time.
But when looking closely at the problem, it becomes clear that we are ALL in this together now. This is a pandemic, and every human has a chance to be an emergency respondent, a crisis respondent. “Crisis” a noun of Latin origin, with an actual meaning of “decision”, “choice” or “election” pointing to the fact that we always have more than one perspective when judging and acting upon situations, even the one now, which is an unstable one, an pandemic moment involving an impending abrupt change. So, while painting the doomsday scenario is one reality, especially when monitoring the difficult and horrific situation in countries like Italy, let’s not forget the positive ones.
Awareness. Focus. Priorities
This latest crisis forces us to look at the way we live and become aware of the most minor things. How has washing hands become a new thing? But in light of COVID-19, we all likely are more diligent in how we treat ourselves, what we eat or how we protect ourselves from germs. The virus ultimately also raises our awareness, it pushes us to focus on what is important to us. We start to think about whether it is wise to go outside or visit our loved ones, we cherish the fresh air, we assess the risk of harming ourselves and others and are more aware of our decisions, mostly.
And let’s be honest. Probably most, if not all of us, have had a thought crossing our mind wondering “what if this is it”? What if we or our loved ones catch the virus? What if we are not one of the mild cases? What if it gets tough? It forces us to reflect, contemplate and focus on what is important to us. While worried, we retreat and our priorities are on ourselves, our families, friends and relationships and making more money than to cover the basics comes second. Food and sanitary items, over luxury and fashion. Sounds quite sane, actually.
And even better, people start to talk again. We feel more connected. COVID-19 connects us. Everyone talks about it, everyone is affected in both private and professional lives and never have I witnessed connection, be it local or global connection, in such form. We humans start sharing, collaborating on various matters. From taking care of our elderly neighbours, to sharing and developing vaccines across countries and companies to fight the virus, to incredibly surprising rapid and mostly coordinated political decisions not only in a nation, no across countries, nations and continents. Yes, one can argue “why did it take so long”, at the same time you can ask “how did this happen so quickly?”. When before have you seen unanimous votes in a political decision, as seen in the Austrian parliament, my home-country as an example, on Sunday’s (!!!) decision on emergency measures? It is amazing to watch what is possible and what we are capable of as a society in crisis-mode, when it counts. We just need to really want it.
When looking closely, rarely before have we seen leadership qualities and collaboration – even cross-country – of such magnitude. The crisis clearly shows, we can act fast. We can act in a unified fashion. We can enact change, even on things that we would not even have imagined in our dreams. This should give hope! We as humans can do it. We just are in the process of shaping and reshaping our lives in real time, and politicians, the economy and the people work together actively to fight the virus. Local polls show that most Europeans support their governments and believe the actions taken are necessary, despite hard restrictions and steep cuts to social life and jobs, which would have been unimaginable weeks or even days ago. So, we are capable and there is no excuse of why we could not do this again in the future, with other topics like healthcare, climate change, the international economy or human rights? What is holding us back to not also tackle considerably larger issues that impact our society? The exogenic shocker COVID, could be the gamechanger to lead us to rethink, on how to deal with issues that are looming and creeping in, maybe not as prominent as COVID, but more subtle.
Furthermore, COVID even forced us to act on some of these issues and show us a different angle. As the unimaginable global shutdown continues, NASA reported some of the cleanest air-levels and reduced pollution in some areas of this world, where people usually struggled to breathe clean air, potentially resulting in saving more lives than threatened by COVID though. The G7 refrained from travel and just held am extraordinary video call, the lockdown results in most companies having employees work from home, both following the social distancing paradigm and hence reducing the carbon footprint. What if we use this time to become curious, creative and innovative, in reference to Isaac Newton, whose social distancing during the London Plague inspired him to some of his boldest and most innovative thoughts. The current epidemic also raises the question again on general vaccination (e.g. influenza) again. The flue, a phenomenon which is linked to more than 0.5 million associated deaths per annum, and in many countries actually one of the largest stress-factors on the health systems, is actually a problem that could be prevented. So, when we now hear that the general flu-epidemic, and the risk of pneumococcus bacteria – especially for elderly, are main risks also in the COVID situation, one might re-think to take our doctors’ advice more seriously in the future. And no, I do not want to get into a vaccination debate.
The crisis’ influence on the economy, makes it clear again: we are ALL in this together now, it is a GLOBAL issue and just what happens in China has a global impact, similar to what happens in Italy, Germany, Iran or the USA. We are a connected society, economy and cannot escape the fact that our economies are fragile, and isolation might not be the wisest thing. The crisis shows the need to rethink and learn again to collaborate, cooperate and work together by establishing more resilient local economies, who work together, as our dependencies on a working global economy make us vulnerable if we forget or fail to work together. A sustainable economy, created by sustainable and sane politics on all levels, is what we can wish for. And arguably, one that many of us truly desire, especially in a situation where we are now challenged and making money (outside of/for basic needs) likely is not the top priority. Maybe through this difficult situation, we reconnect and learn to work together again and not leave out emerging or frontier countries. What if we understand, we are a global team and show our leadership qualities as we do now?
We must leave no one behind!
The latest WHO COVID-19 Briefing from 13 March, pretty much sounded like leadership guide, which we all, as humans, as executives, team-leaders or regular employees can take in. World Health Organisation Executive Director for Emergency Response, Dr. Michael J. Ryan, clearly stated: We must not leave no one behind. Because the only way to beat this virus is by leaving no one behind.” He also touched on one thing, that got me personally thinking again. “Perfection is the enemy of the good in crisis response” leading to a problem that many of us have when taking daily decisions: “The problem in our society at the moment is that everyone is afraid to make a mistake, everyone is afraid of the consequence of error, but the greatest error, is not to move. The greatest error is to be paralyzed by the fear of failure. Now take this in. We are in a unique situation where we can show our qualities to act fast, even in democracies and across countries. We are ALL in this together.
So, while there is no need to downplay this emergency at all, let’s not forget the positives and test ourselves out and leave our egos out for a minute. Let’s work together every single one of us. COVID is great, as by helping yourself you help others. In remembrance of what it means to be humane, to be connected, caring for others and our environment. Let’s take this seriously. Let’s be aware and diligent in what we do. Let’s connect to ourselves and others and help our elderly, our youngest, our dearest. Let’s contemplate and take the chance to cherish on what we have, our food, our shelter, our relationship, our work and a whole lot of support for the most part. Let’s support the ones who are not so lucky at this stage. Let’s thank the ones who are there for us now and some of whom even put their life on the line for us, in this crisis.
It starts with us.
Let’s become conscious crisis and emergency responders as well and do our part. Spread facts and love and understanding, think twice before sharing rumours, before judging or criticising anyone for their behaviour. Leave no one behind. It starts with you, and me. We are all in this together.