NOTE: For this week I will be pausing my continuing series on Understanding to address the COVID-19 Pandemic. Each post this week will focus on a different aspect of the issue. Today’s post is about our personal reactions to what is a worldwide experience.
Also, as long as the points herein are described calmly and in simple matter-of-fact terms, this is also how we can use the experience to teach children a healthy respect for science and the good practices that it can point us toward. This experience can also help children to recognize that every nation’s citizens share our humanity.
Not since the Moon landings has the entire world been so transfixed by a single subject. If we slow our thoughts down to notice the reality of the moment, it’s worth noting to kids that they are seeing a beautiful moment in history.
Never in my lifetime have I ever seen humanity so united and so cooperative; so shared in the focus of their consciousness, or so aware of our similarities.
It’s as though the pandemic has helped people to cease most of their normal thinking about the concepts that we normally let divide us. At this point, the name of a nation means nothing more to us than ‘an area that has counted it’s sick people.’ What we care about is, how many humans like us are sick? How many friends and family members are scared like we would be?
More than ever, we’re all aware that in the end our borders mean nothing when compared to our nature. We are truly all in this together. Globally. This means we each have a shared responsibility to each other. Never before has our tribe been so aware of the value of every single member.
As Patient 31 proved in Korea, if even a single member of the Tribe of Humanity ignores the fact that we are engaged in an actual war with an invading virus, the results can be tragic.
That single person’s actions lead to the economic damage of the Korean lock-down, and to dozens of unnecessary deaths. Let her be a lesson to us all.
Society will divide itself into three basic groups. 1) Those who over-react, like those over-buying products their fellow citizens may need much more than they do. 2) Those like Patient 31 who will under-react and expose others, and 3) The majority who will do what the scientists tell us to.
Those under-reacting are creating ever expanding explosions of infection that are likely to include people the virus-carrier knows and cares about. That should be all the motivation anyone needs.
For those over-reacting, they can slow down and breathe a little deeper. Most people are listening to the scientific advice. Worldwide, it’s going really well. Right now, panic is our biggest danger. So there’s a reason to be lighter about all of this: it’ll actually help.
This is where we can all learn to love and thank society’s mathematicians. Because they’re the ones that built the algorithmic models that the entire world can use to calculate transmission rates with great accuracy. That’s why we know that if we do as we’re instructed, our shared enemy is doomed.
A virus is a known part of nature trying to keep going, like all living things do. But we can consider it an alien invader. We can’t even figure out where to file viruses in terms of taxonomy, because they only half-fit our definition of a life form.
Their weird existence on the edge of what we consider ‘life’ does make them kind of cool. Which is why they attracted the attention of super-smart detective-like virologists and epidemiologists and statisticians who study where they go and how.
Regardless of us not having fully defined viruses on our map of life, we’ve known they’ve existed since 1892, when Dmitri Ivanovsky found one. Since then, we’ve learned a lot about them, which is very helpful.
If we pretend the virus is an alien invader from the planet COVID-19, then it’s weak compared to us. It can only kill the weakest or oldest among us. And even then, if we get medical help, it often can’t even do that.
Still, even if it’s only capable of badly hurting or killing some of us, that’s still hundreds of million of humans. So we do have to defend ourselves.
Fortunately, this invading army can’t survive for long outside of our bodies. It doesn’t have skin, just a layer of fat that we can slice through with a soap bubble.
That means, for any virus to survive, it needs to move from person to person. If it doesn’t move every couple weeks, with the exception of the weakest among us, our internal immune system will do battle with this virus and win.
That fact can be very comforting to kids. This is not a fair fight. We’re far stronger and smarter, and we have soap.
All we have to do to show we’re smart is to stay apart for a couple of weeks to make sure that our enemy can’t invade our friends and neighbours bodies. This includes unwisely sharing space, or a handrail or an elevator button, or tools or cards, through our often filthy phones etc. etc.
If we act wisely, the virus has no way to travel. Whether it takes us weeks to kill it or months –and how many people die in between– our actions will decide how fast we go. If we keep it to a minimum now, and our immune system kills it within a few weeks, life can go back to normal in no time.
We can drive ourselves crazy by focusing on the downsides of this change, but we can also have our spirits buoyed by the fact that the vast majority of the world has acted wisely.
Thanks to everyone’s cooperation, we already know this virus will infect and kill far fewer people than it would have had the potential to do, had we not all worked together.
If we’ve ever wondered if human beings could get over their political, racial, religious and personal divides, we’re seeing now that we are always and forever only held apart by thinking.
Only a short time ago we may have cared more about a person’s religion, or ethnicity, or their politics. Today all we care about is, are they healthy?
During this crisis no person will care about the race, gender, politics or history of any healthcare worker who is offering them care or security. And that shows what those differences are ultimately worth.
As many places have already proven, we will win this fight because we’re using good information and we’re all working together.
Yes, panic will lead some people to behave beneath their usual standards. We must accept that as over-thinking turned into over-action. It is not helpful, but with 8 billion people it shouldn’t surprise us to see some people doing it any more than we see some being willing to be ‘Patient 31.’
If the majority of us do as we have been doing, and if we cooperate with others, this experience can act as proof-positive that the world is entirely capable of working together any time we choose to focus less on our differences and more on our similarities. That is a lesson worth carrying beyond this outbreak.
TECHNICAL POST SCRIPT:
For those seeking quality guidance on what to do relative to the virus, each nation’s Public Health Agency has done a fantastic job of wisely hand-holding the public through practices proven by science.
Public health officials are widely available on mainstream media, the radio is once again very useful. They can provide all of us with a coordinated handbook on what actions will result in the fastest and most effective end to this pandemic.
Here in Canada, in an unprecedented step, all of the broadcasters, the distributors and the government have cleared the way for all platforms to carry CBC’s 24 Hour News Channel for free. That way, no matter the device or distributor, all connected Canadians can have 24 hour access to the latest information from public health officials in their region. This also applies online through their GEM app.
Regardless of where we are, we can search for the relevant guidance from our official local health authorities, who will in each case be working with each level of government, and in turn with The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and The World Health Organization (WHO), to ensure the world is responding using the lessons of science.
In the end we only have three simply jobs:
1) Inform ourselves. Use quality resources like your local Public Health Agencies, as well as those of other levels of government, and worldwide we also have The CDC, and The WHO, as well as the major university’s virology departments. They will all agree on the scientific guidance on what to do.
There is nothing alarming in any of those places. The actions we need to take are very simple. Do not fall for snake-oil salespeople, trust the worldwide sources that all agree. Medicine currently doubles its knowledge every seven months. We know a great deal about what to do.
2) Act earnestly. We need to prepare and do as we are told. Every single recommendation given to us is drawn from scientific reasoning. They aren’t guessing, they are calculating. We should not be like Patient 31 and see ourselves as exceptions to those rules. If we’re human, the rules for everyone apply to us too. Thought-based ego-driven justifications are not worth killing anyone over.
3) Stay positive. Once we’re prepared and are staying informed, we can relax. We’ve done our duty, it’s been proven to work. With our part done, we can shift to paying attention to the enormous number of positives that grow out of experiences like this.
Most of the world is learning the science they learned in Jr. High School and then forgot. We now have a much better-educated society. Also, people are displaying kindness and generosity and making sacrifices all over the place. Many places had complete plans already in place, ready to deal with such an incident, and now everyone can benefit from their forethought.
It we’re being honest in our accounting, between the fantastic health officials that are now better-known to all of us, and the generosity of others in staying home or offering to shop or care for shut-ins, the preparation for, and response to, this outbreak is all very genuinely heartwarming.
Without us having to struggle through this, much of humanity’s shared compassion would not have been this visible. Considering how many of us there are, and how big the planet really is, the world’s societies have cooperated well and to good effect.
Congratulations world. And slow, appreciative clap Earthlings. Slow, appreciative clap.
A serious childhood brain injury lead Scott to spend his entire life meditating on the concepts of thought, consciousness, reality and identity. It made others as strange to him as he was to them. When he realized people were confused by their own over-thinking, Scott began teaching others to understand reality. He is currently CBC Radio Active’s Wellness Columnist, as well as a writer, speaker and mindfulness instructor based in Edmonton, AB where he still finds it strange to write about himself in the third person.