COVID-19 has changed the daily lives of everyone in fundamental ways, and all of humanity is impacted by it. How different leaders and cultures respond reveals a lot. But by and large, the shortage of basic supplies means that countries are looking to their own interests first. This is understandable. How often have we been told to secure our own masks before assisting others?
We are having a difficult time with the present situation, because we are conditioned to handle crises that are recurrent but finite, both in duration and location. Hurricanes, mass shootings, fires, recessions. We know about how long these tragedies last, how to minimize their damage, and how to rebuild afterwards. Now, even these “manageable” disasters are growing larger and occurring more frequently.
This is difficult to determine, partially because we are dealing with a lot of uncertainty. No one can say when it will be safe to attend a ballgame, go to work, go to school, go to church, eat at a sit-down restaurant, or take an international flight again. Resuming these activities—once so common that we had no reason to suspect we couldn’t do them—now depends on a mélange of trial and error, risk calculations and policy decisions.
How can we be certain that we’re minimizing harm without also minimizing well-being or human rights? Have we done enough? Too much? Is our intervention worth the unprecedented job loss, life-disruption and social isolation? How will it end?
There is a reason why this piece is mostly links. If I could stand on my deck and clap, I’d cheer for the journalists who are doing extraordinary work covering the COVID-19 pandemic. They are essential. There’s a lot of fake news, rumor, scams and fear-mongering in the world now. Yet real news, good journalism, is a bright light in our current darkness.
What humanity is facing is difficult and complicated, but that is no excuse to rely on easy explanations and pat answers. Journalists show us the bigger picture. They hold our governments, organizations, authority figures and businesses accountable. They distill complex information into something we can understand and use. They show human faces behind the mask of large stories.
This piece draws from a variety of news outlets (if you follow the links, though, you’ll notice I’ve read a lot of Atlantic articles recently). There are several approaches that share this story in different ways. Long articles. Short articles. Academic articles. Photographs. Polls and graphic visualizations. U.S. perspectives. Global perspectives. Science perspectives. Policy perspectives. They all combine to tell a large, unsettling story. This is my abbreviated telling.
If you have time on your (freshly washed) hands, you should find a few sources here that are new to you. I just play being a journalist—these authors are the real deal. Please take a few moments—or all day—to appreciate their amazing work.
These are the questions we’re all asking each other, privately and publicly (and distantly, through social media). Unfortunately, there are no definitive answers. Even experts are coming up with a wide range of possibilities—to say nothing of the rest of a country already divided. These disagreements and their consequences are unfolding in real time. And such consequences are troubling.
COVID-19 is a prelude to other “fat tail” global challenges—ones that do not discriminate but instead reveal the many ways that humans do. Our knowledge, networks and social structures will be tested to the limit. How are we going to respond?
Is it possible to see, act and react with one accord, relying on facts we can all trust? Can humans, through the institutions that organize them, ever achieve this on a global scale? What will become of us and our children if we can’t?
How are you managing during the pandemic? What things are you reading or doing to cope? We’d love to hear your story! Email us: firstname.lastname@example.org