face of COVID 19. Unfortunately, Real reality is finally rearing its ugly
head. Wide spread social disruption in the face of this virus will bring
with it unimaginable levels of global human suffering. Let’s look as just
some of the dynamics facing us as a society.
- If you close the US and Canadian borders, you keep out the migrant
workers who are vital to the fresh food we grow during the coming
growing season, and so endanger people’s fresh food supply for the next
- If you use war time legislation in the belief that you can ramp up
manufacturing of ventilators, gas mask, disease tests and so on inside
the boundaries of your own countries in a world where basic good and
components (Tier 1 and Tier 2 manufacturing) has largely been exported
to other countries, you will find that first you need to re-establish
broad basic good and component manufacturing inside your own borders
first, a massive task.
- If you plan to use chip-based components that can run the complicated
algorithms that underlie ‘smart’ abilities in modern devices you
manufacture to deal with this virus, you need to realize that many of
those chips are manufactured off shore, not within your boundaries.
- If you as a politician tell large numbers of your citizens to stay home
in the name of social distancing and disease control, you will son face
some hard facts.
· You cannot ramp up within your border manufacturing and service delivery,
particularly health care service delivery, while telling people to stay at
· You cannot drive forward or even maintain a consumer-based economy when the many people in your society live from pay roll to pay roll won’t have the income they need to pay for housing and food, never mind restaurant meals and other consumer goods.
- You cannot expect people to work without instituting realistic
community transmission measures –
- large numbers of N95 caliber personal masks,
- · ultraviolet light fixture at work place entrances to help kill viruses,
- · enhanced stock of soap and water in adequate workplace restrooms and the
right to use them based on personal decisions rather than employer permission,
are just a few which have been suggested.
- You cannot expect a $1000 cheque or 2 to replace income stream people
could lose for 12 to 18 months. It is no use fighting about this amount
as some politicians seem to be doing. Stop thinking about ‘buying
votes” and get real about the deeper problem.
By and large, I have been appalled by the lack of social realism shown by
politicians and even health care experts in the face of this pandemic.
Modern society depends on a complex, constantly shifting set of
relationships that are mediated by all types of contracts based on social
conventions that now span the world.
To believe that you can shut that complex set of interdependencies down for
the 12 to 18 months health care experts now stay is required to contain
this pandemic is simply unrealistic. To ignore this reality is to be the
proverbial ostrich – a head in the sand approach to a coming social
The real threat posed by his virus is the gradual collapse of this complex
mesh of relationships.
The first challenge for social leaders, which is a group broader than
politicians, was to contain the spread. Some nations have done well at
that. Others have not. Some seem to be ignoring the need. But as anyone who
paid attention to social dynamics could be expect, on average the
collective response of political leaders around the world rates about
average. Regression towards the means is real when it comes to wide spread
social activity, including widespread political leader activity.
Our next challenge will be reshaping our global social reality without
falling into a historically backward-looking paranoia that blames people
from a different country or of a different ethnicity for what is happening.
Blame might feel personally good. But it does not mean much to the virus
which could be infecting you and could be threatening your life.
Addressing the social consequences of this pandemic, and marshalling a 12
to 18 month social response will require a level of global dialogue among
social leaders from all parts of our societies. We have the technology
needed – the ability to conduct virtual conferences over the Internet –
that is unprecedented in human history. If we don’t get started on making
that happen, many people will die, economies will take a deep recession
hit, and the world will need years, perhaps even decades, to recover.
We were warned. (See this Atlantic article.) This type of warning has been
part of a lower level awareness that has spread among many everyday people
around the world. Many of us have seen the pandemic movies that inspired by
these warnings. We choose not to hold our political leaders responsible for
what amounts to an almost criminal negligence in the face of these
warnings. Now we are paying the price.
But we will face a much more drastic price if we do not insist that we move
beyond the sort term-ism that is characterizing most of the political
response to the pandemic. We need to continue the short term containment
- social distancing,
- wide spread testing,
- ICU facility ramp up,
- open disease spread and recovery information dissemination,
- a well funded search for a vaccine.
- enhancement of the vaccine production and distribution infrastructure,
- and so on.
Jim Collins finding, documented in his seminal book on what makes
organizations great, Good to Great is facing us all in the face.
Great organizations take an AND approach to things, not a BUT approach.
They proactively look for solutions that address both the sort term AND the
We need to formulate more AND responses to this unthinking virus.
Come on Mr. Gates and Mr. Buffet and the others in other countries and the
others who have benefited so much from the way the world has evolved in
last decades. Call for this kind of wider, more integrated dialogue using
Internet video conferencing to bring the people who are thinking along more
long term lines together. Disseminate the results widely over the Internet.
Help our reactive thinking politicians become more long term active in the
faced of this unthinking, but widely spreading virus.
Andrew Stutesman on Unsplash for the map