Hundreds of thousands, maybe millions will likely get the coronavirus and tens of thousands, maybe many more, will die from it. How could there be any upside to this crisis? There may not be. Yet, the incurable optimism built into the human psyche shows that we are conditioned to see the light at the end of the tunnel, the blessing in disguise, the bright side of life.
Here are a few possibilities (listed in no particular order) that could result from this crisis. They are no more than that – possibilities. And surely there will be a large list of downsides to counter these upside possibilities. But, just knowing that some good things might happen could blunt the pain for those of us who remain after the crisis has passed.
Less Crime – Some early estimates indicate that crime might be declining during this pandemic. This should be no surprise. Many crimes are crimes of opportunity and there is likely to be less opportunity with so many of us sheltering in place and adhering to social distancing.
An Increase in Cooperation and Acts of Kindness – During times of crisis a we-can-do-it-mentality often kicks in as does an appreciation for our obligations to others. This could unite a country that has been badly divided over recent years.
A Reduction in Global Warming – Reduced oil demand, travel, production and consumption may be bad for the economy but could be good for the environment. This could serve to kick start a movement to reduce global warming. We may find that changing our lifestyle is not as bad as first thought, that GDP and growth are not as essential to our physical and mental health as a cleaner, safer environment.
A Deeper Appreciation of Science – As we witness the importance of real science in the battle against COVID-19 and as our political leaders recognize this and speak about it, we may reduce the skepticism, paranoia and conspiracy theories that have undermined the truth in recent years by the “fake news” crowd.
Better Understanding of Key Infrastructure – food supply chain, medical supply chain, complexity of supplying stuff.
I think the whole “the kids aren’t going to school” thing might end up on the plus side. One, parents will now have to get involved in their kids’ education. Two, because the parents are working at home they might actually spend some time with the kids. Three, curricula for students will be customized and augmented. So in addition to following whatever online programs the local educational authorities come up with, parents and children will be able to take advantage of a rapidly growing array of online teaching resources.
There are big opportunities for the tech industry to step up and start bridging the digital divide. In the Los Angeles Unified — the nation’s second-largest school district, with about 670,000 students — 80 percent of its students come from families living in poverty. This amount of poverty — independent of the virus — is a crisis.
During the Great Depression, the government created the Civilian Conservation Corps, which created/cleaned up the National Park System. Could we find a way of repurposing all the folks put out of work by the closure of all the bars and restaurants?
More Working At Home, Voting At Home, Governing and Managing From Home
Creative Destruction – The famous economist Joseph Schumpeter coined this term to describe the impact of innovation in the economy – jobs and businesses in some industries die and are replaced by new jobs and businesses in other industries.
A different perspective is going to be Gen Z. They have an increased awareness of all things eco, and a desire for sustainability. They’re going to look at this and think about it as another example of the older gen messing the world up. They will compare the number of casualties to the number of people dying from environmental threats.
As we become aware that homelessness impacts not only those who are poor and without homes but all of us, if the homeless get sick they can infect us, there may be more efforts to cure homelessness. Homeless people are being housed in hotels, motels, etc. that are now vacant due to restrictions on tourist travel.
The Reversal of Tragedy of the Commons – Many have pointed to the problem with public property and public spaces. The individual considers them “free” and becomes a “free-rider” by using the spaces but not caring for them. This may change as we see firsthand how important such spaces are for our physical and mental health now that we are spending more time in these places.
Revival of Government – There has been a long and powerful push to reduce and even destroy government (Big Brother to the libertarians). In this crisis many are finding out about the importance and benefits of a properly functioning government. With this goes a greater respect for schools and teachers who all too often are responsible not only for educating but also feeding and clothing a large number of disadvantaged children.
More Trust and Respect for police, firefighters and medical workers – In this crisis it is apparent how much we depend on these frontline people. There has been a growing divide between much of the public (poor, minority, addicted, etc) and the police. It would be too optimistic to think this divide could be eliminated but it might be lessened as we see the heroic and volunteer efforts these groups provide in this crisis time.
All of this is possible. Such upsides may even be more probable as a result of the crisis. They are for now just thoughts. But, thoughts can be turned into actions. There is a naivete in the optimist, the dreamer, the hopeful thinker. I use a Mexican proverb in my novel Behind The Locked Door that speaks to this: There will always be a dead beast for a hungry vulture. But, must there always be a hungry vulture to feast on the optimist, the dreamer who sees a better future? We are about to find out.
I will end with this beautiful poem by David Dephy.
by: David Dephy
Standing on the edge of dawn on my balcony, I see the naked
world all around me. You are most beautiful
when you are most powerful and you are most powerful when
you are most alone, most open, most silent, my brilliant dawn in
front of me. I feel my wife’s hands around me, she made a coffee
for me. She is smiling. Behind us, in our room, our child is sleeping.
He is calm now. He is alive and we are alive and the dawn,
all around us, is alive. Don’t think about the past. I’ve thought to myself,
What’s done is done — you are free now and the freedom is a miracle.
“Yes it is,” said my wife.
She can read my thoughts, I’ve thought and smiled back.
Her smile and our child’s laugh is a miracle and that is home.
It creates the faith of a silent and beautiful and powerful dawn.