We are now far enough along in this strange new Coronavirus world to at least start imagining what things might look like when this once-unthinkable disruption of our lives, health, and economy comes to a merciful conclusion. It could be weeks, months, perhaps longer. We may or may not be close to having a vaccine or reliable treatment. But one way or another, we had best prepare for an unprecedented and awkward re-entry into a world we once knew but, as after 9/11, will find profoundly changed.
Yes, we remember the first world, and the ever-more-distant memories of the normal times pre-COVID. And we are now in a second world, gripped in the heart of the crisis itself. But how will things shake out in the third world we anticipate when the crisis subsides, when we feel safe returning to our now-altered lives?
In coping with a crisis far from the realm of possibility in the minds of everyone from President Donald Trump to the homeless man on the street, we have been challenged not only to squeeze every last ounce of restraint, patience, and compassion out of ourselves but also to find new pathways, new talents, new habits. Add up the changes that are occurring to, and in, each of us, and America will undoubtedly be an altered society when the smoke clears and the fog of war is replaced with that most blessed of commodities: normal life.
Like discounting the high and low numbers, the “outliers,” from various polls, we can start to prepare by simply refusing to devote any of the additional time we now have on our hands to chasing the most outlandish predictions. Don’t bother to consider, for example, that the virus is a hoax, or Trump has a secret stash of ventilators, or two million Americans will surely die. The great recession did not kill the world economy forever; 9/11 did not lead to World War III; Hurricane Katrina did not keep New Orleans down.
We know that familial relationships will either be strengthened or weakened by overexposure. But that is hard to quantify, given tens of millions of individual families. For society as a whole, however, some consequential or even wholesale changes are foreseeable in many areas of life.
One thing seems certain: The internet will be more predominant than ever. Because so much of our economy is based or supported online, the work of so many people can now be accomplished in an infinite number of locations, as it has by necessity in these last weeks. There exist in the United States alone more than one million internet-based businesses — and that’s just the official count. Thus the internet has saved the country from the virtual return to the Stone Age this episode would have signaled as recently as 25 years ago, when today’s internet was little more than a Jetsons-like dream.
Those who have rechanneled their work to home or elsewhere will evaluate the experience and likely ponder afresh the associated joys and trials. Of course, many will be forced to rethink their very careers. Businesses will similarly evaluate externally based productivity during this unique time and adjust accordingly. Does the change in productivity mean we can perhaps afford to close some of our brick-and-mortar operations and streamline the budget? Did some employees show themselves to be unnecessary or unqualified to think on their feet? Can we make our business secure from this type of outbreak in the future by adding more of an online component, or even start all over with a new internet-based company?
The striking contrast during this time between the seamless continuity of online operations like Liberty Nation and the wrenching displacement of those who rely on the offline world will hardly be lost on the many purveyors of commerce gasping for air at this time.
China: Never Again
Given what Trump calls the Chinese virus, and our dependency for medical and pharmaceutical relief on the very source of the virus, it has now become fashionable — and predictable — for even longtime China apologists like Joe Biden to jump on the anti-China bandwagon, after saying less than a year ago, “China is going to eat our lunch? Come on, man … They’re not competition for us.”
As Trump demonstrated in his hardball negotiations for a new trade deal, not to mention his constant chiding of China for years before his presidential run, we long ago should have been outraged over growing American dependency on China and Chinese infiltration into American life and commerce. Rest assured that big changes will be fast-tracked after the virus.
State of Education
The universal transfer of virtually all educational operations to online portals during this crisis represents a forced radical experiment in the limits of online education, which could well result in a spike in the online presence of academic institutions. Considering that the cost of secondary education is rising even faster than that of health care and is thus unattainable for so many, the ability of colleges, or even high schools, to reduce their overhead and shrink out-of-control tuitions, together with students’ ability to learn without having to go to a classroom, is a plus-sum outcome that could signal a sea change in how we educate rising generations in the 21st century.
The Border Wall
With every nation in the world desirous of closing its borders to prevent the spread of the virus, how hard do you think Democrats will now be willing to fight Trump on building his big, beautiful wall on our southern border? More than 150 miles of it have already been built. Construction is likely to pick up significantly when the coast is clear.
Sports — Essential to Society?
It’s been said that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone. And considering the collective withdrawal symptoms evident in fans of every sport on the planet, the paradise that is competitive sports does indeed look like a parking lot these days. It seems clear that each of us individually will reconsider, by necessity, just how vital this most popular form of entertainment truly is to us, and it will certainly be reflected in the growing or dwindling popularity of the various sports. But one thing seems certain: After the starvation diet of this perpetually on-demand form of entertainment for weeks or months on end, sports will become either more or less important to society writ large, but they will never again be viewed in quite the same way.
In the end, pride goeth before the fall. And lest we get too full of ourselves, some hard and bitter perspective: All of mankind has just been thwarted by a virus from a bat. Think about that. A virus from a bat. If that doesn’t make you — and all of mankind — more humble, nothing will.
Read more from Tim Donner.
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