Prepare Yourself to travel the road less traveled, and prepare for that road to be long. Prepare for a second wave of infection, economic, political and social chaos.
We are a part of a physical universe, one determined by cause and effect. As causes go, COVID-19 has been the mother-load and will go on to reaping unprecedented effects on our development as a species. This might sound dramatic, I hope so, but the truth is even more extensive and frightening. The road we chose as individuals and as societies will determine the future of humanity.
A greater than 20 per cent reduction in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at it’s most basic, means that there’s 20 per cent less cash, an economist will try telling you it’s more complicated than that, and I know they’re right, but they will agree it it means that we’ve all got a shed lot less money. This in turn might lead to societies losing confidence in the value of their money, causing either hyper-inflation or deflation, and the economic collapse of some currencies.
It’s difficult to explain how profound a 20% drop in GDP is, but let’s give it a try anyway. Less money for people to buy things equals less tax revenue, this results in a degradation of society’s infrastructure and services. Meanwhile causing a dramatic increase in unemployment, (In the United States unemployment through march and April, has been at 14%, a total of 21 million people, but here’s the catch, 15 million of these are recorded as short term unemployed. Meaning that when the COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, they should be returning to their old jobs. Entertaining the idea that everyone will return to their old job is infantile at best. A percentage of those 15 million will return to their old jobs. That percentage is a critical variable, because it’s unemployment that is the key to how long this depression lasts.
Unemployment will be the engine that fuels this economic collapse. Unemployed people go from tax paying citizens contributing financially to the state, to citizens on welfare taking money out of the state. Looked at as a number on a spreadsheet, an unemployed person goes from being an asset to the state, to an economic liability. The reduction in wages being paid, leads to less money being spent on goods, services and taxes, is, likely to drive the prices of things down, based on the simple premise that demand will be so low in non essential items. Essential items, i.e. food and medicines, could see dramatic inflation as supply lines have been so disrupted that demand will come close to, and in some cases might, out strip supply. So things you don’t need, luxury items, will become cheaper. Things you need to live will become more expensive. So, from what I can tell ,,in the future millions will die of starvation whilst immersed in an alternative universe projected by their iPhone X50 Deluxe. This leads to a rabbit hole question scenario:
If I die of starvation in the four dimensional reality I’ve lived in thus far, does my avatar go on living as meaningless an existence as I did?
How the West Was Lost
Why are western countries finding it much more difficult to get COVID-19 under control, compared to the majority of the world, and particularly East Asian countries? The amount of UV is a scientific hypothesis under review, but I’m well aware of fundamental societal issues that are having an impact.
I’ve lived in Southeast Asia for almost twenty years. I’m acutely aware of how western, and by western I’m referring to European and North American countries, have approached handling COVID_19 when compared with countries like South Korea, Japan, China, Vietnam and Thailand.
The most obvious difference with the Asian countries is their capacity to mobolise their citizens at a moments notice. In Thailand, the government often declares that its people should wear a black shirt the following day in respect of someone significant having just died. That order could come late on in the day, but I can assure you that the next day 80% of people will be wearing black shirts.
This mentality to follow orders is out of respect of the hierachal structure; right down from village communities with the headsman, up to Kings, presidents, or prime ministers. Conformity is respected. It’s regarded as having respect for others and foments a strong sense of community. Wearing face-masks, social distancing, isolation, shutdown, and implementing systems of contact tracing, has been easy in these countries where the community is regarded as more important than the individual.
During COVID-19, I’ve seen Western leaders repeating themselves with the same requests. Eventually their message attains a critical mass within the consciousness of the population, but this doesn’t result in compliance. The next stage of public reaction is to start asserting your individual liberties, a perception that your government can’t demand that you do anything. Hence we’ve seen the most bizarre reaction to governments asking their citizens to adopt wearing face-masks.
The contrast between western ideology of liberty, and eastern collectivism has gone unnoticed since the collapse of communism. But the United States, which is predicated on an ideology of liberty, individual freedom, has struggled to get its citizens unified to fight the common viral threat. In many of these countries when a leader tells their people to do something the people ask, why?
It begs the question of western democracy, why elect a representative who you will only go on to ignore?
The Ship of State – Demagogues, Democracy, and Socrates
In his book, The Republic, Plato defends the virtues of democracy to his teacher, Socrates, through what has become known as, The Parable of the Ship.
Plato describes society as a ship, with the electorate being represented by the ship’s owner who must decide who captain’s the ship. Each of the able seamen lobby the owner, making their case for why they should captain the ship. Plato even acknowledges the fact that it’s reasonable to expect the candidates to get the owner drunk, or offer bribes. But one of these men must be chosen by the ship’s owner. As the people in a democracy, the people must chose a leader.
Socrates disliked both the idea of democracy and his student’s analogy. Socrates feared that such a system leads to demagoguery:
As with the economy, change doesn’t mean polar opposite, but to make different. There are many things that are perfect with democracy, it’s just that as times change, so do means.
COVID-19 is likely to necessitate changes to our economy, such a moment in history makes it only obvious that we reappraise our democracies. Many countries have seen the standards onboard their ships of democracy degenerate, and start to resemble the conditions of , The Raft of Medusa.
Economic Recovery or Renaissance
If you say that today’s economic system is unjust, what some people hear is, “I’m a Marxist, wealth is evil and can only be achieved through exploitation and the theft of other people’s hard work.” but there is a middle ground. There are ways to make our economies work more justly for everyone. (As soon as you use the words ‘economy’ and, ‘everyone’ in the same sentence, somewhere, somebody’s Marxist alarm gets triggered.)
While I do say that today’s system is unjust, I’m more opposed to Marxist philosophy solving the problem. We can’t be so black and white, so absolutist in our rhetoric. The former Soviet Union and numerous eastern European countries provided us with categorical evidence that communism is an economic system that doesn’t work. Meanwhile, the 2008 global financial crisis made it pretty clear that capitalism has its failings too. Think of adjustments as opposed to complete change, or reversal.
At the very start of Part I, I asked myself a question about these challenging times:
Am I changing for the better, or worse?
We’re being asked to confront challenges of a nature no human has ever had to confront. Don’t rely on others to deal with those changes for you. Don’t expect someone else to come to rescue you. You alone are responsible for yourself and your dependents. It’s your duty to protect them. Ask yourself, are you changing for the better, or worse?
You will get through COVID-19, but the question is how will you get through it? Remember, Noah didn’t begin building the arc when it started to rain. Be smart, consider situations, be critical about the information you receive. There will be suffering, but how much you suffer is down to you. Are you changing for the better, or worse.
These are trying times, and they’re likely to be time of great social change. It’s when things are most difficult that change and progress happen. When we are tried, we become inventive. Adversity often brings out the best in us.
Ease is a greater threat to progress than hardship.
These days will pass, what we become might not be what we were, but that can be a positive. Although change comes with feelings of uncertainty, it always has the potential to be change can be for the good. But don’t look to others to make your changes for you. You are your own work of art, and you are the sculptor. How you change, and what you become; you decide.
Know that life is not fair and that you will fail often. But if take you take some risks, step up when the times are toughest, face down the bullies, lift up the downtrodden and never, ever give up — if you do these things, then the next generation and the generations that follow will live in a world far better than the one we have today.