Updated on February 8, 2021.
“We’ve never seen anything like this!” News reporters keep telling us that we are living in unprecedented times.
But are we?
Let’s put the current coronavirus pandemic into a historical perspective, and then, let’s think about what it means for our future.
In an article aimed at scuba diving industry professionals, Cathryn Castle Garcia did a great job of giving some perspective to the current coronavirus crisis by reminding us of what people born around 1910 went through: the first World War of 1914–1918, the Spanish influenza of 1918–1920 that killed 50 to 100 million persons, the Great Depression of 1929–1933, and the second World War of 1939–1945. Ouch!
Her article is meant to be a morale booster. The current pandemic is severe, and numerous people have lost loved ones — and faulty leadership made things worse. But compared to some of the “unprecedented” events our ancestors lived through, we’re having it relatively easy.
A global pandemic is not an unprecedented event.
Furthermore, by continually making statements like that (“unprecedented,” “never seen before,” “black swan”), we are somehow implying that it was unforeseeable. It was not.
We knew there was a pandemic coming. We knew consumer debt was too high; millions did not have healthcare coverage in the USA; many small businesses were having a hard time surviving month to month; income inequality was on the rise; governments were too slow and bureaucratic… We knew.
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
That’s how it goes! And we could fix these problems later. Tomorrow. It didn’t need to be fixed “today” — which is true until it isn’t.
On a daily basis, what mattered were our short-term goals: the number of votes in November for elected government officials, this quarter’s financial results for corporate executives, and of course, how many likes I see on my Instagram posts.
We knew there were significant challenges around the corner, but we collectively chose to cover our eyes.
A global pandemic is not unprecedented, and it was foreseeable.
We are fully responsible for having been caught with our pants down.
The big question now is whether or not we will “remember.” Once we are out of the current coronavirus crisis, will we start planning more seriously for the future?
Will we remember that healthcare workers and grocery employees are more important than football prima donnas and Hollywood narcissists?
In the Charleston Gazette, author Eric Douglas raised questions about what we will do differently. While we are confined at home, how about we turn off Netflix for a few minutes and start thinking about it?
Do we remember the 2008 financial collapse? During this crisis, numerous people believed the world would never be the same after that. Certainly, we were going to fix the issues that lead to such a disgrace. But have we? No, we have not.
“This is not an industry that has examined itself and remade itself in the wake of the crisis.” ~Wall Street Journal
What are the chances we do better post-coronavirus pandemic?
It is fair to assume that certain things will change. It may accelerate the development of work-from-home. In the dive industry, the handling of scuba diving gear rental will most certainly be improved. We may see the rise of a “touchless economy.” And so on. But…
Will we jump on the occasion to fundamentally change how we prepare humanity for the future?
We could have been ready for the coronavirus pandemic.
Will we find a way to curtail our obsession with short-term results long enough to prepare for upcoming and current challenges facing humanity?
Being ready to fight the last war is no way to win the next one.
It’s up to us. If we all go back to business as usual, our leaders will, too. The ball is in our court.
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