There is an incredible shift happening in our culture, our relationship with the world, and each of us individually. Just on the face of it, this graph from the CDC shows that, in three months, 1 in 170 people in the USA have become infected. The infection rate is still running 25,000 new cases each day, and even starting to trend up again, while states and cities are relaxing the social distancing rules. There will be thousands of new cases each day for many months, and probably a huge second wave in the fall. We are in this for the long-haul, my friends.
This pandemic has killed more US citizens than the Vietnam war and the Korean War put together, soon more than we lost in World War I. By the end of the year, it will almost certainly be a quarter of a million. World wide, cases are still climbing rapidly.
It’s almost as though the planet is having a Bob Newhart moment, “just stop it! “ Air pollution is way down, octopus are returning to the canals of Venice… it’s as though a planetary reset is occurring, shifting governments, politics, industry, economics — the very fabric of humanity.
“American exceptionalism” is on its way out the door, dissolving faster than snow in on hot plate. Far from exhibiting global leadership, we have become the location of the biggest devastation from this virus, we have one of the highest infection rates in the world, we have shown the poorest response by encouraging businesses and states to open back up even as the mortality rate is climbing, we are the butt of international jokes, and other countries are sending us aid (thank you!) Of course, our global influence was waning before the virus hit, thanks to the idiot we elected to the presidency, but I digress.
This is a collective ego death. Whoever we thought we were as Americans was mortally wounded by 9/11, and the virus is finishing the job. We have been the biggest consumer of global resources, and now we are the biggest recipients of this pandemic. I can only hope that we emerge from this with more collective humility.
The economic reset is vast. Twitter now allows all employees to work from home. Many closed restaurants, movie theaters and other venues will never re-open. An acupuncturist friend is closing her office in San Francisco, permanently. With unemployment perhaps heading for 30% (Depression-era levels),bankruptcies on the rise, airlines and aircraft manufacturers on the brink of failure, sports seasons shut down…
Nearly all of us seem to be reexamining something fundamental about how we live and what we do. If we weren’t already working from home before COVID-19, we are now — and mostly liking it. In my tech-centric circles, we’ve been doing this for years, but now I’m hearing from friends in other careers who are seriously making changes. People who work in schools, or commute to non-profits are giving up their positions or changing their agreements to support work from home.
No one wants to expose themselves or their loved ones to the virus, so airlines, public transit, bars and restaurants, hotels, the cruise industry and international travel will take a long time to recover. No one wants to spend their day in a high-rise with a shared ventilation system, or get on a plane, or go to a movie theater.
I’ve read at least six articles about Americans moving out of cities or emigrating to other countries, because they are realizing they don’t need to live the same way after months of sheltering in place. Why live in a city where everything costs more, and you can’t go out for food or entertainment? This should be devastating to real estate in San Francisco, Silicon Valley, New York and other urban centers with pricey real estate.
Kids are schooling from home, forcing us to spend more time parenting and examining our family values. I have no doubt this is causing a ton of stress, both for kids with less social life, and parents working from home who have to manage their kids full time.
It’s almost like when I was a kid, before cell phones and computers. Games and jigsaw puzzles and books are super popular, kids playing ball in the street, everyone experimenting with baking, arts & crafts, gardening and growing vegetables.
The space we’re creating between each other is allowing us to introspect, and make new choices. With less crowding, less commuting and more time to feel ourselves, we can sort through our obligations and expectations and concepts of who we are, and find what is most meaningful. My partner and I are having some of the deepest conversations of our relationship. I’m
These two resets, our larger society and our inner selves, are coming together for political change. Black Lives Matter. Car caravans are stopping traffic, marches have shut down the Golden Gate bridge several times, Minneapolis is disbanding their police department. Yesterday, we watched several hundred cars assemble on our street, full of signs, music and kids, for a BLM drive across Marin, and as I’m writing, there is a large rally happening down the street at the school.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that we are seeing such an outpouring of political protest right now. Stuck at home and many without jobs, people are looking to find something to make this time meaningful and important. Pushing for political change is one way to do that.
And I’m anticipating an explosion of creativity, new business models, and a new relationships with government and each other that must be coming. Even as our economy and our livelihood collapses and shifts. I can only pray that we can navigate this time without either global or civil war.