As dedicated as I am to that popular fiction which passes for imperturbable optimism, I am developing a twitch about the future. It is safe to say that my tentativeness surrounds the global pandemic. Whatever delight we may once have had in mobility throughout the globe has been seriously eroded. More significantly a similar reluctance affects anything we plan for the future. It was until only recently that one could with impunity book an appointment for a haircut. Dining out is as yet either a thing of the past or gravely considered.
“This is a virus circulating all over the planet. It affects every single one of us. It goes from human to human, and highlights that we are all connected,” said Dr Elisabetta Groppelli, from St George’s, University of London. “It’s not just about travel, it’s speaking and spending time together – that’s what humans do.“
“It’s the perfect pandemic virus of our time. We are now living in the time of coronavirus,” said Dr Harris.
“But countries that have got on top of the virus – mostly through painful, society-crippling lockdowns – are finding it has not gone away, will spread again if we relax our guard and that normality is still elusively distant.“
“Leaving lockdown does not mean back to the old ways. It’s a new normal. People have not got that message at all,” Dr Harris said.
The thought of being perpetually under the cloud of a global virus will I suspect promote a good deal of nonchalance and perhaps as a result a commensurate response which may at times be part of a developing wave of careless disregard. One needn’t go to the Falkland Islands to discover the truth of the adage, “Survival of the fittest“. The callousness of that observation does however nothing to compete with the random breadth of Nature. We as a human race may yet acquaint ourselves with the universality of a Dutch Elm Disease.
For someone my age (71) the hope of the future is narrow in any event; but I would imagine that young people (at least those who share my view of the need for constraint) interpret the limitation with little gusto. I suppose there’s always that old standby, “When the going gets tough the tough get going!” but this is far more than a commercial obstacle. Once again the scintillating feature of the pandemic is that it potentially affects everyone everywhere and can insinuate any so-called “bubble” with callous immediacy.
The threat of this disease to contaminate the Universe is not something within the scope of most people to predict. It is perhaps the affinity for normalcy which mistakenly stimulates a distaste for accommodating the restrictive behaviour peculiar to a plague. At the same time most people I suspect are more inclined to anticipate a complete recovery. The pandemic has yet to paralyze social behaviour. I am however reminded of the blind resolve of buffalo when being hunted over a century ago by native Indians.
The contagion has sparked universal concern for both young and old and everyone in between. Just as youth expresses its concern for the elderly so too the elderly are anxious for the young. For the elderly it is clearly an issue of health; for the youth it is primarily an expression of experience. The cosmetic trials of a mask are but a portion of the wider social and economic challenges facing humanity. We have only touched the theme of global alliance.
“In a single season, civilization has been brought low by a microscopic parasite 10,000 times smaller than a grain of salt. COVID-19 attacks our physical bodies, but also the cultural foundations of our lives, the toolbox of community and connectivity that is for the human what claws and teeth represent to the tiger.
“COVID’s historic significance lies not in what it implies for our daily lives. Change, after all, is the one constant when it comes to culture. All peoples in all places at all times are always dancing with new possibilities for life. As companies eliminate or downsize central offices, employees work from home, restaurants close, shopping malls shutter, streaming brings entertainment and sporting events into the home, and airline travel becomes ever more problematic and miserable, people will adapt, as we’ve always done. Fluidity of memory and a capacity to forget is perhaps the most haunting trait of our species. As history confirms, it allows us to come to terms with any degree of social, moral, or environmental degradation.“
“To be sure, financial uncertainty will cast a long shadow. Hovering over the global economy for some time will be the sober realization that all the money in the hands of all the nations on Earth will never be enough to offset the losses sustained when an entire world ceases to function, with workers and businesses everywhere facing a choice between economic and biological survival.“
Wade Davis holds the Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia. His award-winning books include “Into the Silence” and “The Wayfinders.” His new book, “Magdalena: River of Dreams,” is published by Knopf.