Seeing into the future

Although it is flippantly posited that neither the past nor the future exists, that is a frightfully discreditable proposition during a pandemic when both the past and the future are very much alive in one’s mind. Everywhere around the globe people have been talking about this period (actually it’s March 11th) as the anniversary of the declaration of a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. After what for most of us has been a year of motionless endurance, a deeper question is beginning to surface from the usual slam of the past and hope for the future; namely, people are starting to question, “What if things don’t get back to normal soon?”

While the question at least relieves us of further whining about the past – as though that ever did us any good any way – it’s not exactly a leap of faith into the future. So many of us – particularly those of us fortunate enough to live in western democratic society – are accustomed to seeing bad things change for the better. It is not part of our vernacular to see our entitlements stolen from us by fortuity. Our subdivision existence is not usually unpredictable (or at least we’re usually spared the recognition that it is). The even greater worry is that the misfortune on the periphery is about to insinuate those closer to the middle, those who are generally isolated from what once caused Wall Street businessmen to jump out of tenth storey windows.

Nobody likes to think about those things.  For the time being we’re convinced – though why especially I cannot define – that things will get better. But the disturbance makes one ponder, “What if,,,”. For many of us the date by which a determination is necessary is starting to loom on the not-so-distant horizon. A year ago nobody would have imagined we’d all be wearing face masks in a grocery store and elevator. Nor that we’d be waiting with the anticipation of a caged animal for a vaccination. Nor that things wouldn’t just go back to normal a full year later.

The depth of the problem goes beyond mere psychological demeanour. There is for example a very candid articulation of the exposure in the minds of money lenders of every ilk. I have always maintained that there are but two sources of growth in the capitalist society, elements which go back as far as Christopher Columbus and his adventure to the other side of the world.  Those sources are 1) the funds to enable the trip; and, 2) the insurers to cover the capitalists if the voyage fails. Quite apart from the logical amusement of the legal fiction of the corporate body to isolate some from the peril of loss, the insurers were not completely unfamiliar with the concept of personal guarantee. It is thus that these two foundations of our commercial society – money and insurance – have preserved to this day the way we see the world, if at all. The extent of the infection has yet to be seen – though just today such pandemic-driven stocks as Zoom and Peleton have dropped and fuel prices have risen, reflecting obviously what some consider an ebb and others a flow.  But these mercurial flips are not for the pusillanimous!  And you can bet that the big money is looking for higher ground than whimsical optimism.

Obviously the universe will not collapse or disappear – at least within our lifetime.  Things will indeed go on, but how or where is still open to consideration.  There is no indignity in the evolution of business.  As one shark once told me, “You can make as much money selling 100 meals for $1 as one meal for $100” and he added it wasn’t clear precisely which was more trouble.  The point is this, whatever transpires it will of necessity be geared to all the usual elements of availability and desire, supply and demand. Until then however we may have to watch more Netflix than anticipated!