COVID-19: A global time-out

By: Howard Feldman, Head of Marketing & People at Synthesis

Remember when we were young, and we would complain for no real or fathomable reason? It was before the days of parenting books, and before being told that we are not allowed to smack our children. It was likely then, back in the day, that one of our parents would, in a fit of frustration and despair, raise a threatening hand and say, “I’ll give you something to cry about!”

This is the story of COVID-19 in 2020.

We really were getting a bit ahead of ourselves. We sobbed about “Cultural appropriation,” we obsessed about pro nouns, we re -wrote history and we judged prior generations for not being nearly as woke as we were. We turned “outrage” into temples and plastic straws into devils. We substituted emojis for emotions and confused social media with communication.

We judged ourselves by our followers and let our feelings become ruled by the number of likes received. The images that we shared were not of ourselves but a slimmer, younger, cooler version of our imagination and of our desires. We reduced debate to the characters allowed by Twitter, which made us shaper, more cutting and far less kind.

We confused “hook-ups” with relationships and hardly managed to slow down for long enough to get to know each other.

And then the universe gave us something to cry about.

COVID-19 has become the one conversation that we all choose to have. The threat of this virus is now clear for all to see, and each country is focused on establishing protocols needed to keep their citizens as safe as is possible. The lessons from China, Italy and Iran are being learned and with each hour of each day, the focus becomes sharper and more desperate. All of a sudden, no cares if the bathroom is gender neutral, just so long as it’s clean. No one would be so brash as to post a photo of their island excursion and no one is bothered by the use of disposables – so long as it is safe.

Perspective, it seems, is everything.

March 2020 and very few are worrying about war. ISIS has asked it’s “fighters” to keep their hands hygienic and to avoid traveling to high risk areas. In South Africa, all political parties are standing behind the President. And the ANC, supporting the man the in charge, no matter which faction.

These have to be some of the global lessons. When we are presented with a formidable enemy greater than each other, then we have to work together to defeat it.

But these lessons can’t just be for global leaders. As the South Africa and the world retreats back into our homes, in what is a global time out, we need to use that time to “think about what we have done.”  And whereas of course there is little to be achieved by “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” there are undoubtedly lessons to be learned from this all. Perhaps an examination of priorities and a contemplation into a list of values might be worth thinking about. We will after all, have all the time that we need to do this.

COVID-19 is about to hit us hard. We are all afraid. Let’s at least be afraid together.