One of the ways I am dealing with my pandemic anxieties is to imagine potential positive outcomes. Please join me. Read my “near-future journal” and comment at the end, adding your own positive imaginings.
A week from my Post-pandemic journal:
Dad turns 99 today. He hasn’t had much of a life these past two years. Right after we got him settled in his new memory care facility (in March of 2020), they went on lock-down. I haven’t seen him in person since. We still talk by phone daily and have our weekly Zoom catch-up. He seems to recognize my voice, but he can’t always figure out who I am. Still, I’m happy to hear his voice. But this whole deal, this long pandemic, makes me so sad. So much horrible stuff has happened in the world since the virus started to spread. Here I go again, looking at the awful, the boring, the nasty aspects of life. I’m tired of focusing on horrible stuff! I need to focus on some brighter thoughts. Today I’ll journal on the positive stuff that is happening world-wide as a result of the pandemic. OK, here I go…
As I look back, first of all, I am relieved to have survived. And, I see so many positive shifts that have come about as a result of the global pandemic of 2020. So many of the uninsured, the under-insured, those forced to live in too close quarters, those lacking in basic sanitation, (prison cells and refugee internment camps) and those living in homeless encampments, were lost during a period of almost instantaneous spread of the virus. What an enormous tragedy that was! The only positive about it was that it led to the downfall of many incompetent, uncaring, and ineffective leaders, world around.
After the loss of so many health-care workers (who lacked quality protective gear… and the resultant PTSD that led so many more to quit) there was an obvious need to train a large group of new health-care workers. The plan to open free on-line medical school programs, where all who apply are accepted, is now in place. Those who fail to make the grade will, over time, be winnowed out but, given the multitude of students who have begun their course work, freed from the hindrance of “getting in” to a particular medical or nursing school, and freed from the burden of having to take out large personal loans to pay for their education, many more doctors, nurses and med techs of all kinds will soon be trained and working. All of us will be well cared for in the near future! And of course, there’s our new, free to all, national health care program, passed with thanks to the new president and the new congress (overwhelmingly elected in 2020). Not only have we negated the expense of having to pay insurance companies to “manage” our health care, but everyone receives good care. And due to much forethought and excellent planning, we should be able to control the spread of future pandemics more quickly.
Universal Basic Income has allowed all those training for their future careers in the medical field to cover their day-to-day expenses while they learn. Not only did the Universal Basic Income turn out to be a boon for med students, but many others who were sheltering at home, their own day-to-day expenses covered by UBI, signed up for free virtual college classes. Humanities courses were packed! Students from all walks of life, of all ages, joined in the free class boom. It seems our population had been experiencing an enormous hunger to learn.
It was an interesting surprise to see students flocking to courses at agricultural schools. Organic farming and orchard management (the care of fruit and nut trees) were the most popular courses (after grape-growing and wine-making, of course). University Home Extension classes in baking, canning, and back-yard food gardening have exploded in popularity. There is so much home-grown and community-grown produce available now. I can literally “shop my neighbors” for eggs, vegetables, and honey. And, they are happy to come to me for fruits. We, in each of the world’s neighborhoods, have learned to band together, to co-op, to grow much of our food in a natural way, keeping our top-soil healthy, and sharing our bounty. The bees, butterflies, and other pollinators are back… it happened so quickly once the pesticides were banned. My neighborhood “wild life”, the bunnies, squirrels, birds, and frogs, frolic amidst my berry bushes and apple trees. I am filled with love for the tiny piece of the nature-world I inhabit.
After re-reading what I wrote yesterday, I’d like to write more today on changes in education. Teachers with specialty niches of expertise have created an almost infinite number of on-line classes. These teachers have such passion for their subject matter that they can project their enthusiasm even across the airwaves! There are elementary teachers who read books on-line, a chapter a day, playing the parts of each of the characters, and then, offering up discussion questions for students and parents to address together. There are teachers with a passion for mathematics, or for a period in history, for creative writing, for home science projects, and on and on. The available elementary and secondary class list becomes longer each day. The best part is that all the online courses (college-level, too) are open to everyone! The curious child (or their parent or other family member) can take an online course in any subject area that appeals to them: dinosaurs, dogs, trees, making paper mache or the science behind baking bread (the variety of classes is amazing). And, after completing the class they chose, if they “like” the class, they are shown other classes (one tiny level more difficult): examining dinosaur bones in a natural history museum…the history of a favorite dog breed… a class held up in the tree canopy of a rain forest, etc. This is self-directed learning at its finest! It is nothing like the educational system of the last hundred or more years. The set-up is similar to the old YouTube lineup of videos: the excited student has only to click and learn! Our new set-up puts me in mind of a favorite quote from Mark Twain, “What we learn with pleasure, we never forget.” In theory, as students enjoy their learning, they move on to related and ever more challenging materials. They will eventually acquire a broad range of knowledge, all of it originating from their delight in the first class. It’s been wonderful to see the vast interests and the far-reaching knowledge the children are acquiring. We’ve all been encouraged to nurture our minds with online classes. More and more teachers and more esoteric classes emerge daily. Hmmm… what will I choose to “study” today? I’m going to go look at the new offerings right now.
Wow! Just heard a story about this on the radio: there’s an entire class of people, the COVID-19 PA (positive antibody/survivors who have tested immune), who can safely do the in-person jobs that most of us cannot. Many who initially became exposed to the virus were poor, often persons of color, those forced into doing “essential” jobs because they needed to work to survive. In an interesting twist of fate, these survivors, these previously poor, now have bargaining power! They are much in demand with businesses of all types because they can safely come back to work. They can work in senior living homes, in hospitals, in restaurants, in the peace-time service corp… Their lives have improved as their choice of livelihood and their economic status have improved. I knew about some of the jobs they were doing, but not all:
COVID-19 PA teachers can go into the homes of their very young students to work on basic skills like reading and math. There are some who meet older immune students at schools to teach hands-on classes: art, theater, band, chemistry, team sports… the classes that can’t be easily taught online.
Cadres of COVID-19 PA have made themselves available to those in need of hugs, of comfort, the dying, and the bereaved… to children and parents, to anyone who lives alone, who shelters at home alone, to those cordoned off in nursing homes and memory-care units. We have come to call these good people the “PA Angels”. As a species, we have learned the importance of touch. How wonderful it must be to wear the PA logo on one’s jacket and have the freedom to go anywhere… to offer a hug to anyone. It almost makes me wish I had contracted the virus, and lived to tell the tale. But, for now, I will maintain my isolation and my safety. They say that a vaccine is still possible… that some day humanity will develop “herd immunity”… some day.
We have shifted from military to a peace-time corp: COVID-PA Troops In Service to Humanity. The PA troops train and act to keep the peace. They provide help with building domiciles, hospitals, and cell towers. They dig wells, clean up chemical wastes… anything that contributes to better living.
Perhaps the most revolutionary change caused by the pandemic has been the shift away from fear of others. We used to respond to our fear of hostile countries with enormous expenditures, attempting to gain comfort from military might. We have gone from the perceived need to maintain a large military, to a crystal clear understanding of the wastefulness of war, the extravagance of maintaining standing armies and enormous arsenals. Military weaponry is being disabled, melted down to use for more pressing needs. Bombs are being disarmed. Carrier ships, now floating hospitals, rest in ports. Military airplanes are being used to transport needed goods. It’s become obvious to all: humanity needs to resolve conflicts peacefully and to spend our treasure on cooperative and beneficial ventures.
The pandemic has turned out to be the real threat to humanity… our earlier fears of atomic war were never as real a threat as this pandemic has been. We always understood that the outcome of a nuclear conflict would be “mutually assured destruction”, that nuclear war was possible, but highly unlikely. We worried about threats that might come from beyond our planet: meteors, hostile space aliens, germs/viruses from outer space. We worried about the impending doom of climate change, the obviousness of the need to work as a human team, to take action together (even though there was no world order to take the helm and make the necessary changes). Now we know: we no longer require military protection. We require cooperation, team-work, and the desire to make everyone virus-safe, to make a good life available to all, to keep our planet safe for future life. So much military money has been freed up and put into humanitarian works that suddenly, we find there is more than enough for all!
Funny how things shift… in hind-sight, it was our fear, our virus-vulnerability, and our almost universal human experience of “lack” that set the first wave of environmental shifts into motion. As we sheltered at home, worrying about jobs, income, food supply, clean water, about how to keep our home systems in good repair, right before our eyes we were witnessing the renewal of our planetary eco-systems. We were being shown how life on Earth could be lived without endangering our planet. Without the massive use of fossil fuels for daily commutes, our environment was cleaning itself. Without the daily toxic load of auto exhaust and factory emissions, without carbon and methane being spit into our air, without a thousand poisonous chemicals being leaked into our ground water, Mother Earth was beginning a planetary triage. She was cleaning and clearing herself! We were beginning to see mountain ranges that had been hidden from human view behind smog for many years.
Our need for fossil fuels falls daily. Farmers who used to grow corn for Ethanol production have switched gears and farmers are now working to solve the next large environmental problem: plastics. Sadly, humanity has yet to reduce it’s reliance on plastics… we have need of disposable plastics for PPE (personal protective equipment) and other medical supplies. Many corn and hemp farmers now plant a portion of their crops to go towards the manufacturing of bio-plastics.
Big Agriculture was finally reined in, thank God! And after their chemical fertilizers and poisons were banned, we began to see oceanic dead zones decrease in size… we saw our children with ADHD starting to find their focus… we saw all manner of cancers and autoimmune diseases diminish. Mom Earth is healing and we are healing, as well.
It’s funny and beautiful that owing to increased togetherness, families have found ever more meaningful ways to keep company. We have increased appreciation for our children, spouse, significant other. We have learned new skills together, observed each other’s strengths, felt one another’s fear… and joys… and excitement. We have learned to resolve conflicts with win/win solutions, to take turns, to listen deeply, and to look for the best in each other.
For all of us who continue to live and to thrive under shelter-at-home orders (we who still lack immunity), we have the privilege of time to explore, whether we explore the on-line world or our own inner worlds. So many have taken to meditation, to journaling, to reflective thought. We are fortunate to have this gift of time to examine our lives, our desires, our passions… and then, to learn on-line whatever calls to us. Many who formerly did boring and repetitive jobs have seen those positions filled by robotic workers. These people have also become recipients of the gift of time… all their basic needs are met through Universal Basic Income. They are now free to follow their passions as well. New engineers, architects, robotic-designers, those with the passion to design for our needs, will create and build our future. Musicians, dancers, comedians, and actors will fill our need for entertainment. On-line story blogs have already exploded in popularity, with serialized stories in all genres, for all ages. All forms of culture come into our homes. Slowly, even sporting events are coming back, played by PA (positive-antibody) athletes.
Families continue to pray together. After online religious services, many now engage in discussion about the minister, rabbi, or the imam’s sermon. Difficult-to-understand questions and comments (from children and adults) are relayed back to the religious leader, and are addressed in up-coming sermons. Our children have asked the perfect questions to express their deep emotions and to penetrate our hearts. We are listening to our children and tackling their burning questions: Why do we die? Why did my Nana have to die? What is death? Why are we here? Did we do something that displeased God? Has God Abandoned us? Our own repressed emotions have come up and we are dealing with them, as well. The answers we all seek are so important that many a family has begun to look to multiple religious faiths in search of answers…. hearing the Moslem services online on Fridays, Jewish services on Saturdays, and Christian services on Sundays. Some have looked to Buddhism, Taoism, and to all manner of religious traditions. The hunt for answers is so strong that we are turning from solid “believers” into “seekers”, and in our seeking, we are learning what is common to all the world’s religions: to treat others as we wish to be treated.
So much good has come… is coming. I so value my computer, my tech-access, my connection with information and people! Everyone is now tech-able/connected! That is wonderful! At the height of the virus’s initial round of transmission, most cities around the world were completely shut down, with only hospitals, grocery stores and pharmacies open to the public. All schooling, all business, all government became virtual. Societies lacking in adequate technology simply failed. People succumbed to disease as their electricity went down and they could no longer receive virus updates from the World Health Organization… as their fresh water supplies dried up… as their systems for burial were slowed…as food supplies were not forthcoming because of both communication and transportation break-downs. The news media boldly reported on the need for secure technology for all, the world over. Our new United Nations of Earth has voted to make technology a human right. From Dakar to Denver… from London to Lagos… new technology is deemed a necessary benefit to humankind, to be delivered to everyone, everywhere.
Even the wealthy have done their part. The former hoarders of wealth and resources have ceded to the public good. Rather than remain enemies of the general population, knowing that they had benefited from an unfair system, and feeling enormous guilt, the world’s richest people have down-sized their wealth. Billionaire after billionaire (and most millionaire’s, too) have given up the majority of their wealth. Many have had the pleasure of choosing a cause to donate their wealth: pandemic research, housing for the homeless, mental health availability for all, shipments of food and medical supplies… The “fabulously wealthy” have become, through their acts of good will, the “happily well-off”. Between the spreading out of their wealth, and the reduction in military might, we have become a world of near equals… in our financial worth, in our consumption, and in the value we hold for each and every individual person.
Obviously, money can never again be the driving force for human interaction, for wielding power. Our old concept of economics doesn’t fit with our new understanding of human connectedness. If an underdeveloped part of the world is lacking the technology to keep disease under control, that disease will surely reach the rest of us. We will never all be immune to everything. A new virus, a new plague will always be waiting for an opportunity to spread. COVID-19 will not be our last pandemic. We humans seem to finally understand that it is necessary to treat everyone as we wish to be treated, or we will, all of us, suffer repercussions.
As it is getting close to the holiday season, I am put in mind of a new notion of gift-giving. Many now “gift” their knowledge, their inventions, their creations, their caring in whatever form. Like our passionate teachers, community organizers have made sure all their neighbors have been checked on… a real gift to many who live alone! They’ve created lists of volunteers who will “gift” those in need with emergency home repairs, rides, etc. Researchers and engineers have worked tirelessly to “gift” humankind the protections and pleasures offered by the next generation of products, medicines, and materials. Musicians, playwrights, poets, authors, architects, crafts-persons of all kinds have “gifted” their created works to nourish our spirits. Our dear farmers have grown healthier and increasingly more delicious foods, “gifting” us with organic foods, even as it means increased work for them.
Surprisingly, some gifts, some ideas, that have made an enormous difference to the general healing and comfort have come from those previously seen as “other”: the un-housed, the handicapped, the needy-in-any-way, those we used to see as “different”, foreign, filled with sin, or with wrong understandings. We now see all as uniquely gifted individuals. We are now open to receive from every one, to respect and benefit from each one’s unique abilities. Each of us has come to value each other. Humanity has moved on. We are now ready to try our collective hands at a new version of Paradise.
We all feel privileged to be alive, to be cared for, to have all our basic needs met through the Universal Basic Income, and to learn about our personal interests, our passions. Our species is rapidly moving from the age of *Self-Actualization to an age of Species Actualization. No one yet knows how that may look, but with all of our basic needs provided for, and with all of us following our own personal passions, a Human Renaissance seems certain to come about.