We’re now on our third month of sheltering in place, and here at SBC, we will continue to work from home for the foreseeable future. I can’t help but turn my attention, however, to the inevitable time when business resumes and we begin to recover from this pandemic, both as a country and as individuals.
Even though there are so many unknowns, one thing we do know for certain is that when this crisis passes, it will leave its mark on our economy, our politics, and so much more.
We’re presented with an opportunity in this time of great adversity. As we imagine life after the pandemic, can we creatively problem solve, and introduce more resilience and independence into ourselves and our systems? Can we be more aware of the socioeconomic disparities this crisis has laid bare, check our privilege and biases, and rebuild together? Maybe we can address problems much larger than pandemic preparedness – maybe we can address some, if not all, of our larger issues, like income inequality, homelessness, access to high-speed broadband, and even climate change? What are the tools we, and our leaders, need in order to do this?
When we stress test systems like a federal loan program, emergency food assistance, and the state’s unemployment processing, we find their breaking points. Instead of assigning blame and calling for resignations, we can instead roll up our sleeves, learn the lessons this has taught us, and be compassionate and understanding as we try to help our communities recover. The state of California has become adept at responding to and learning from disaster, whether that’s wildfires or earthquakes. Why should this be any different? We’ve repeatedly demonstrated resilience, and we can continue to improve upon those successes.
Emily Atkin, a climate change journalist whom I follow and admire, acknowledged that she was shaken by the drop in GHG emissions following state-wide shutdown orders. Her mantra is that the powerful must be held accountable, but she also recognized that she could not ignore the collective impact of individual choices to stay home, not drive, and avoid flying. Our individual choices, our willingness to engage in civic duties, all have an impact. We certainly have more power than we think over our own resilience.
If nothing else, let this international crisis show us how we can do better than we have been. Let it show us what systems and social inequities we’ve been overlooking for too long. Let it show us that when we exercise gentleness and compassion on a day to basis and not just in times of crisis, we can be more resilient in the face of chaos. The goal is to find the balance between our own independence and our greater collective resilience. But we need to be kind, to ourselves and to others, in order to get productive work done.
We are living through a period in history that will be written about for decades to come. People will pour over the actions taken by individuals and governments and analyze what went wrong but also what went right. I am heartened by people collectively making choices to flatten the curve, and donate to local non-profits, and support their small businesses by buying gift cards and takeout. When we collectively recognize the urgency of an issue, and act cohesively, with compassion and collaboration, I truly think that we can bend the arc of the universe toward justice and equitable outcomes.
And when we go back to work and we begin to create better systems, better ways of working with each other, I sincerely hope we will all come to the table with open hearts, open arms, and washed hands.