COVID-19 has brought us a day of reckoning; how will we respond?

As we think about what our world – our individual countries and communities – might look like when this pandemic is finally fully in check, we find ourselves with options. We can work hard to get things back to being as close to the way they were as possible, or we can take this opportunity to think about whether there are some things we may want to do differently. It is a rare occasion when nations are given the chance to observe at close range both the strengths and weaknesses of their social and economic structures and consider how well their policies support the values of their citizens. This is such a time.

A few examples:

  • Each country will have an opportunity to re-evaluate their commitment to equality and to the principles of equal opportunity – access to housing, food, healthcare, and education – and see how they stack up for every segment of society.
  • Each country will have an opportunity to decide if their care workers – in seniors’ residences, other special care homes, and hospitals – deserve to have wages and benefits that are commensurate with the value of their work to our most vulnerable loved ones, or just keep the clearly unacceptable status quo.
  • Each country will have an opportunity to decide if they want to bail out the oil and gas companies at taxpayers’ expense or whether they should use the same money to instead invest in expanding the renewable energy sector, thereby investing in the future of our planet and shifting employment opportunities to that sector.
  • Each country’s citizens – not just their politicians – will have the opportunity to re-evaluate their country’s economic and social priorities, as well as the corresponding tax structures. Having come through a brutal global pandemic, with countless lives lost and millions of lives upturned, should the priorities of your country focus solely on getting the economy up and running?  Or should addressing now-exposed gaps in social safety nets be an integral part of the recovery process? The directions your government chooses to take during recovery will impact the quality of life and future of all citizens of your country. Those impacts of the “new normal” can be for the better or they can be an altered version of the status quo.  If you’re supportive of a better way forward, let your views be known.

Will your personal priorities change at all as a result of your lockdown experience? Will you spend a bit more cautiously or spend with mad abandon as soon as the stores reopen? Will you save a bit more or figure life is too short to worry? Will you enjoy more of the simpler things in life that you’ve been forced to do for the past several weeks, like taking long walks and doing jigsaw puzzles, or will you head out for as much out-of-house entertainment as possible as soon as possible? Will you fly less and maybe rethink your dreams of a cruise, or just jump back into global travelling as soon as possible?  Has this pandemic and forced isolation changed the way you think about some things in a lasting way?

 

We keep hearing that when we emerge from our sheltering in place, the new normal will be different from the old normal. We’ll see. The new normal has the chance to be (even) better than the old normal, built on a foundation of respect for each other and for our planet. We can hope.

Image credits: Pinterest, ShutterStock

 

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28 Responses to COVID-19 has brought us a day of reckoning; how will we respond?

  1. Reblogged this on Musings and Wonderings and commented:
    Thanks for another well reasoned piece.

  2. I’m so glad you mentioned health workers at elder care places, Jane. My mother lived in a few prior to her death, and my siblings and I couldn’t get over the lack of qualified personnel at each facility. Economics drove those decisions, and I really hope that going forward both government and the industry itself will re-think how they operate.

    I certainly am re-thinking how we’ll travel after all of this is over. My wife has never been on a cruise, and I had long-hoped that I might introduce her to that. Not anymore. The choices those cruise lines made after the pandemic were nothing short of negligent. I suspect we’ll be taking lots of driving trips for a while. – Marty

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for these comments, Marty. The inadequacies of staffing levels, their poor pay, and the concern for safety and profit over care and quality of life on the part of admin seems to be recurring themes in many of our countries. I don’t see how the politicians can ignore this issue now that it has been made clear to all, although I have said that before about things I’ve found egregious and been proven wrong.

      I won’t be taking any more cruises, but we’ve been on a few, so it isn’t really a fair decision. Maybe a small cruise ship in another year or two for your wife!

  3. Dr. John Persico Jr. says:

    Will your personal priorities change at all as a result of your lockdown experience?
    “Yes, I think I have learned that I had too many schedules in my life. Need to take things more one day at a time.”

    Will you spend a bit more cautiously or spend with mad abandon as soon as the stores reopen?
    “Gave our first check to six charities, 200 dollars a piece. Want to help support more families in need. I have always hated the “shop till you drop” mentality in the USA.”

    Will you save a bit more or figure life is too short to worry?
    “Always frugal and that will not change. Frugality to me is a form of sustainability. Buy what we need and keep life simple.”

    Will you enjoy more of the simpler things in life that you’ve been forced to do for the past several weeks, like taking long walks and doing jigsaw puzzles, or will you head out for as much out-of-house entertainment as possible as soon as possible?
    “We will probably try to get to more concerts when they reopen. We do enjoy them but we are moderate in our entertainment venues. We like to do long walks together and that has not changed. I think I miss coffee with friends the most.”

    Will you fly less and maybe rethink your dreams of a cruise, or just jump back into global travelling as soon as possible?
    “Had to cancel our trip in May to Paris and Moscow. We used to do one or two trips a year but do not have the money or energy anymore. I was looking forward to our Moscow trip and do want to replan it although now at a loss for when.”

    Has this pandemic and forced isolation changed the way you think about some things in a lasting way?
    “Yes, makes me realize that I schedule too much and have tried to keep doing too much as I age. Kind of hit the pause button.”

    Thanks for the questions Jane. They were very helpful. John

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks so much for your thoughtful responses, John. I think this may be the first time I’ve ever had so many readers give long, heartfelt responses to questions I posed in a post. This may be because we all have more time than usual(!), but I think it’s more likely that this worldwide crisis has revealed many unpleasant truths about the world and the way we participate in it.
      Bravo for stepping up in charitable donations right off the bat. I did the same; the need is glaringly obvious. I hope others who are in a position to do so feel the same way.
      Wow, you had been planning trips to Paris and Moscow in May, a perfect time – until now! We were in Moscow in 1970 (very much the Soviet Union then) as part of a month-long group camping trip, going from London, up to the Arctic Circle in Finland, down to St. Petersburg (then still Leningrad) and Moscow, then back via the Soviet Block countries to West Germany, etc. Talk about a different time. I can’t imagine how different Moscow would be now, although I can imagine that some things are pretty well the same. If you do get there, you really should see St. Petersburg as well.
      I learned to slow down a year or two ago. Actually, I didn’t make the decision, my body did. However, it worked and I am now perfectly comfortable saying no and following my own agenda each day. Think of it as a gift of aging. If that’s what you get out of this pandemic nightmare, then that at least is a good thing. Thanks again for your comments.

  4. OmniRunner says:

    I hope people will remember how important the invisible people are. All those people who work in the grocery stores and restaurants, growing, picking, processing and delivery our food.
    I’m in the US so our system is a bit different.
    My mother is headed for long-term care, aka a nursing home. The cost is $420 per day! Over $12k per month. Where does all that money go?
    I’ve spent plenty of time in hospitals over the past few years and there are so many people working there. Starting with the cleaning people, food delivery, nurses of all type and a few doctors.
    I guess most of it is salaries, which we are all now realizing are not as lavish as we may have thought previously.
    More money has to go into our healthcare systems from Public Health to community hospitals.
    I’ll spare you the US politics involved in all of this.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      It’s very expensive here too – for our governments – but nothing like the costs south of the border. Putting this all in the hands of the private sector and insurance companies, with profits front and center, just can’t work. You’re right, all these front line workers need to be able to earn a decent living. I hope the people – the voters – will rise up if changes aren’t made. This is why unions came in in the first place, and you notice that they’ve been successfully kneecapped. Wouldn’t be needed if people were treated properly. Thanks for commenting, OmniRunner.

  5. jane tims says:

    Oddly enough, my experience with COVID has left me wondering if I will, in the future, long for these days of simple demands. I have missed the company of friends and family but I have not missed the meetings, the stuffed calendar, the pressure. I know when this ends, I will be taking a more relaxed approach to life. I will say ‘no’ more.
    The other surprise is the way it has changed my view of certain leaders. I sincerely doubted some of our leadership, in particular Doug Ford of Ontario and Blaine Higgs in New Brunswick. This has changed my mind about both men. To me they have stepped up and done the right thing, embraced the best possible route for a way out of this mess. I don’t often change my mind.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Jane, we think alike! I couldn’t agree more about finding some comfort and advantages to this constrained lifestyle, even if I would enjoy seeing my friends from time to time. But then, I enjoy all the things I do on my own and my husband and I are very comfortable with our routine. And I completely agree about the leadership of both Higgs and Ford. I am proud of the leadership in Canada compared to some other places. When the federal ministers speak at their daily updates, I feel that we are very well represented. Not everyone in the world can say that right now. I also like the way people are working (a bit) more collaboratively. If this is because of minority governments, bring more on!

  6. Jean says:

    Well written Jane. 🙂 You highlighted the biggies.

    For sure, things to accomplish after restrictions are lifted is to address appointments: haircut (who ever thought that was even important), medical lab tests, ultrasound, vision testing for glasses, dental. It will just be more compressed time period to have it done.

    I don’t think our lifestyle will change. But then we’ve been car-free for several decades. I look forward to understanding if more local folks will cycle because the roads are quieter and being in park paths is a lovely break during social isolation.

    What is rather interesting is perhaps how the differences in health care access and willingness for Canadians and Americans to be tested and to be hosipitalized. If anything pandemic response in Canada hopefully to Canadians in future not to allow erosion of our public health care system to private sector wolves.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for these reflections, Jean. I agree, I think our hair stylists will be getting big tips from now on, at least at the start! Re our healthcare system, surely this terrible crisis must have convinced the few Canadians who didn’t think it was one of the best things about our country. We must guard it with our lives, literally as well as figuratively I guess!

  7. Marilyn Noble says:

    Brilliantly analyzed and very well expressed, Jane. I’m sharing this one widely! Marilyn

    >

  8. dfolstad58 says:

    I see that your well presented and organized post has already stimulated some thoughtful comments. The points you raise are interesting and I will respond on two points. I do think that the oil and gas industry deserves support as the industry affects the entire nation and Canada for the past two decades has benefited financially in a huge way, so therefore I believe we should and must be there for them.
    My life in a small town has changed only in a minor way but my son and wife have both been laid off. I especially want my son to be able to return to work and I hope the small business he works for will bounce back in a big way.
    I worry about seniors like my Dad, and I do hope that seniors care will be put under the spotlight to bring positive change to improve the seniors situation and those of the workers. I saw the same situation in the hospital – workers insufficient for the care needed, it can be changed for the better and shame on us if we don’t make sure it happens.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks, David, some important responses. You are 100% right that the entire country – certainly the poor old Maritimes – have benefited from Alberta’s (and Saskatchewan’s) oil and gas industries, even if it was at the price of extracting the dirtiest oil on the planet. I just can’t help but think that it would be better for those provinces themselves if federal support were targeted at helping them move to becoming leaders in the energy of the future instead of prolonging the dying fossil fuel industries. But I appreciate your point in providing support. And I sincerely hope that both levels of governments across Canada have taken note of the shameful treatment of the care workers to whom we entrust our most vulnerable seniors. If this hasn’t been a wake-up call I don’t know what is.

  9. Great question, my husband and I were talking about this awhile ago. We were saying that our lives have not really changed much except of our fear of being in public right now. Also here in Arizona a lot of places are still open. People are still out hiking and hanging out at grocery stores in crowds. The schools and retail shops are closed. Vets are open but for only 10 customers per day, no elective surgeries until May 1 but basically most things are somewhat the same. We have always tried to live a very simple life. We get some sneers and eye brow raising with some family and even some friends but this is how we like living. We haven’t really traveled that much since we had children but I would love to take a trip to Mexico and the beaches there. You and your family stay safe, hopefully we will all be able to get to a somewhat normal life once again soon. I fear for the Fall though, so we will be preparing for that when things start opening up a bit more.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for commenting, Little Red House. It sounds like our households follow similar philosophies. You’re right, it’s impossible for any of us to know what the near future will bring, so remaining diligent seems like the best approach to me, too. When the virus is finally truly behind us, I highly recommend any of the beaches on the Mayan Riviera in Mexico. Lots of amazing Mayan archeological sites there, too.

  10. Your thoughts have echoed the conversations I’ve had with friends lately. Given most people in Canada have been raised in a materialistic society, I’m pessimistic (or maybe realistic?) about the new normal. As a person who has always saved for a rainy day, and lived a little below my means, I realize I’m in the minority in today’s society. However, a friend recently countered my comments by saying that, even if some people change their ways for the better, we should count that as success. That gave me food for thought, and a little more optimism. Let’s hope for better days.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for these observations, Francine. I think your friends make a good point that even if only a subset of people make changes in their lives it’s a good step forward. I’ve always wondered how the world could disentangle itself from the insidious economic model of buying things we don’t need, made cheaply by poorly paid developing-world workers, using money we don’t have. This is the unsustainable model that kept the global economy chugging along for a few decades now. I never thought about a frightening global pandemic coming along to uproot the status quo!

  11. Thought provoking, but sadly I am not overly optimistic.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Me neither, Tim, but I’m trying to be hopeful. I do think the nursing home issues will at least be addressed. But such an opportunity to get away from fossil fuels. Don’t squander this opportunity, govts!

  12. I want new normal, with more time and silence to enjoy nature, less pollution, less hustle and bustle, less traffic on land and in the air, more fairness and equality right across the board and lots more respect for our planet, which has claimed some necessary healing time for itself with Covid-19.

  13. Seniors deserve so much better, care homes has to be a priority.

    • Jane Fritz says:

      Thanks for this comment. Couldn’t agree more. I can’t help but think that with nearly half the deaths to COVID coming from nursing homes in many jurisdictions, this may be one of (few) positive changes that do happen. Now that such a strong light has been shone on the issue, surely govts can’t ignore it any longer.

  14. Jill davies says:

    A new normal with respect for each other and our planet gets my vote…

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