COVID-19: Disaster or opportunity?

The actual human suffering from the COVID-19 is undeniably a horrible thing. Yet, I cannot avoid thinking that this crisis has the potential do us more good than harm in the long run. The current trajectories of our planet health – like biodiversity collapse, water scarcity, desertification and global warming – suggests we have a lot more crisis to deal with in the coming years, not to mention the difficulties of consequential mass immigration. Regardless if we manage to slow down the effects or not, the question is how well we will be prepared for it.

This virus has made the world slow down. People have gotten the time with themselves, to reflect and potentially grow, without the distraction of the squirrel wheel. We have reduced the crazy extreme “normal” rate of consumption. Pollution levels are dropping and wild animals are reclaiming territories. The fact that this leads us to a recession frustrates me. That the economy crumbles as soon as we start taking care. I think that alone is a pointer to that something is really upside down with our economic systems. The system should reward productivity if it is anchored to earths resources and if it is contributing to long-term well-being of life. We shouldn’t reward productivity alone and we shouldn’t celebrate economic growth alone.

I don’t have the expertise to make claims of how exactly we should change the economy, but I think it is very fair to question the fitness of our global economy to the next years of crisis.

The central banks of the world is right now pumping out money to compensate for the lack of money in circulation, due to the decrease of consumption. This to keep businesses afloat and to ensure banks that there is enough capital in the loop for them to continue loaning money to people. Governments around the world are currently navigating the decision matrix of how drastic measures that should be taken to combat the virus’s claim on human lives, with a preferred lens of the economic perspective. Human lives are somewhat valuable to our current economy, but the measures taken to save lives also carry economic consequences, which can cause death and suffering further down the line. It seems almost like the system guarantees suffering no matter the direction. Should not that be an indicator of how corrupt it really is? It is not benefitting people, and the decision is which way we cause less suffering, in order to keep the “order”. I think this crisis should be seen as an opportunity to make big changes, where life is in focus. Not economic growth.

As a possible scenario for Sweden, when a large percentage of businesses goes bankrupt and we end up with a high unemployment, the welfare we swedes has grown accustomed to risks to be taken out of play. The state will not receive enough taxes and can no longer afford to provide healthcare and support to the population on a necessary scale. All this will cause fear and many people will lose hope in the future. A full-scale depression. Some will make profit out of others defeat. Some will be winners and most will be losers.

This scenario would be a great challenge for us, and I wonder if it will cause people to become suspicious of each other and increase conflict, or if such a crisis could make us come together, perhaps increase our level of compassion. I think it will come down to a conscious choice to every one of us. I think that ethics and compassion will be all the more important in the next years to come. As it seems to me, capitalism does not perform very well in those terms, and our western individualistic mindset would be the end of us, if we do not transition in time.

Perhaps the optimal system is in fact a lack of system. Perhaps we are more equipped as smaller communities to deal with crisis than as nations. However, I sincerely hope this virus can make a serious dent in our global policy, as it has in other ways.