13 May 2020
Re-imagining A Better World Post-Covid
Some food for thought
“That discomfort you’re feeling is grief” read the Harvard Business Review headline. I had been upbeat for the first three weeks of the lockdown. Full of the joys of the gift of more time and the opportunities that brought, I lost myself in busyness, before it really hit me – the sadness about how much we were losing… in addition to people’s lives.
It is not just grief… it’s grief mixed with fear. Although I am by nature an optimist, I feel a visceral fear about what comes next. A part of me is waiting for the other shoe to drop: for a second and even more destructive wave of Covid-19 infections that will bring us to our knees.
And yet we need to live in hope – and I draw on Nelson Mandela’s advice: “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears”.
What are my hopes? Certainly not to go back to the same old. Rather, that we will learn lessons from this pandemic and will create a better, more equitable, more joyful and more inclusive society. I have been spurred on by these words of the author Arundhati Roy: “Historically, pandemics have forced humans to break with the past and imagine their world anew. This one is no different. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next.” So, for the past few weeks, I have been reading and thinking about this future.
Here are a few thought leaders, articles, and research results, which are helping me in my contemplation of our future: both of what we could and should aspire to, and also the dangers we need to watch out for.
Yuval Noah Harari – Academic and author of global bestsellers Sapiens and Homo Deus.
The brilliant Yuval Noah Harari, in a long-form article for the Financial Times (March 20th), argued: “In this time of crisis, we face two particularly important choices. The first is between totalitarian surveillance and citizen empowerment. The second is between nationalist isolation and global solidarity.” According to Harari, “Many short-term emergency measures will become a fixture of life. That is the nature of emergencies. They fast-forward historical processes. Decisions that in normal times could take years of deliberation are passed in a matter of hours… In normal times, governments, businesses and educational boards would never agree to conduct such experiments. But these aren’t normal times.”
Five weeks after he wrote this article, Harari was asked by Stephen Sackur on BBC World Service’s Hard Talk how he thought we were getting along. Rather depressingly, he replied, “Not so good!” He concluded the interview warning ; “People could look back in a hundred years and identify the coronavirus epidemic as the moment when a new regime of surveillance took over, especially ‘surveillance under the skin’. This ability to hack human beings, to go under the skin and collect biometric data, analyse it and understand people better than they understand themselves: this, I think, is maybe the most important event of the 21st century.”
Charles Eisenstein – Author and speaker focusing on themes of civilization, consciousness, money, and human cultural evolution.
“Covid-19 is like a rehab intervention that breaks the addictive hold of normality. To interrupt a habit is to make it visible; it is to turn it from a compulsion to a choice. When the crisis subsides, we might have occasion to ask whether we want to return to normal, or whether there might be something we’ve seen during this break in the routines that we want to bring into the future.”
I struggled about whether to include Charles Einstein’s essay on the pandemic, The Coronation. It’s challenging reading, it mentions many conspiracy theories (while not subscribing to them). I have included it because it challenged me to think: to open up to views that make me uncomfortable. The certainty that I and my tribe are right, and that “the other side” is wrong, stupid or wicked is getting us nowhere. The increased polarisation of views is hampering our thinking – and to get out of this pandemic in a positive way we are going to need to be much more open and expansive in our thinking.
The Post-Covid-19 Consumer: An Amárach Briefing (April 2020)
Well worth having a look at. I drew hope, in particular, from pages 20 and 21 where a representative sample of the population sets out the values they want to see in post-Covid Ireland.
Rebecca Solnit – Author whose various books include A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
A thought provoking article in the Guardian where Solnit draws on the lessons learnt from disasters including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, concluding, “When this storm clears, we may, as do people who have survived a serious illness or accident, see where we were and where we should go in a new light. We may feel free to pursue change in ways that seemed impossible while the ice of the status quo was locked up. We may have a profoundly different sense of ourselves, our communities, our systems of production and our future.”
Philip Kotler – Marketing Guru
As a marketeer I was fascinated to read what one of the most respected voices in Marketing had to say about life after the pandemic. I hope he is right when he writes, “I predict that this period of deprivation and anxiety will usher new consumer attitudes and behaviours that will change the nature of today’s Capitalism. Finally, citizens will re-examine what they consume, how much they consume, and how all this is influenced by class issues and inequality. Citizens need to re-examine our Capitalist assumptions and emerge from this terrible period with a new, more equitable form of Capitalism.”
Mark Ritson – Brand Consultant, previously Professor at London Business School and MIT
Finally – a contrarian voice.
Writing in Marketing Week, Ritson argues that “Predictions of fundamental change after Covid-19 are driven by the biased perspectives of those making them”, and that most things will go back to how they were. He takes a wry look at how every industry is claiming that the pandemic is going to change it forever. His twitter feed @markritson highlights a litany of articles about how businesses say they will be changed for ever – a perspective Ritson does his best to de-bunk.
I’d love to know what articles, sources or podcasts are feeding into your thinking about our Post-Covid world, and will continue to share articles and resources which I find stimulating.