by Henry Louis Taylor, 2020
We are now in unchartered waters. The world we knew yesterday no longer exists. The surreal is the new reality.
This pandemic conjures up images of the deadly influenza pandemic of 1918. It is way too early to compare COVID-19 to that tragedy, but already this pandemic has generated a response the world has never seen before.
We are eyewitnesses to history.
This pandemic has a life-cycle. It could last a year, or maybe even two. The 1918 pandemic lasted a year, and moved through three cycles, with each one worse than the other. Then, in 1919 it suddenly ended.
COVID-19 might move through phases, as well. No matter, it has already changed the world we live in.
COVID-19 is more than a disease.
It is a social engineer, which is restructuring our lives. The institutionalization of “social distancing” in education, entertainment, recreation, shopping, and service delivery is quickly changing everyday life and culture.
There is no end in sight.
If these changes are normalized and institutionalized, the old world might never return.
Global pandemics bring about change in society. One example is the 1918 global influenza pandemic. It killed many more men than women in the United States. This decrease in the male workforce catalyzed economic and social opportunities for women. Once in place, these shifts became grounded in culture and the advancement made by women continued to grow and develop.
COVID-19 is also an economic disrupter.
It is going to create havoc in the gig economy and spawn mayhem in the globalized economy.
The hospitality and tourism industry, including bars, restaurants and coffee houses will be hard hit, and ancillary industries, including some segments of the real estate market, are going to suffer. Distance learning is going to make it possible for many college students to remain in their hometowns rather than gather at the university. This will send more economic ripples throughout the economy generating layoffs, precarity and fear as joblessness rises.
The disruption of international supply chains will pour gasoline on the economic fire causing conditions to worsen.
This crisis is going to affect a wide swath of workers with limited financial resources, poor health care coverage at a time where we have few federal and state safety nets if any.
This is where the government comes in. Who is the government going to protect—the workers or the corporate owners? Who will the government bailout—the corporation or the workers?
The world we lived in yesterday is gone, we are now in a new age. Tomorrow is here.
We must not be paralyzed by fear, but courageously face this rogue storm. We must cast away our illusion and prepare for struggle. Not only must we fight the disease, but also the government scoundrels, who will try to make us ordinary people bear the brunt of this crisis. Stay healthy and strong.