By Mike D Canavan
Whilst strictly not a topic that ‘crossingtheline.co’ normally deals with, we are however living in strange and uncharted times. New Year’s Eve 2019 was a time of celebration. I can remember when not long ago we looked forward to the advent of the new decade. 2020 held such promise, such high hopes, so many expectations. Who could have possibly thought that the New Year would bring with it such tragedy? Continued drought, horrific bushfires and then the most unexpected of all blows… Covid-19.
Our wish however through this commentary is to foster hope. Hope for a better future. Hope that gives us strength to push forward. And hope to embrace the changes that we will all face in the days ahead. Wisdom to evaluate new initiatives and proposals with care and diligence, ensuring they provide the best alternatives for our collective wellbeing.
Such vital issues cannot be dealt with in one limited article. That is why we have decided to make this a three-part series. It is our want that these pieces will create debate and conversation on our very future. We hope through these articles we will build a war chest of initiatives and ideas that can be presented to the appropriate authorities sometime in the near future. Please share with us your thoughts and visions.
It is our aim to imbue each person emerging from the consequences of the virus with a stronger resolve. To become a more aware and caring society. Recognising our vulnerabilities and understanding those at most risk in our community as a whole.
What might post Covid-19 be like? In marketing terms, what might its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats pose?
The Coronavirus Pandemic has turned life as we know it on its head.
More than one-quarter of the world’s 7.8 billion people are now largely confined to their homes, as governments ramp up restrictions on movement and social contact in a bid to contain the virus.
In many parts of the world borders are closed, airports, hotels and businesses shut, schools cancelled. These unprecedented measures are tearing at the social fabric of some societies and disrupting many economies, resulting in mass job losses and raising the spectre of widespread hunger, poverty, uncertainty, despair, depression, and anger. The most important feast of the Christian calendar (Easter) has passed this year almost unnoticed. Places of worship are boarded-up, and parishioners told to stay at home.
Much remains uncertain, but analysts say the pandemic and the measures we are taking to save ourselves could permanently change the world in which we live, work, and play. Envisioning this post-pandemic world is key to ensuring we change for the better, not the worse.
I cannot help but think whilst our politicians feverishly go about the task of what they believe is saving our community today, it appears that there’s almost no planning nor vision for what our country might be like in the future.
Whilst I fully support the need to deal with the urgency of the matters of today – now surely it is just as important to set up a brains trust of forward-thinking individuals; (certainly not public servants), business leaders, community groups, religious bodies and media representatives who at this stage can ponder and recommend to our political masters what is a proper plan for the future, whenever that might be.
Are we doing this? Is anybody considering it? I for one, have not heard anything mentioned about such an important initiative in the popular mass media.
We must do this if we are to restore our community, revive and offer hope, security, provide a safe and secure place for us to live and prosper in.
So what might the post-pandemic future look like?
As our ‘Analog world’ descends into crisis, I fear Tech Firms will become even more powerful.
The physical analogue world is being decimated, with traditional analogue businesses including hotels, restaurants, clubs/pubs and tourism in deep crisis. The digital world, however, is thriving. We are surviving this pandemic because of technology.
Everyone is sitting at home where their window to the world is via their computer, smartphone, tablet or television.
In the post-pandemic world, technology will be as ubiquitous as it is now, if not more so, and tech companies will become even more powerful and dominant. This includes smaller firms like Zoom, WhatsApp, Skype as well as the big players such as Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook and PayPal. It’s not just Americans firms, but Chinese ones too. Prior to this, we saw a period in which people were increasingly more cynical and critical of technology. But, as the pandemic increases so does our dependence on technology, I believe people will forget their hostility towards Silicon Valley, at least in the short term.
One of the great dangers we could see is more government use of surveillance. It is a useful weapon to fight the virus – for instance, countries like Israel, Singapore and the US are using smartphone technology to figure out who’s been where in order to track clusters of the virus – but at the same time, such moves threaten to undermine our freedom and privacy. This is nothing new, it only compounds and accelerates forces that have been at play for many years. Moving forward, this will affect not just our ability to hide from the camera, but also determine our socio-political rights.
Separately, China will benefit greatly from this crisis as it was the first country to experience the epidemic and appear already, to be coming out of it. The technocratic authoritarian model in Beijing and East Asia, Singapore and to some extent South Korea – countries that are dealing more effectively with the virus – now appear more viable than some of the actions of Democratic West. For people who care about freedom, privacy, and individual rights, the world after the coronavirus looks worrying.
On Friday, Google and Apple joined together for an ambitious emergency project, laying out a new protocol for tracking the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. They perceive it to be an urgent, complex project, with huge implications for privacy and public health. Similar projects have been successful in Singapore and other countries, but it remains to be seen whether US public health agencies would be able to manage such a project — even with the biggest tech companies in the world lending a hand.
When someone gets sick with a new contagious disease like this year’s coronavirus, public health workers try to contain the spread by tracking down and quarantining everyone that an infected person has been in contact with. This is called contact tracking and authorities set it as a possible tool in containing outbreaks.
Most importantly, it can operate at a far greater scale than conventional contact tracing. Because it’s coming from Apple and Google, some of this functionality will also eventually be built into Android and iPhones at an OS-level. That makes this technical solution potentially available to more than three billion phones around the world — something that would be impossible otherwise.
Without question, it is the thin end of the wedge when it comes to tracking, scrutinising and controlling populations at large.
It may, in these panicked times seem like a good idea, but the implications are terrifying, placing even greater power into the hands of tech giants and governments alike. With this facility, you can forget about any form of privacy or civil rights – when deemed in the nation’s interest. With the stroke of the pen, bureaucracy will be able to track exactly where you are and who you are seeing. It will indeed be ‘A Brave New World’.
On a Personal Side
I suspect many people will look back and see this as a time when things changed their lives; certainly for now, but possibly forever.
I have aged parents. Thank God, given their age, they are healthy and fit. Yet in their twilight years, they are forced into isolation. A Grandmother can’t see her grandchildren. Children can’t visit their parents. At their stage of life, their time is limited and precious. My parents are relatively fortunate, they have enough financial security to have food, a home, and warmth to sustain them. They have a loving family who may not be able to visit but can speak regularly to them to check on their wellbeing.
But there are many in the community who are not as fortunate. Who will speak for them? The homeless; the disenfranchised. Who checks to see if they are OK? Surely one of the most important things that must come out of this dreadful melee is greater recognition and care for the most vulnerable in our community. If we were to look carefully at the woeful statistics that come to us daily, the vast majority of infections and deaths fall in the aged community. According to the Australian Governments Health Departments website the average age of deaths due to Covid-19 is 78.5 years. Is our government doing enough to support and protect this most impuissant section of our community?
On the flip side, a lot of our lives are habitual, and habits are highly effective in helping us work, look after our families and pursue our goals.
The virus has suddenly and completely changed all that.
People now work and travel in a different way, their daily routines and the very rhythm of their lives have been altered, including when they eat and how they communicate with their families. And when we are forced to do things differently, new habits begin to form. And it doesn’t take long – weeks rather than months.
More than that, what we know about shocks like this and system change is that they can have lasting effects on people’s values. We know societies that go through war generate stronger ties. This pandemic is far from a war, but it requires us to pull together. And when we all realise what collective values and action can achieve, it could change how we relate to others, resulting in a greater sense of community.
There are bound to be downsides. We don’t know what they are yet, but this has to be a difficult time for people with poor-quality relationships, such as abusive partners, or those struggling with behaviours such as alcoholism and gambling. Similarly, people who have mental illnesses, such as depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and paranoia, may find shocks like this hard to deal with. And this is not to mention the in-excess of 1 million people who have lost their jobs in recent weeks, people with families who possibly were living from paycheque to paycheque.
And I understand the government has had many press conferences speaking of kickstarting the community with a 130 Billion cash spree. However, this war-chest is being administered by bureaucrats. The red tape is unbelievably odorous. A friend of mine who runs a small dressmaking concern whose revenue has been decimated by the closing of live entertainment venues. She has been trying for the last 10days to register to seek access and assistance from this war-chest with no success because of bureaucratic ineptitude and systems failure. If you need any further evidence that bureaucrats get in the way of things, ask the people who are still waiting for relief from the bushfire funds that the government said they made available six months ago.
After thinking and researching these very questions, it is abundantly apparent that our political masters must focus on the above mentioned matters. Plans must be made for our future and the future of our children. If we can learn anything from this dreadful experience it must be that hope is the most powerful weapon, we have available to us.
If we lose hope, we will very much lose a vision for our future. It is up to our Leaders to assist us by providing HOPE.
More next week.