COVID-19 is changing the behaviour of people in many ways, and we have just seen the beginning.
But first the basics.
COVID has now spread to 208 countries and territories and has exposed almost 100% of the world population. So it is something which we have not seen in our lifetime, and hopefully will not be seen again either.
But right now the prayer on all lips is how to come out of this healthy – as an individual, as family, as community, country, and humanity.
But sure this will have profound changes in us, and many of that we are already seeing.
These are my takes:
- Capitalism has always focused on individual success, and success is about cornering resources leaving less for others. So if someone has a big house, big car, large TV he/ she is naturally considered more successful that one who lives in squalor, walks to work, and has no gadgets.
We work hard all our lives to build barriers that will prevent others from having a share of what is scarce – through degrees, entry criteria, connections, manipulations, cartelization, and many more.
But suddenly we find that all these will not help us in our fight against COVID. It is where we are up against an enemy who does not differentiate between who we are, or what we offer.
It can affect anyone, the lack of any treatment/ vaccine is true for all, and the acute lack of preparedness is staring at all of us.
COVID has brought a shared society concept back in a very perverse way and made us rethink many of our assumptions – like figuring out what to do, or taking control of our destiny, or life planned out or retiring at 40, or many more.
Humans have again been posed with the realization that life is uncertain, and no plan is good enough to overcome the future.
- Who is our neighbour? Is there a neighbour at all? How are they keeping? Are they keeping well?
When did we last ask these questions? Maybe quite a while. But why so?
Thirty years back the connectivity – both digital and physical was weak. The private sector was not developed, and the public sector was having limitations.
We kept in touch with people are around as because neighborhood support was an alternative to the lack of institutions.
But over the period, we have become nuclear and isolated. Technology and money have given us access. Today we don’t need to reach the neighbor for support if someone falls sick, we call 108. The same is for everything – we can get entertainment on TV, on streaming media, on social media, in Multiplexes.
Groceries on call away, so is plumber, beautician, the food. So we forgot the neighbor, and to be fair – neighbor to forget us.
But COVID suddenly made us acutely aware of the neighborhood.
Are people around me safe, healthy? Have they returned from abroad? Are they quarantined? And if so, are they following the regime? And if they are at home – can we ensure that they do not come out? We help them get the supplies? The groceries? Other help?
Suddenly the neighborhood, the mohalla, the pada is back.
- We have the maids, we have the drivers, and we also have other employees who work for us. Most of us are good at them in giving salary in time and ensuring generic wellbeing.
But when did we last asked them about their health, gave them gloves, gave them holidays, gave them advances, and even called them not to come to work?
As again, the health of the people who we typically care less about became as important as that of my family.
- “Working for Home”, and it is different from “Work from Home”.
A legion of people, without the comfort of the maids (a very Indian privilege, because labor is cheap, and exploitation is high) suddenly started working on the daily chores. Washing, cooking, cleaning, and dusting. And found that they are not that busy, rather lazy. And yes, of course, there is a newfound awareness about how much slog the maids do for a pittance, and at times some romantic thoughts too – how much our mothers worked to help us grow.
- Volunteering as never before has caught up with the nation, with the handicap of not being able to go out. Many want to help, many need help as much of our personal resources locked out, and we now need to reach people unknown to us get at times critical support. And that is also turning many into volunteers themselves.
There are the traditional NGOs who are working at full steam, but what has surprised many are ordinary individuals with no background have sprung up with new models to reach out.
There are social media-based groups like “Caremongers India” who are connecting needs with help. There are local and hyper-local groups who are reaching daily supplies to the folks who are stuck with little or no money. People are standing on the roadside to help walking migrants. Some going out on the roads to give supplies in clusters.
In fact, this possibly is the most redeeming part of COVID, the emergence of unknown, faceless heroes who cares for nothing but humanity.
- The nation got a sense of “Working from Home”, at least for a large segment of the services industry.
Traditionally it was the privilege of the select few, mostly in certain large organizations in the IT industry. And many others wondered, often with a sense of indignation, as to how life will be fun with it.
Now a large swathe of the industries has got a test. The devices and connectivity have been tested. The Zooms of the world have become commonplace. The concerns that business can’t be done remotely has been busted in many ways, along with the concern that employees may be malingering or data will be compromised.
But this has also given ideas to many that maybe they do not need so much physical space, or transport to bring in the employees, or for that matter – so many employees itself. How these learnings will change the way we work at organizational levels – we need to wait and watch.
And another area to look at will be business travel. We all know it is bunkum, a way to incentivize people to have a good time. Much of the travel can be replaced by other modes. This will also improve cost – but it will also have an impact on the travel industry.
- The rise of government agencies and essential services has been another revelation.
The hospitals are coping up, the banks are running, the telecom is working, and the supplies are on – for the most part.
But what had been more fascinating had been the rise of the police, who in most parts are feared and loathed.
From supplying essentials to singing songs to keep the morale high, to cajoling folks to come out of crowded spaces, to making incessant campaigns – all while keeping the tensions and (largely) the Lathis in check – had been astounding.
The country has seen real heroes who have put their lives in the line of death so that others will leave. I hope that it will significantly alter many professions going forward.
And yes, except for a few exceptions like Bill Gates, the moneyed had been mostly either ineffectual or self-entered in the crisis. It shows that big house, swanky cars, and large balances are of limited value to society at large when there is a crisis.
- The capitalist society traditionally scoffed at welfare economies. This coupled with the success more aligned to grabbing than sharing ensured services, where RoI is not too clear, has suffered. Education and healthcare had been traditionally neglected. This, however, has helped the minority of affluent – to get cheap labor who has no voice.
But COVID has shown this model has flaws. Lack of education is clearly a barrier in effective communication – and we see many are still thinking about the issue as something which they are immune to, or don’t really care about.
But what has really shaken us is the lack of adequate healthcare and associated facilities. Though the developed countries will eventually manage to tide over, the developing countries will suffer hugely.
The lack of beds, PPEs, ventilators, oxygen cylinders, sanitizers, isolation wards is staring at us. Given this, and the corruption that ails our healthcare system – we may face situations where we may go a-begging without any treatment whatsoever. At least for people who are not “connected” in the traditional sense.
Brace for a wave of investments in the primary healthcare post COVID. The fear will be real, and drive everyone to focus on this space.
- Commerce will change in a significant way. Travel will be curtailed, both by individuals and organizations.
There will be significant travel restrictions that will be there for months, if not months among countries, but maybe inside the countries.
There will be an attempt to take as much business as possible online. We may well see a global design and localized manufacturing to compress the supply chains. Local innovations will rise – both from safety as well security from future disruptions. Entrepreneurship, especially in small scale manufacturing and content (of any form) will see a boost.
A lot of effort will be there to build trust across the board. How do we ensure that the nations, companies, individuals can trust each other with the dissemination of information, confidentiality, and support in situations like this? What will be the new models? I won’t be surprised if the likes of Blockchain become reality beyond the hype.
The slowing down is already showing the benefits of an improved environment. We can see peaks of mountains which were invisible in our lifetime. The satellite images show improvements. The cities have cleaner airs. And sure over time, it will positively improve the climate and the health of people.
Sustainable? Not sure. But momentous? Sure.
But the question is – how much of these changes will be permanent?
Well, all will depend on how long the COVID pandemic will play out, and how many people will be affected.
As of now, it looks like a long game. A vaccine to be discovered, trials to be done, released in the market, reaching all the 7+ billion to immunize will be a long haul.
Unless the virus mutates to a less lethal version. But then it may be the other way too.
No one can look into the future. But as of now, it looks that life will change in a significant way for many of us. And for a large part, it will possibly be good.
The world needed a reboot – and it is getting it.
Visited 689 times, 1 Visit today