What will our so­ci­ety look like post-virus?

Times Standard (Eureka) - - LIFESTYLES - Scott Mar­cus

I am al­ways leery to write about cur­rent top­i­cal events be­cause, there are four to five days be­tween the time I write and the time it goes to print. In the fast-spin­ning whirl­wind of today’s news cy­cles, those flips of the calendar can con­sti­tute a “for­ever,” with some­thing that’s of im­port now hav­ing been el­bowed off stage by the time it’s in black and white.

I am con­fi­dent that this will not be one of those times.

COVID-19, the coro­n­avirus, is trig­ger­ing global panic. As I write this, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion just de­clared it a pan­demic, cit­ing “alarm­ing lev­els of spread and … lev­els of in­ac­tion.” Right now, there are over 120,000 doc­u­mented cases world­wide and over 1,000 here in the United States. I’m pos­i­tive that by the time you’re read­ing this, those num­bers will seem nos­tal­gic. Things move blind­ingly fast. As il­lus­tra­tion, three weeks ago, we hadn’t even heard of “self-quar­an­tine.” Mer­ri­amWeb­ster now cat­a­logues it in the top 1% of lookups.

One might say that the me­dia is over-hyp­ing the cri­sis to get eye­balls and clicks. One might be right. Yet, there’s also a le

giti­mate cause for con­cern. Be­tween the un­re­li­able in­for­ma­tion stream, the natural fear we all have of the un­known, as well as feel­ing that we are leaves in the rapids, pro­pelled with­out con­trol, it’s normal to have to hold at bay the nau­seous sense of panic welling up in our throats.

As the seren­ity prayer says, “God, grant me the seren­ity to ac­cept the things I can­not change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the dif­fer­ence.” This con­di­tion is so not in the “change the things I can change” col­umn. The best advice is “re­mem­ber to breathe.” Clear a mo­ment. Close your eyes. Take a long, deep breath. Let it out. Re­peat. Color it “ac­cep­tance”

How­ever, what will our so­ci­ety look like post-virus?

And yes, it will be gone. There will be a morn­ing af­ter. Most of us will be here when the sun rises on that day. If we use China as a tem­plate, the scourge — if han­dled well (and that’s a topic for an­other col­umn) — will take about eight weeks to run its course.

I’m sure there are greater pre­dic­tive minds than mine look­ing to that time, although I think some con­se­quences are al­ready mak­ing them­selves known.

Per Wikipedia, “So­cial dis­tanc­ing is … (a method to) con­trol ac­tions … to stop or slow down the spread of a highly con­ta­gious dis­ease.” As we all know, it is be­ing im­ple­mented by cur­tail­ing and can­cel­ing large gath­er­ings, such as con­certs, sport­ing events, con­ven­tions — let alone schools, churches and busi­nesses.

Ci­ties have banned gath­er­ings over 250 peo­ple. Italy has vir­tu­ally locked the doors and thrown away the keys. New Rochelle, New York, has a one-mile con­tain­ment zone. All of th­ese ac­tions are be­ing ex­e­cuted with the in­tent of flat­ten­ing the “ex­pan­sion curve,” a lofty goal but with side ef­fects.

We are trav­el­ing less — even within our own towns. We re­main more in our homes, as­so­ci­at­ing only with those we trust.

Sadly — out of a per­ceived ne­ces­sity — we are even re­con­sid­er­ing hugs and hand­shakes, trad­ing them for fist, foot, and el­bow bumps, as well as bow­ing.

Cul­ture has been de­fined as “that’s how we do things around here.” Our cul­ture — for bet­ter or worse — will not “do things” like we did be­fore this dis­ease. It will not look nor feel the same, even af­ter the coro­n­avirus is rel­e­gated to the same place in his­tory as po­lio, SARS or the Black Plague. We will “do things” dif­fer­ently

As hu­mans, we are hard-wired to be with oth­ers. That is why we form close re­la­tion­ships, build com­mu­ni­ties, con­struct ci­ties. This epi­demic is put­ting us at odds with our na­ture, caus­ing sad­ness and in­ter­nal con­flict that will re­main long into the fu­ture. It will show it­self as us be­ing more phys­i­cally — and emo­tion­ally — iso­lated; nest­ing more, us­ing vir­tual links more fre­quently than we do now, seek­ing out that con­nec­tion we no longer feel safe re­ceiv­ing in pub­lic. Fear and sus­pi­cion of the “other,” al­ready a ma­jor dif­fi­culty in so­ci­ety, is be­ing am­pli­fied.

You might or might not agree with my cal­cu­la­tions but, be­ing a bat­tlescarred op­ti­mist, I want to be­lieve that maybe, just maybe, this hor­ren­dous pe­riod will give bright­light bril­liance to the fact that — no mat­ter our color, gen­der, sex­ual pref­er­ence, po­lit­i­cal lean­ings, even the coun­try in which we live — we are One. Each of us loves and fears and does the best he or she knows how to do. Yet, in a New York minute, it can all change, through no fault of our own.

I do know that no mat­ter what the fu­ture car­ries, we stand a bet­ter chance if we can find ways to help and hold each other through this pe­riod, whether that’s via a video con­fer­ence or as part of large con­fer­ence.

This will end. What hap­pens af­ter­ward is be­ing cre­ated now. Choose wisely your re­ac­tion.

Stay healthy. Be well.

There will be a morn­ing af­ter. Most of us will be here when the sun rises on that day. If we use China as a tem­plate, the scourge — if han­dled well (and that’s a topic for an­other col­umn) — will take about eight weeks to run its course.

Scott “Q” Mar­cus is a pro­fes­sional speaker and founder of www. ThisTimeIM­eanIt.com, where he can be con­tacted for coach­ing, con­sult­ing, and pre­sen­ta­tions. He is con­duct­ing a work­shop on set­ting goals and get­ting past what holds you back in Eureka on March 28. You can find out more at www. ThisTimeIM­eanIt.com/ in­ten­tions

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