Submitted by William Elder.
The Corono-virus 19, as with every other crisis in human evolution comes with a “teaching moment” as educators say – or does for those paying attention. I like to think of such moments as little shocks that force me to stop to appreciate a fresh fact or see an old truth anew. Educators try to sync such moments with their carefully written out lesson plans. Crises, however, usually come unexpected and unscripted, popping out of complacency, like our current pandemic for example. But such crises do come, though rarely so globally, so globally deadly. When they do come they test and instruct our ignorance, usually at a price we hate to pay – like a good smack upside our monkey ear.
Humans that survive such trials have the chance to acquire insights into our behavior that ignorance and arrogance, coming together, can painfully deliver. For that is how we learn to live on, or ignore and suffer the consequences.
Millions have contracted a novel strain of deadly virus, Covid 19, whose source remains a biological, if not a geographical, mystery. It started in China, but continues everywhere. In America 100,000+ of us have died and more are continuing to sicken and die daily. Despite bluster, we still do not know how to prevent it or finally cure it. That’s simply the place at which our ignorance has us right now. When and whether we shall get to those ends remains a scientific challenge and a political football. Look around. Ignorance abounds. Denial, dismissal, minimising, threats, and outright lying have been the response of the current administration. Federal competence is all but nonexistent, or worse, is deadly. We need to learn from what we can observe, analize, hypothesize upon, test, cross-check, and finally count on to be accurate.
About two and a half million years ago we learned to make tools. Humans took their tools— their mobility, their curiosity, their sharpened learning ability— and re-shaped an entire planet. We came together in societies. We built cities, great and small. We planted and reaped vast sweeps of the earth’s arable surface. This far along in our collective development our coming together for mutual advantage and survival as individuals, and as a species, is our only realistic course of action. True, there have been troubling ironies along our path. More humans have died or been maimed at the hands of our human brothers than were ever claimed by all the other fearsome enemies on our planet put together. All but one.
Pandemics have killed more of us by far. A new viral strain has come again to sicken and kill. Fear is understandable, embracing irrationality is not. Human responses in the past have deployed our best weapon in defense of all: learning. We must isolate this new virus, learn from it, trust our scientists to thoroughly analyze it, and counter its effects.
Infection spreads like wildfire. Learning takes time. So we must also be prepared to accept our losses, to do as we have always had to do: lift up and sustain the afflicted, bury the dead, and work our various ways through the personal inconveniences and economic hardships any crisis always brings upon us. All while we continue to learn. Keep learning, keep learning— not because we do so to boost our egos or increase profits in a time of hardship. Only the worst of us do that without gagging. Then why? Because understanding helps us cope with untimely death. It is the best tool we have to meet survival’s challenge, to overcome once more, to win one more struggle, to prove worthy as a species of the name we, in pride, gave ourselves long ago: homo sapiens. If we are indeed wise we must continue to learn, to educate as many of us for the future— for the next time— as we can. By instinct each of us tries to live for himself or herself. Through empathetic understanding, derived from learning, tested by crisis, do we come to be wise enough to live for each other.
The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.