Anticipating The Benefit Of Hindsight
Oppdatert: aug. 28
Sitting in my kitchen looking out the window, quarantined from the outside world because of exposure to our new invisible enemy, I can't help but wonder if we are witnessing a paradigm shift that will rock the foundations of modern society. Or will we simply revert to the same path as before once this blows over?
In the back of our minds we all knew this was coming. Movies have been made about it and talks have been given. Now we are living it. And it is happening fast. Global mass-movement of people makes it possible to reach almost all inhabited corners of the planet within 24 hours, almost every day of the year. That makes it possible for pathogens to do the same. The fact that other recent pandemics hasn't impacted the world like Covid-19 now does seem more like a streak of blind luck than anything else.
Our economy is also global, and it is predicated on the ceaseless flow of goods and services between continents to maintain itself. We are now seeing this disrupted in an unprecedented way and the consequences are immense and terrifying. It reveals how fragile global economic civilization really is, and as of now, we do not know the full extent of the consequences.
The world has been in similar predicaments before, but a pandemic today is vastly different than it was a hundred years ago when most people hardly moved anywhere, medical knowledge was limited and there was a lack of options in treatment.
No one really knows exactly how the events will unfold in the months ahead, but nevertheless there seems to be an emerging polarization between the techno-optimists and the less optimistic eco rebels. The divide between these two camps follows a familiar pattern and Charles C. Mann's “wizard and prophet” analogy is yet again a useful tool for maneuvering through the battlefield.
The wizards are saying that we will handle this. Soon there will be treatments available, eventually followed by a vaccine. They see this as a bump in the road, a temporary setback that will do some harm, but that will also spur innovation in the field of medicine and make us come out stronger on the other side of the crisis. They assure us that we soon will be resuming our way of life and continue towards the techno-utopia that wizards dream of.
On the other side, the prophets argue that this is our final warning. They blame the crisis on global consumerism and a mindless economic growth paradigm. In an "I told you so" manner they seek to convince us that our modern way of life always was unsustainable and doomed for failure. They hope that this is the wake-up call needed to turn the tides, and usher in the green utopia where we will achieve harmony with nature and peace with ourselves.
Such polarization makes us uncertain. It is divisive and ultimately dangerous. Everyone agrees that the immediate consequences are grave, but it is in dealing with outcomes that polarity appears. Hopefully, this tragedy has the potential to bring wizards and prophets together, combining their perspectives to make informed decisions about the future without being blindfolded by their respective ideologies. Knowledge and cooperation must form the bases of future policies. We cannot afford the stalemate that often accompanies polarized politics. This requires that prophets learn to use the wizard's tools and that the wizards use the prophet's mindset to determine what tools to use.
We are now in the center of the storm and can do little else but dig in and wait for the skies to clear. But when the dust settles we could very well find ourselves in a different world. And when we sift through the rubble to find the salvageable parts of our existence we might discover that many of the things we thought we needed, and many of the things we did before, are meaningless. Maybe this is a golden opportunity to revisit some of our ingrained ways of living and our relationship with the natural world.
I look forward to the day when this is over and I can look back at all the experts' opinions, the policies and measures, and even this text, with the benefit of hindsight. Only then can true learning begin. Until then we must all be careful and just stay afloat as best we can.