As the coronavirus pandemic continues to change the way in which we live our lives, David Byrne has penned an essay for his online magazine Reasons to Be Cheerful about his thoughts on the crisis, and how it may shape the future.
“It’s ironic that as the pandemic forces us into our separate corners, it’s also showing us how intricately we are all connected,” he began the lengthy piece. “It’s revealing the many ways that our lives intersect almost without our noticing. And it’s showing us just how tenuous our existence becomes when we try to abandon those connections and distance from one another. Health care, housing, race, inequality, the climate — we’re all in the same leaky boat.”
“Viruses don’t respect borders,” he said frankly. “They get in even with extra screening and travel restrictions. Maybe less, but some slips in. And until there is a vaccine, no one is immune. What that means is that we have to put aside some of our suspicions and animosities towards others and see how much we can limit or even halt the damage.”
He continued by giving examples how Korea, Singapore and Taiwan and other places “have done a good job with containing this thing,” allowing schools, restaurants, stores, and more to reopen, while Vo — the first town in Italy to report a COVID-19 death — went to extreme measures to protect the community by enforcing a 90-day quarantine and sharing phone and location data with the government.
“Some might find the measures taken to halt the spread of the infection to be intrusive,” he wrote. “But the outcome they led to — THAT is freedom. To be able to return to one’s life, with a job, healthy and safe — THAT is national security. If those places can do it, why can’t the rest of us? And what kind of change in our thinking would it take?”
“What is happening now is an opportunity to learn how to change our behavior. For many of us, our belief in the value of the collective good has eroded in recent decades. But in an emergency that can change quickly,” he continued. “In emergencies, citizens can suddenly cooperate and collaborate. Change can happen. We’re going to need to work together as the effects of climate change ramp up. In order for capitalism to survive in any form, we will have to be a little more socialist. Here is an opportunity for us to see things differently — to see that we really are all connected — and adjust our behavior accordingly.”
He ended the op-ed with a few questions and calls to action, championing the strength of connectedness. “Are we willing to do this? Is this moment an opportunity to see how truly interdependent we all are? To live in a world that is different and better than the one we live in now?” he asked. “We might be too far down the road to test every asymptomatic person, but a change in our mindsets, in how we view our neighbors, could lay the groundwork for the collective action we’ll need to deal with other global crises. The time to see how connected we all are is now.”
Read the full essay here.