The bigger picture
I would like now to take you onto a more challenging journey, if you follow me while I zoom out to look at the big picture.
WHAT DO WE DISCOVER?
The entire world is collapsing over an invisible particle of 0.125 microns, which is 1/1000000th of a meter just to give you an idea.
How daunting is this truth for our mental capacity?
…for a human race that think of itself as invincible, with the power to rule natural ecosystems dynamics, manage calamities, revert to nuclear weapons in name of the only God it worships: money.
From the evolutionary point of view, we have reached our current level of power and control over the world because of intelligence. However, the society-changing technological revolution hasn’t been proportional to the growth of our abilities to ensure a responsible and beneficial partnership between us and our intelligence.
We have been giving warnings and signals of potential disastrous scenarios that could impact and completely change our life on earth; think about floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, other diseases outbreaks that have killed and regularly kill thousands of people; think about the increasing phenomenon of mass migration putting a strain onto many geographies, and linked to unliveable conditions and extenuating circumstances we contributed to create for keeping power in the hands of few. Think about terrorism, and people blowing themselves up to cause collective damage.
What have we done?
How much harm have we caused to our world?
We have been all thinking business, profitability, money, in a distorted and misleading persuasion that if business is profitable, it will take care of us!!!
…when one of the first thing businesses did, is increasing masks and sanitisers prices by using this crisis as an opportunity to make money…
…when the idea of globalisation became a boomerang, and instead of demolished walls, and barriers, built boundaries to keep precious health supplies and medical machines within borders. Who cares about others facing the worse struggle, right?!
Lets talk sustainability now. The frequency of disease outbreaks has been increasing steadily. Between 1980 and 2013 there were 12,012 recorded outbreaks, comprising 44 million individual cases in the world. High levels of global travel, trade and connectivity, and high-density living have contributed to this rise – but the links to climate change and biodiversity are the most striking.
Deforestation has increased steadily over the past two decades and is linked to 31% of outbreaks such as Ebola, and the Zika and Nipah viruses. More broadly, climate change has altered and accelerated the transmission patterns of infectious diseases such as Zika, malaria and dengue fever, and has caused human displacement (mentioned earlier). Movements of large groups to new locations, often under poor conditions, increases displaced populations’ vulnerability to biological threats such as measles, malaria, diarrheal diseases and acute respiratory infections. And again, the past 20 years of disease outbreaks could be viewed as a series of near-miss catastrophes, which have led to complacency rather than an increased vigilance necessary to control outbreaks. More of those repeating signals and signs that we are failing to decipher.
The changes involved with this outbreak on the other hand, have been sudden, driven by widespread recognition that it’s a public health emergency. We are seing few governments acting, and people changing their behaviour, in a very short amount of time-that is in reality, what the climate emergency has been requiring governments and people to do for years in the face of a different kind of threat. Once again, public health strictly correlates with profits and losses, whereas climate does not (in our short term vision).
The coronavirus is our test; it is the most iconic global challenge and our last chance to rethink undoubtedly our principles, values and shared humanity.
We are being tested on the same values we have ignored for decades: the human being.
For the first time, economy is severely intertwined with people health. It’s not possible to ignore people dying for two main reasons: it’s happening next door to our families (rather than in distant lands…Syria, Amazonia, Africa, and so on), it is demolishing our entire economic model.
For the first time, public health correlates to the health of the most marginalised members of the community. Preventing the spread of this virus requires outreach to all, with an equitable access to treatment. This challenge also implies overcoming systemic biases based on income, gender, geography, race and ethnicity, religion or social status. Migrants and refugees – regardless of their formal status – must be an integral part of national systems and plans for tackling the virus.
For the first time, global leaders are required to put economic growth second in favour of people lives. They are forced to choose between money and people. If in previous situations, it was an easier trade off to make (see lack climate efforts), this is a tougher one, as the personal ethic comes into play combined with a world watching live every decision made .
That subtle “Irony” behind the design of our destiny…do you start to see it?!
How is it humanly possible that the example of escalation in China and Italy and the developed scientific evidence are not yet a sufficient motivator to push all other countries at implementing the same restrictions?
Those inactions are the symptoms of an infected society that choose economy over the human being; these leaders are failing their test, and they will be accountable for prolonging our painful collective journey.
They will have to take the consequences when the situation goes out of hand, while innocent people will pay the price for their complacence.
During this time, the true color of politicians, businesses will strike the eyes of the wide public around the world. Like those Italian leaders, part of the opposite coalition, shamefully busy at contrasting the government in power rather than supporting its decisions with dignity and emotional intelligence.
The paradox: the law of Contrapasso
I am extremely glad to be in Italy: I feel safer and proud of the Italian authorities acting with both, rigour and empathy. I would never have imagined that I will feel more secure and protected here than in Switzerland, where I have been living for the past 12 years.
A sad “diagnostic” of a sick society, much earlier than COVID19’s appearance.
Do you see the analogy between our destiny and what Dante write magnificently in “La Divina Commedia“?
This is exactly what it describes in hell, talking about the “law of contrapasso“.
Contrapasso is one of the few rules in Dante’s Inferno, a “law of nature” stating that for every sinner’s crime there must be an equal and fitting punishment. In Dante’s poem, punishments must arise from the crime itself, not from the damage it has caused. The “Contrappasso” seems to be applied to us for contrast, as for the guesses, punished in the fourth bolgia of the eighth Circle (Inferno XX): they had the presumption in life to look ahead in the future and in the afterlife, according to a “Contrappasso” for contrast, they are forced to walk backwards with the face turned back towards the back.
In a similar fashion, we are now forced to be united, to show solidarity, to join forces, to prioritise human value over money, to act promptly and synergistically as one human race – that is our punishment for contrast to our established “business as usual” approach. And yet, we are still given a chance to fix our sinful behaviour in this life.
COVID19 is probably just the announce of a permanent, ongoing new war characterising our era, and preparing us for the biggest change in the history of life on Earth. If we fail to pass this critical test, there may not be a future ahead. If we fail to read in between the web of events, and fail to reset our operating system, this time may be remembered as the greatest opportunity humanity missed. Business as usual won’t exist anymore as well as old-fashioned leaders functioning by default. It’s the time to reset our values altogether and change our “operating system”.
Not just leaders, but all of us will face their own test commensurate to their own capacity: we will have to get used to living with fewer possessions and travelling less, as the virus disrupts global supply chains and transportation networks.
Nevertheless, the human psyche is resistant and the virus has taken decisionmaking out of our hands. We are unable to doing things without rushing, waiting for answers, searching for solutions and making money. Shelves are empty of food and will soon be empty of clothes, phones, shoes, unnecessary stuff and medical supplies. People stop moving around, stop going out, stop spending, stop going on holiday, stop going to cultural events, even to church.
We will have to learn how to be happy just with our used dress, reading a forgotten book, cooking up a new recipe and discovering the little things. We will be forced into slowing down the pace, refusing to take planes, working from our homes, entertaining only amongst close friends or family, learning to become self-sufficient and mindful. Suddenly the thought of future projects is vague and uncertain: does it even matter?
There isn’t any cure for this: the best way to survive is to use the time as an opportunity to pick up the pieces and reinvent ourself and the world where we live.
Only then, we may deserve hugs, kisses and “freedom” back; and it is then that we will truly appreciate the beauty of a true hug, exchanged with the heart.
Along with ‘technological innovation’ we need “human innovation”. We need emphasis and focus to create the next level of being human, the way we design our own futures. Businesses need to step back and ask themselves: are we solving the right problem? Is there a better problem definition that will more likely result in benefits to humanity?
Leaders need to be role models in creativity, invention, improvisation, empathy, ethics, emotions, social connections and intuition among other human attributes, before being experts in economy, strategy and finance.
We need to rethink capitalism that fails to make us secure, as clearly shown by the events. We need to rethink business role in society, and redefine us as human being!
Hopefully, the striking number of lives yet to come, won’t die in vain as the world will strive to resurrect human dignity and survival.
I would like to end with a positive message from us, Italians to the rest of the world, intended as a wake up call for all.
There is freedom in this path of generosity and greater pain in the path of scarcity and fear.
Social distancing does not mean social isolation.
6 thoughts on “In Italy at the time of COVID_19”
Hi Gabriela, I’m just up the road from you in Centro Storico, the normally noisy heart of Naples. It is empty, eerily quiet..all shops are shuttered, only a lone person walking their dog. I share your sentiments but I am still lingering in the anger realm of my emotional response to change. I was in Viet Nam for SARS, Hong Kong for H5N1, Sierra Leone for Ebola, and as a health worker I wonder why our systems are not better prepared. How human complacency and the pitiful lack of understanding and resourcing of public and planetary health has turned our vibrant colourful Napoli into a ghost town. I am working on the next step of my emotional response by enjoying photos of the sea shimmering in Pozzuoli, the plants blooming on my balcony, listening to music, having conversations of solidarity around the world. Our deep resilience will ensure our survival, but let us now give more time and energy to the quality of our lives. I wish all the frontline health workers buon lavoro – stay safe- and all of Italy strength and fortitude.
Andrà tutto bene!
Barbara you couldn’t put it more beautifully. Thanks and take care for now 😘
I wholeheartedly agree Gabriela. The woeful human complacency, the ignorance of public health policies, the under resourcing of planetary health….I was in Viet Nam for SARS, Hong Kong for H5N1, Sierra Leone for Ebola, and now just up the road from you in Napoli’s eerily deserted Centro Storico. As a health worker I must be optimistic that this time we will learn to change our ways for the better. For now I am enjoying the simple joys of photos of the sea shimmering in Pozzuoli, plants blooming on my balcony, global conversations of solidarity with friends. Our resilience will ensure our survival but the price paid is high and we must look to restoring our humanity and appreciating what quality of life really means.
Andrà tutto bene!
Your story is heart touching. Yes it is real and important to learn from the experience of others before it hits us!
I hope you guys will be safe! Love you 😘
Dovremmo vivere questo irripetibile momento storico con la consapevolezza di uscirne migliori!
Dovremmo capire che, finora, non siamo stati all’altezza dei n/s ideali!
Dovremmo ritornare ad una vita fatta di piccole soddisfazioni per grandi ideali.
Dovremmo, in definitiva, vivere sempre perseguendo l’Amore.
Ciao Gabriella da Renato.