This recent health crisis the world is facing feels surreal and inevitable at the same time. We’re a closely connected species with masses of technology, but ultimately we’re still fragile and biological machines. I’ve written before that whilst numbers are infinite, humans are not, and that’s the limit of our financial economy.
We know the value of money vanishes into nothing when we’re faced with disasters…but it depends who the disaster is hurting.
Normally, we can ignore the disaster because we’re told it’s not part of us.
For example, when the disaster is a person who’s been left addicted and jobless, we’re told it’s a personal failing. When it’s an abused mother with nowhere safe to take her children, it’s an unfortunate circumstance. When it’s unpaid carers running themselves ragged to get support for disabled loved ones, it’s a tragedy of nature. There’s always a reason to look the other way instead.
However a pandemic is, by definition, a threat to the system as whole; not just segments.
Now none of us can safely ignore it. We’re all part of something larger, either because we’re vulnerable to catch it or because we’re afraid we’ll pass it on. We’re united in being human, even despite differences in class, wealth and immune systems.
And here’s an interesting thought. For a virus the human body has almost no boundary. Whereas to us our membranes ( e.g. inside our mouths) have an edge; to a virus it’s a series of gaps between cells to cling onto.
For example, SARS-CoV-2, the cause of Covid19, is made up of tiny 50–200* nanometre-wide “virons”. There’s no distinguishing line at an atomic level between your body and the world you are a part of. It’s an idea I find both humbling and terrifying.
Really, we’re always part of something larger, whether there’s an illness flowing through our community or not.
To ignore other’s suffering is to ignore your own suffering. As a society, the crisis is turning our flawed economic systems on their heads. In the UK, even the famously stingy Conservatives are making efforts to put people before profits; at least in the face of this crisis.
Without each-other, there’s no value to be found in a skyrocketing stocks or piles of savings. Without people, what is all this money for?
Altruism is the reason the human species survives, not arbitrary numbers and stock-exchange figures. Economic systems should be for us, not for capturing us.
Money is a figment of our collective imagination, it quickly loses importance in the face of real threat. An economy where we hurt each-other and our planet is not fit for anyone, crisis or no crisis.
This realisation affects everyone differently. Whilst some businesses are laying people off at the first sign of danger, and others remain open despite mounting pressure to close; others are doing remarkable and unprecedented acts of economic sacrifice in order to support the human beings involved in the crisis.
Whilst it’s easy to dismiss examples like free NHS drinks as marketing fluff, I bet the coffee is still delicious and appreciated by exhausted nurses and freaked-out doctors. The money, the marketing, even the business might not really matter, but our experience still does.
Already, many people are pledging to remember the companies and business who choose profits over their employee health, and to embrace those who instead chose kindness and compassion. When our true colours are revealed, it’s kindness that matters most.
I hope you are safe wherever you are today, and thank you for reading.
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*That’s 0.00002 centimeters!