The COVID-19 pandemic is the defining moment of our generation. The last global crisis of this magnitude was World War II, and with any luck we won’t see anything this dire again for decades. That’s probably wishful thinking, for a variety of reasons (climate, for instance), but we can hope.
We’re living in History – with a capital H.As in, this event is one that will appear in History books for years, decades, perhaps centuries to come. The Black Plague. The Spanish Flu. Coronavirus. With luck we have advanced to the point medically where COVID will claim fewer lives, although late-stage consumer capitalism, coupled with dramatic overpopulation and poverty, has perhaps created a perfect storm of entitled affluenza in the developed world (mainly the US) and lethal squalor elsewhere. It’s early days still, and most of the narrative is yet to be written.
Here’s the thing we should be thinking about, though. Histories tell stories. Stories of bodies stacked in the streets. Of beaches soaked with blood. Of empires brought low by hubris and new empires arising from the ashes.
They also tell small stories, stories of sacrifice and goodwill. Stories of people and communities uniting in the face of existential threats.
Right now some of my friends are rounding up scrap fabric and unused craft remnants, breaking out their sewing machines and making masks for their friends, for emergency workers, for medical professionals. These masks aren’t medical grade, but in a nation that was tragically slow to catch on not-quite-perfect is better than nothing.
Here’s another one. My Chelsea FC supporters club, the Rocky Mountain Blues, has been passing the hat for the bartenders and kitchen workers at the British Bulldog, the pub where we stand on matchday. The Dog is more than a soccer bar. Many of us might as well be family and we cherish those who take care of us, even though Samantha supports Liverpool and Drew is a Gooner.
The total so far is over $1500. 10 times that amount wouldn’t be nearly enough, we know, especially in an economy long on me and short on us. But it’s something, especially if we lock arms and multiply it by millions.
Collectively Western society is festering at its core. But at the level of the individual, at the level of the civic group, at the level of the informal gathering of empathetic souls we’re as good as we ever were. Better, even.
The History books will repeat this story. But first we have to write it.
Let’s get to it.