Norwegian author and YouTuber Bjorn Andreas Bull-Hansen has some interesting thoughts on the long-term, cultural significance of coronavirus (COVID-19 / SARS-COV-2). The existence of this virus will definitely have effects on how we think about things, how we act, where we go, who we interact with:
“We’re going to see people understanding the value of family, we’re going to see people returning to the local communities; people will travel less, people will have a lot more skepticism toward foreigners, towards foreign cultures. I’m sure there will be a lot of push-back toward this, that people will call you a lot of names if you have that kind of skepticism” – but, he strongly implies, it’s going to happen, whether some folks like it or not.
This is starting to hit home to me. I have just learned that because Maryland has decided to cancel all school classes and programs for two weeks, starting on Monday, I am going to be taking some serious hits professionally and financially. I may lose two weeks of pay. At least. Maybe more, if things continue.
It’s definitely making me think. I am vulnerable, here. I’m vulnerable economically, since I’m dependent very much on what others do for my employment. We all are, to some degree. But I’m acutely so, by the nature of my job. I’m vulnerable health-wise, again due to the nature of my employment.
And I am vulnerable, too, in that I am living a) close to a very large and fairly unstable city – Baltimore – which has a history of rioting, and which could become very unpleasant very quickly if things get bad; and b) in a context in which it is very difficult for me to “prep” – to stockpile food and supplies, and to operate “off the grid,” if necessary. Not just difficult, but nearly impossible, at present.
I have been resisting the thought of moving – even as I have also been pondering the prospect – partly because I was “once burned, twice shy” by my 2013-14 relocation to Maine; and partly because it is simply a daunting concept. Where will I go? What will I do to make money, to support myself? I have no easy answers. But this coronavirus outbreak is definitely making me think more deeply about the questions.
Another way in which this has touched me: I stopped at the local supermarket on my way home from work today. Thought nothing of it, there were just a few things I wanted to get, some for supper, some for later. I walked into a “panic buying” situation, as the school closings had caused local people to make a run on the store. In this one incident, I now have more of a sense of what it must have been like to have lived in the Soviet Union, at least as regards empty shelves in the stores.
I ended up getting more than I had intended, just because I wasn’t sure it’d be there the next time! And this was because there has been a single “community-transmitted” case of coronavirus detected in the State of Maryland: that is to say, an individual who had no known exposure to coronavirus through travel or an infected individual, meaning the precise source was unknown.
While I am not saying that an abundance of caution is inappropriate in this case, it does make me wonder what would happen in a more dramatic emergency. And yes, this certainly does cause one – at least, this one – to hope that our contemporary reliance on global supply chains, porous borders, and “just in time” delivery models are overdue for a rethink.
Understanding the value of family, returning to the local communities, less-frequent or at least more thoughtful and less-casual travel, and more skepticism toward foreigners, all sound like pretty good ideas to me, at this point.
Bull-Hansen has more to say, too, than what I have quoted and reacted to. Definitely worth a watch, and worth considering his comments. “Stay strong,” he concludes. “We will get through this. We will all get through this.”
May God grant it.