Folks no longer have any doubts: this pandemic will have a huge impact on the world.
First of all, it cannot be ruled out that the pandemic will be much more lethal than it is today; that health systems will prove to be incapable of treating everyone who is affected by it; and in particular, that there will not be enough intensive care equipment everywhere, and that in the least prepared countries it will be necessary to choose, among the most seriously ill, those who can be treated. Even worse, such situation could prove to be a decisive factor in our civilization’s shift toward peak individualism and to fight doggedly for survival. No more respect for others. No more empathy. On the road toward dictatorship.
Furthermore, we cannot rule out the possibility that the pandemic will end up having a very serious impact on the global economy. A demand-side crisis, followed by a supply-side crisis, aggravated by the interruption of production networks, which could lead to shortages and thus inflation, push up interest rates, trigger the bankruptcy of companies that are unable to service their debts and cause the ruin of financial institutions that were imprudent enough to have supported these companies; unemployment would explode; a major social crisis would ensue, with political consequences, again incalculable. Even more exacerbated by the fact that the richest would always find, in these circumstances, the means to make even bigger fortunes.
We are not there yet, and we can still do everything we can to avoid it. In order to do so, it would also be necessary for this crisis, without causing more victims, to leave a mark on people’s minds. And that we draw, as soon as possible, from the crevices of these threatening catastrophes, the possibility of a better world. The most important actions are clearly emerging.
On the one hand, to act massively on the most direct elements of the crisis: We need better individual and collective hygiene; more doctors, nurses, hospital equipment, intensive care facilities; more fundamental and applied research. Finally, we need to regulate the financial systems and undo the crazy pyramids of debt that have brought us to where we are today.
On the other hand, we must make the most of the new practices that this crisis, however serious, has imposed on us: self-respect, washing and monitoring ourselves; spending more time with our family, friends and nature; cooking and spending time at the table; selecting the most useful outings; discovering the virtues of working remotely; reducing the time and number of participants in meetings, whether physical or virtual; making real use of new technologies to listen to music, inform, teach and diagnose. Moreover, our production must be different and we must promote a spatial division of labour that is much less dispersed and fragile. And, as a result, we must promote a whole new model of growth, and new economic sectors, some of which had been hitherto neglected. Especially related to health and education, in all their dimensions. It did not take long for Wall Street to include some of these companies in a new index, called the ‘Stay at Home’ index, which, alongside Netflix, includes 33 companies that are directly benefiting from the crisis, as diverse as Activision Blizzard, Slack, Teladoc, New York Times, Sonos, Amazon, Blue Apron, Alibaba, Campbell Soup, Central Garden and Petco.
More generally, it will teach us to take seriously the one thing in the world that is truly rare and valuable—time. A good time. The time in our daily lives, which we must no longer waste on futile activities. The time in our personal lives, which can be extended by devoting more resources to it. Finally, the time of our civilization, which we can preserved by ceasing to live in agitation, superficiality and solitude. In a new balance between nomadism and sedentary life.