November 2021

The second year of the pandemic has been full of challenges.

Despite an investigation into how COVID-19 started, the question remains unresolved, with many arguments for and against the so-called lab leak theory. This has fuelled misinformation, disinformation, conspiracy theories and outright denialism, much like the confusion over droplets vs aerosols led to many avoidable superspreader events.

The result has been millions of excess deaths in hospitals and in homes around the world. But the effect has been unequal, with some areas (from India and Africa to Europe and the US) getting hit harder than others, leaving frontline workers overwhelmed, journalists traumatised, and political discontent at dangerous highs.

The way forward

But it’s not all doom and gloom. The creation of effective vaccines has been a medical marvel, even though the process of making more and getting them equitably distributed is still a challenge, as is convincing anti-vaxxers that they’re safe. The pandemic has also highlighted the need for universal healthcare so that everyone (from those who had only mild symptoms to those still dealing with long covid) has access to the treatment they need.

Ultimately, given the rise of variants like Delta and Omicron, it’s clear that eliminating COVID is unlikely. That means we’ll have to move beyond endless lockdowns that keep us trapped indoors and instead learn to learn to live with COVID as an endemic disease, perhaps tracking its spread in unconventional ways.

Inner strength

Many industries have already been adapting. For example, office life seems to be a thing of the past. Instead, the future of work is all about virtual meetings while we work from home. Yes, it’s been tough, especially for working parents, but the new normal is forcing everyone to make radical shifts.

It’s the same with education reform at universities and schools. Some stayed open while others sent students home. This was a struggle for many teenagers (especially those with learning disabilities) but even those who weren’t in private institutions were remarkably resilient.

Indeed, given how how resilient we’ve been up to now, there’s no reason we can’t keep adapting, like one entrepreneur who created transparent masks to help deaf people read lips. There’s also no reason we can’t stay strong, much like Arnold Bennett writes in Old Wives’ Tale (also available on Audible):

“[Although] humanity walks ever on a thin crust over terrific abysses… [powerful] individualities remain undisfigured by no matter what vicissitudes.”

We will get through this.

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