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Coronavirus: We can't just blame a bat baguette

A by-product of being an apex predator is this: you’re never short of arrogance or hubris. You know there’s no ‘sharp-toothed anything’ going to descend from above – because you are that sharp-toothed something.

The true apex predator bends the world to his will. He doesn’t fit in with his surroundings, but changes them. He destroys, flattens and builds. He makes in his own image. “Man… made”. Ego, in physical forms. Rules ignored. Criticisms shrugged.

But hubris aside, even apex predators know deep down they’re not absolutely invincible and wholly untouchable.

There’s stuff out there. Stuff you can’t see. Stuff you didn’t see coming. Even if you did kind of sense it.

Corona, not the beer

COVID-19 has become a “life-imitating motion picture” reminder that apex predation can come in all shapes and sizes. If big was always best, there’d still be dinosaurs skulking around. Sometimes the real bad ass is micro-biotic.

In the months ahead, many of us will continue to rightly ask, “To what degree have we brought this on ourselves? Did we invite this to our door? Did we see or sense this coming?"

And of course, for decades gone by, the “Not-If-But-When Global Pandemic” has been a focus of speculation, prospection and vivid imaginings.

Our pop cultural fixation with Zombie apocalypse always felt like so many codified premonitions. Hollywood channeling its inner Nostradamus. Fevered dreams that reflected a collective underlying anxiety.

Ever since the last one, it’s natural to wonder “when’s the next one?” If we’re talking Spanish Flu and 1918, then we’re running to a once-every-100-years event where we humans get our asses kicked.

Of course, extinction is only titillating so long as it stays in the fiction aisle. ‘Shock horror’ loses its impact the moment it turns itself into a news broadcast.

Certainly, there are levels on which this present novel virus is not novel or unexpected. The food chain is going to bite back if you start going too off-piste. Exotic meats can have exotic outcomes. This should not feel like a ‘Big Reveal’ to anyone. But it’s not as simple as blaming a bat baguette.

This moment – worrying, troubling, where we all have to reign ourselves in so it doesn’t become terrifying – needs to also be a moment of pause and serious self-interrogation. At a personal and at a species level. This is an existential moment that has implications on the path of our future existence.

It’s one planet.

The ‘global village’ actually means that something that happens in a place you likely never heard of, can’t pronounce and probably didn’t care about can come and knock on your door. Everywhere is everywhere. Everything is close. We are all each other’s neighbors. Which begs revisiting some of the obvious questions.

Do we need to fly quite so often? Do we really need to make 50 million flights a year? Do we need to have all the fruits in the world there on our supermarket aisle 24/7/365? Could seasonal produce that’s clocked a few less air miles be just as palatable to us? Could we not just draw a line under domestic and packaging plastics and take on the chin that our grocery store outings need a bit more personal preparation?

Panic in the system... 

What we’re all soon going to deeply appreciate is how swiftly this present virus has already, figuratively mutated. There’s the biological virus itself... but then there’s the economic strain - and the cultural version.

Economically, already: contracts cancelled. Retrenched and “effective immediately” corporate spending patterns operating to worst-case scenarios, but also paving the way to worst-case scenario fulfillment. Vendors paused. Jobs on half-pay. Jobs lost. Entire industry segments starting their tumble into the abyss. Fear, pulling like gravity.

Less food on the shelves is scary enough. Suddenly no job and no money to pay for what food that’s left: that’s a more deep-seated horror.

Economically, inevitably, we’re going to make it worse for ourselves – despite knowing that every economic decision ripples the entire system. Equal and opposite reactions everywhere. From Fortune 500, CEOs to micro business owners: we’re all on the hook for the decisions we make in the coming weeks and months. It’s ‘Nerve-Holding’ time. ‘True colours’ time.

The virus of panic and its economic consequence is equal if not potentially greater than this current COVID. Where the bigger the system-interruption, the longer and more painful the reboot. The longer it’ll take us to claw our way back.

A new normal

Whether it’s six, 12 or 18 months from now, as we’re all queuing up for our annual Corona jabs, life will have gone back to a different kind of normal. We’ll be back in school, the gym, or back pounding the pavements and touting for new work. Military presence on our streets will suddenly be conspicuously absent, and then just once again absent.

Memories of Skype fatigue, a global staycation, doing press-ups at home, reading the novels you always promised you would, playing more chess, learning piano, binging Netflix, having an immaculate looking-garden – all will be just that. Memories.

We’ll have dusted off, still bruised, having grieved deeply for the dead we’ve had to bury. That will, of course, be the worst kind of miserable, but the world will not end here.Yet let’s not delude ourselves either. This is a wake-up call. More than just an ice bath to body and soul for all. We’ve had a system-level interruption to our daily lives and the way the we liked our world to work.

But it’s with hope that this is – in all the right ways – also the end of the world as we knew it, because how we knew it wasn’t really good enough. The sobering and presently right-up-in-our-grill reminder is clear. The world is only one 'place', full of delicate organisms, economic, social and biological, that we all share in taking care of, and where we all have to wear the responsibility. There is not someone to blame. We are all to blame. We all need to point the finger at our own chests.

The wheels have just come off and we all need to think and act in ways that adjust the tramlines. If everything and everyone one just goes back to how it was, then it’s a waiting game to the next one, and sequels always try and do things bigger.

The communicability of CORVID-19 mixed with the mortality of Ebola? Yeah, that one really does need to stay in the fiction aisle.

Simon Pont, co-founder and CEO at Blix.

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