“It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”

Arundhati Roy – The Pandemic is a Portal

Change is upon us. The coronavirus pandemic is changing our day to day lives in unexpected and significant ways. It’s difficult to say, here in the midst of it, what the eventual fallout will be. Will things simply go back to the way they were or will we be forever changed by this global phenomenon? If it’s the latter, what changes might occur and how might they affect our daily lives? 

The pressures we are now experiencing as a result of the coronavirus pandemic could turn out to be the impetus for social evolution. Throughout history social changes have often been driven by the need to adapt to new circumstances. Social evolution, like biological evolution, occurs when extreme pressures are exerted on what has been the norm. Environmental, political, and technological changes can all lead to social reforms. We are now experiencing significant pressures on our societal status quo from the coronavirus pandemic. In response to the pandemic we are forced to make adjustments to the way we live and participate in nearly all aspects of our our lives including commerce, transportation, education, entertainment, politics, recreation, and so on. In short, we are being forced to shift our priorities in almost all areas of our lives to accommodate the reality of a global pandemic. 

Shifting priorities means giving some things greater value than they were previously afforded. For example, when we self-isolate we are acknowledging that our personal well-being is contingent on the well-being of others. Instead of looking out for number one we are choosing to act in ways that benefit everyone. We are recognizing that we are in this together. We may not think of it in these terms but this is an admission to our fundamental interdependence with one another. We are not separate, independent individuals. We are, all of us, interdependent individuals. It is this recognition that may amount to the most significant longterm social effect of the current pandemic. Up until this point we have largely ignored or denied our interdependent nature. We have acted, as individuals and as in-groups, as if we could exist independently; in an “us vs them” as opposed to “them and us” mentality.

Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic our common humanity is being brought to the forefront. We are now having to thinking in terms of what best furthers the well-being of our global community as opposed to strictly local or personal concerns because we are now seeing that our local and personal concerns are not divorced from global factors. This view of our world tends to result in a different set of values from those derived from the view of the world as consisting of independent separately existing entities. Values arising from an interdependent view of the world include the following:

Vitality – increased focus on well-being/health of individuals and the ecosystems that support us

Resiliency – through mutual assistance and support

Sustainability – big picture, long-term perspective as opposed to quick, limited-scope fixes

Inclusive Connection – interpersonal and global cooperation, respect, appreciation of differences

Personal Responsibility – thinking, choosing, and acting in terms of global well-being

Humility – admission of the limitations of individual power, control, and authority – recognition of interdependence

Personal Contribution – commitment to the global well-being of living things and the environment that supports life

These values are representative of a view of the world that is in accordance with the interdependent nature of the world. Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is making us aware of the capacity of these values to carry us through these uncharted times and to face the difficult global challenges ahead of us. In spite of its devastating effects The COVID-19 pandemic could be the catalyst that moves us toward a new, more sustainable worldview. If we are ready humanity may be on the verge of a new and vital future. It is tragic that the undeniable fact of human interdependence is being thrust upon us in the form of a brutal pandemic but it is a lesson we must learn eventually. The sooner we learn it the better chance we will have to create a more sustainable future. Let’s not miss this opportunity. Let’s not make the suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic be for nothing.