We Deserve This Mess (COVID-19)

Started thinking about this

If there’s a time machine for the world to go back 3 months earlier, 1) do you think we are in a position to have done things differently and 2) would we?

I think “No” for #1. And because of that, I don’t think we would have done any differently.

Many would still not take social distancing seriously, many will still be profiteering (ambil kesempatan dalam kesempitan), govts will not be competent enough, can’t remove all the flaws and avoid all the blunders, etc.

We see many failures unfolding right now

  • Supply chain and logistics
  • Decision making
  • Misinformation, disinformation
  • Communication
  • Coordination
  • Failure in understanding complexity and nuances

And different countries / area / group are experiencing the combination of this on a different level / portion. But because everything seems so monolithic [1], one bottleneck is a point of failure that ripples to the rest.

We are so interconnected right now. We rely on each other too much. When one falls, everyone fall together.

My current view is that we’re seeing this mess because:

  1. it’s human nature to be reacting the way we do and
  2. we don’t have the right systems in place

Or put into different words:

  1. it doesn’t feel real yet to many of us, so we dismiss it / postpone / put into backlog / procrastinate
  2. no one knows what to do (on all levels: personally, as a group, as a country, and as a citizen of the world), and it’s hard to figure things out (what, how, why, when) when you’re falling down the cliff.
  3. and…. we don’t do what we know we should do most of the time.

And systems are there to counter these failure modes in human nature.

So even if we have a time machine to go back 3 months, we will still end up at the same place as we do right now.

OK perhaps the best framing to think about this: what would need to happen and be in place 3 months earlier for us to be able to handle this better?

Can we set up all the right policies, get all the tools and equipments ready, remove frictions and blockers we see now?

But how many of these can realistically be anticipated beforehand before knowing how bad it will get?

E.g. we definitely will never expected to need this many hand sanitisers, VTM, and PPE (bahasa inggris-nya APD) and no one can ever justify producing in excess and keeping it around “just in case”. Everything was in perfect state for the old normal [2]. Not ideal, but sufficient.

So the failure is not in “not having a stockpile of these stuff ready“. But the failure is in not having a mechanism to quickly decide, respond, and operationalise on what is urgently needed.

We stutter.

It might sound insensitive but we have indeed failed and we sort of deserve this. It’s not just the governments’ fault, WHO’s fault, or your neighbor’s fault. It’s your fault as well.

Such an interesting and monumental times right now.

We see the best and worst of people. We surface bugs in systems of the world. We are disrupted.

We are pushed down a cliff and trying to build an airplane on the way down. Wartime breeds invention and frantic problem solving. Major growth come from being so far out of comfort zone. Deadline gives you wings.

The US is targetting 200k deaths as a parameter of success now, so needing a mass grave is definitely not an understatement at this point.

Stalin famously said: One death is a tragedy; one million is a statistic. But many will survive and some will thrive.

We’ll move on. We’ll even bounce back.

And anyone who has thought about this a bit would know the next “sane” course of action is to look at other similar global issues that we’ve been hearing warnings about, for so many years and start taking it seriously — to prepare, manage, and make significant progress on what we know we need to do there.

E.g. global warming? Even though I am not well informed enough to make a argument about how close to reality is in this issue, going beyond what is considered “common sense”…. I just don’t know, too many politics, invisible scripts, and conspiracy theories RE:global warming.

Like, this pandemic is NOT unprecedented. Alien invasion probably is.

Yet still we take no action until it’s right here. Notice I didn’t say right there. We need it right here, concrete, in our face, until someone we know dies or get infected to make it real.

Then we scurry around. Heh.

So realistically, I am pessimistic. I think we would need to repeat this collective near death experience like this again before we will take actions. We won’t do any better than this.

One reason is because if it is already hard to get people to 1) agree on things, 2) do things, then 3) do it well, we can imagine It’s more difficult to do it on a larger scale, zooming from your family, to global level.

But worth trying anyway?

I think

What needs to be in place for us in this “new normal” we’re going to build?

Answering that question is the first step to build a stronger more resilient world. The new normal we need to define now. What new world do we need to build after this.

Which would hopefully last for another 100 year before the next “”unprecedented” global crisis unfolds.

Side note

  1. If globalisation is monolith, is localism == microservices? then are we going to go into serverless society next? :p. But monolithism is making a comeback. Everything is cyclical, so lovely.
  2. Sure it’s definitely not ideal for some countries to have low quality health care capacity, number of skilled workers, or ICU : person ratio in this context, but it’s still deemed sufficient for the “business as usual”. Pas-pasan, “okelah”.

Also published on Medium.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *