Thinking aloud — What else can we do?

Picture by Tim Marshall; Source:

The skills that make someone win elections are very different from those required to deal with the pandemic.

Spinning stories, populism and a personality cult may be tools to come into power. Using the same tools to deal with COVID is like using a hammer to not only hit the nail but also the glass.

A complex phenomenon like this requires synthesis of knowledge from so many diverse sources at such high speed that this capacity is missing in most places in the world. We are yet to learn how to collaborate across highly specialized domains.

But that is for people at the very top.

At the grassroots here is the question ‘What else can we do?’

Wear masks. Don’t step out unless needed. Social distance. Donate to relief efforts. Spread genuine news. Encourage dialogue. Comfort those in pain. Listen. Volunteer. Pray and hold prayer meets. Co-ordinate for beds and cylinders. As Blue Ribbon Movement hold listening circles. Community connect challenge.

What else can be done?

Be more mindful who we put into power perhaps? We get swayed by emotions and glitz, frustrated by weak and corrupt governments. But all we end up with is a new form of weak and compromised one.

Maybe we will go back to consultative approaches and coalitions, however slow and tedious. Or maybe we will forgive, forget or not even blame and vote the same people in power.

Either ways the world continues to get more complex and the capacity of the government and corporations to manage the risks is falling. If we as people do not get into a more open-minded, serious dialogue about what is happening, we won’t be able to make sense of things.

And without that, democracy will not work.

What else we can do is to clean up the information space by calling out fake news. By exposing ourselves to counter views before making our mind up about what is happening. And actually to not make our minds up and stay open to the possibility that we may be wrong.

We will have to be more active citizens who are vigilant and a force unto themselves. To be able to hold the four pillars accountable with our moral strength and our financial nudges. We will have to organise more intentionally. We will have to be less educated and more humble.

This war will pass and leave us with valuable lessons. Among them will be that the best defence strategy against situations like this is an active citizenry. And an ecosystem of diverse leaders who respect each other and concede to walk together.

We had it just 70 years ago. There is no reason why we can’t restore it again.

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