We are finding out really, really rapidly what’s important to us as a society.
I don’t know about you, but I didn’t really want to find out this way. It’s much more pleasant to go through life wondering whether you should have ice cream or not, buy three books or four (or, okay, an armload), whether you should cook or splurge on dinner out because you’re tired from a long day of work.
Far too many people don’t have a long day to work anymore, because the economic collapse of COVID-19 has taken their jobs. Another big group of people is worried about simply surviving – anyone with lung problems, heart issues, a damaged immune system, not to mention most of the folks eligible to order off the senior’s menu.
Those of us too young to remember the Second World War and the Great Depression have never been through anything remotely like this. People over 100 years old might have dim memories of the 1919 influenza pandemic, the only thing that really compares.
It’s thrown our priorities of a month or so ago into stark relief.
What were we right about?
We were right to keep ranking our health care system near the top of our priorities every time Canadians have been polled on the issues.
Is our health care system perfect?
No, and the current crisis is showing some of its weaknesses, including hospitals operating at or beyond maximum capacity.
But it is also showing strengths, such as the ability to respond quickly. It turns out that putting our trust in experts was a good idea! Things are bad, but we have multiple examples of places where experts were not listened to in time, and we can see readily how they could be worse.
What else do we value?
For the most part, the things we’ve lost to physical distancing and self-isolation.
Get-togethers with families and friends, to begin with. From weddings to birthdays to casual board game nights, we’re all missing one another.
We’re seeing ever more the value of shared public spaces. Libraries and community centres, sports fields and arenas, the local restaurant and coffee shop are all things we’re being denied for now.
As lucky as we are to have new virtual tools, from texting to videoconferencing, we still feel that sense of being too far from our loved ones and friends right now.
I’ve been wondering what will happen when this crisis is over, whether in one month or six, or more.
Will it reset our priorities as a community?
We spent years cocooning ourselves with TVs and Netflix and comfy furniture, only to find ourselves denied anything but those things.
It’s too early to say if our values have been changed – if we’ve been reminded of what we really value. But when this is over, I’m looking forward to being part of the crowd again.