Letter to the Editor: COVID ‘What Ifs?’

Historians will tell us that major social change is often the result of tragedy or catastrophe. As we struggle to overcome the ravages of the COVID virus and the resulting adjustments to our normal social interaction, what if it all could result in some real long-term benefit?

Social media and technology are being used to connect us in ways we never needed before. New developments like ZOOM may permanently change the way we interact in businesses and groups. What if the better use of technology resulted in more time for family instead of dazed, digital burnout? What if the Virtual Office resulted in the Real Family?

If more people work from home, the bricks and mortar of business and government will be decreased significantly, and the costs of administering both would be much less. What if it resulted in lower prices and taxes?

Family playing board game

Board games; no longer just for vacations! (Virginia State Parks staff / CC BY 2.0)

The forced isolation has effectively ended (at least temporarily), the shopping frenzy of the past 50 years. People have learned to dampen their buying obsession and develop more productive habits, like reading and writing and reminiscing. What if we were more spiritual and less material? What if we stopped buying stuff we don’t need made by children in Bangladesh?

People are learning to communicate and value family and friends more than ever. Despite the distancing, many have had more and more meaningful conversations than in decades. What if you spent more time with real friends, instead of the Facebook ones that you’ve never met? What if people actually started to talk with their children, or their parents? What if Face Time was for family first? What if people actually socialized instead of hammering their social keyboards?

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced us to redefine many of our physical interactions, which over the years have instilled horribly bad practices and manners. What if consideration and space for others actually continued? What if we developed simple hygiene practices that lasted a life time?

At the same time, people are learning or re-learning skills and techniques that have been lost for several generations. Sewing, baking, carpentry, and crafts are all being used at a pace we haven’t seen in 50 years. What if we learned and retained a few more of the values of our ancestors?

Before your eyes glaze over, I would not advocate a return to the ’50s or Make Canada Great Again. First, Canada is great now. And though we may routinely denigrate our politicians, one has only to look South to see the result of a dysfunctional government and a moronic megalomaniac who can only marginally manage himself. (By the way, thanks to his lack of leadership and compassion, Americans are dying at twice the rate of Canadians.)

Hands kneading dough

Breadmaking: lost art turned COVID-19 isolation fad.

Second, the ’50s weren’t all that great. People died from cancer and heart disease and much younger than they do now, and support for seniors and the poor was much less. Mind you, the poor were not funded by government in such a way that they felt they could keep up with the Joneses. But everyone recycled, reused and reduced religiously, from buttons to bottles and beyond, and neighbors supported each other.

And they talked and listened and wrote and kept themselves informed. One of the dichotomies of the internet is that in a time when all the information ever produced is available to everyone, many are less informed than ever. Or is it simply that we don’t care to distinguish fact from fiction, real from fake or truth from lies as well as we should? What if people didn’t offer an opinion before they took the time to inform themselves?

And what if people kept a greater sense of themselves and their community? What if they bought more food from people named Eyking and Niesten instead of Walton and Weston? And instead of reaching to China our food supply chain started in Millville, Margaree or Boularderie? And what if we spent as much on local products and restaurants as we do on junk and fast food?

What if we supported our local merchants instead of Bentonville, Arkansas? A local dollar goes to support a local business and a local family, who give back to the community. I’ve seen lots of local sports teams sponsored by Rotary, Kiwanis, and local businesses, but I’ve yet to see one sponsored by Costco or Winners. If they won’t support your kids, why should we blindly support them?

Thanks to a full stop of the world economy, our air and water are cleaner than any time in the past 50 years. What if people appreciated the new clean environment so much they finally decided to preserve it? What if Greta T became our daily headliner instead of Donald T?

So when COVID becomes covid, what if we don’t forget?

Mike Johnson
North Sydney