The world is in a panic about coronavirus.
It is scary when group panic intensifies. People cannot think straight. Common sense gets thrown out of the window and weird behaviour occurs, such as hoarding excessive amounts of toilet paper. While this seems laughable, it may reflect a metaphor that has the fundamental message of that ‘we are in deep shit’.
One of the major difficulties in dealing with coronavirus is that it is a global issue. By nature, global crises cut across borders, and require an integrative approach to resolve them. In this regard, the coronavirus is similar to the global warming crisis that science has been flagging for us for a number of years now.
The Political Response
In the initial stages of dealing with the outbreak of the virus, politicians escalated the panic by comments that had not been carefully thought through. Statements were made without any scientific backing, coupled with more and more talking in an attempt to correct past inaccuracies. Instead of calming and reassuring people, politicians added more fuel to the fire. Unfortunately, there are not many politicians who are systems thinkers. Politicians such as Trump, for example, have no understanding of the interconnected and interdependent nature of global issues. In his national address, the public and media sensed that he was out of his depth in dealing with this crisis. The result? More panic, and no confidence in his leadership.
The Scientific Response
One has limited understanding of the nature and complexity of any virus in its infancy stage. There are many aspects of a virus that need to be researched first, before a clearer picture emerges. In this regard, viruses are one step ahead of the researchers. In time, however, the scientific system is able to unravel the complexity of any virus. So in this regard, our scientific system will in time, offer us deeper understanding and also resolution of the crisis at hand.
A Simple Comparison
Statistics about the (a) contraction, (b) spread and (c) mortality rates of a virus need to be carefully examined. Due to its chaotic, fractal and exponential nature, viruses are notoriously difficult to monitor. Given this, it is important to question statistics and not to assume that whatever statistic is presented to be representative of the actual reality.
While I do not want to downplay the potential threat of the coronavirus, it is interesting to note that if you live in the USA, you may have more chance of dying from a gun than from coronavirus. While I know that viral contamination can increase exponentially, depending on movement and contact of people, and you cannot compare oranges with apples, I would like to do a simple and crude comparison of the number of deaths caused by guns, to the present mortality rate of 93 deaths from the coronavirus in one month
At the time of writing, there have been 4748 reported cases of coronavirus in the USA, 4569 people are in mild condition, 12 people are serious and there have been 93 deaths (https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/).
In 2019, https://www.thetrace.org/2020/01/gun-deaths-2019-increase/ stated that there were 15,292 gun fatalities (excluding suicides) in the USA. That translates to 1275 deaths by gun per month.
As of 17 March 2020, the Gun Violence Archive reports that in 2020 there have been 8144 deaths through gun violence (5082 were suicides). This translates to 3257 deaths by gun per month (if you include suicide).
While the comparison of ‘gun virus’ with coronavirus is not actually statistically possible, I wanted to do it in order to put the present crisis into some sort of perspective.
A global crisis disrupts a system on all levels. Financial, political, social, educational, medical and scientific systems all are impacted, each in turn, affecting the other. A system in crisis can respond in paradoxical ways to ‘injected’ help from the outside. Take the US Federal Reserve Bank, for example. After cutting the interest rate to zero in an attempt to offer financial assistance to the market in distress, the NYSE dropped 10%.
With regard to the coronavirus, we are all in the same boat together. Due to the nature of the virus, the decision to close borders and to encourage everyone to keep some social distance and limit social contact is necessary. On another level, it offers all of us the interpersonal space to pause and to take stock. It also allows time for the dust to settle, and for us to gain a better perspective of what is unfolding. In a panicked state, one loses perspective. We become blinded and are unable to step back to reflect on the process in a logical way. The mental challenge is not to get ‘contaminated’ by the social drama and the propensity of people to exaggerate during times of crisis.
The coronavirus surfaced quickly and has disrupted the established order of life. It is now time to pause. Things will never be the same again. Unlike the ‘gun virus’, the coronavirus has created unprecedented panic on all levels of our global system. A new order is wanting to emerge and this paradoxically, may be the systemic gift resulting from coronavirus.