The Upside of Adversity
If you’ve been brave (or foolish?) enough to read or watch the news lately, you’ll find plenty of reasons to despair. And, without a doubt, the short term economic, social, and mental health implications of the novel coronavirus pandemic have had, and will continue to have, profound adverse implications. But there can be a long-term upside that will arise from the current disruption of our lives because adversity always fuels innovation.
To be sure, I’m no Pollyanna. But here are a few possibilities once things stabilize.
First, investments in science, medicine, and technology by both the private and public sector will grow. If necessity is the mother of invention, we will find new ways to conquer both viral and other sorts of illnesses. The research and development of new drugs to diagnose and treat viruses will be found useful in ways we had never dreamed of, as research to solve specific problems always leads to unanticipated benefits.
Education will find new and more efficient ways to deliver learning. While internet services will need to find their way to the most disadvantaged of our communities, with time, we will see children who are now being left further behind have access to accredited and more affordable learning opportunities.
Manufacturing of drugs and other essential products will return to the U.S. as the federal government, like it or not, will offer incentives for their return from other countries. In turn, this will allow for the repurposing of vacant plants and the construction of new facilities, both of which will lead to new job opportunities.
Business start-ups will rise as those displaced by the economic downturn, feeling they have nothing to lose, will finally become entrepreneurs or otherwise choose more fulfilling jobs. And they will act on their creative bents to produce remarkable new paintings, sculpture, music, poetry, and literature.
Philosophers, thinkers, and writers will propose new ways to think about and address social and political dysfunction. New and refreshing faces will enter the political arena. Yes, some of them will rise to pursue divisive ideologies, yet others will emerge look for pragmatic solutions to seemingly intractable problems.
Many state and local governments will begin to collaborate more effectively. Recognizing our interdependence and mutual vulnerabilities, public officials will find more effective ways to respond to both natural disasters and public health matters. Adversely affected voters turn out in large numbers, demanding more from their elected officials.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, as the virus changes our daily lives so dramatically, many of us are renewing old friendships, becoming more mindful of the homeless and those in poverty, staying better connected to our friends and families, paying more attention to our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual well being.
We are reading books we’ve meant to read for too long, we are going for long hikes (six feet apart) feeling the wind and sun on our faces for the first time in far too long, and offering our help to one another to get through this time together. All of which will pay benefits to us for many months and years to come.
Will all our problems vanish? Certainly not. Will our nation and the world metaphorically join hands, singing Kum Ba Yah and set aside all our differences? Regrettably, no. But rather than solely dwell the existential angst it now causes, reminding ourselves of the enduring human spirit and our propensity to overcome adversity, may be among the cures to the indirect effects of this insidious illness.
For sure, we must now stare, with our eyes wide-open, into the abyss of the stark reality we face. But we can do so with the knowledge that abyss, bright lights will emerge. And we may not yet have borne witness to all of them,
I believe they already have.