“we are starting to hear some bizarre autarkic rhetoric, when barriers are going up, and when there is a risk that new diseases such as coronavirus will trigger a panic and a desire for market segregation that go beyond what is medically rational to the point of doing real and unnecessary economic damage, then at that moment humanity needs some government somewhere that is willing at least to make the case powerfully for freedom of exchange, some country ready to take off its Clark Kent spectacles and leap into the phone booth and emerge with its cloak flowing as the supercharged champion, of the right of the populations of the earth to buy and sell freely among each other.”
How acts of leadership kindness make everyone better
Managers who suddenly discovered compassion in the pandemic need to make it permanent
I am attending quite a few webinars these days to see what I can learn.
Did western governments really have no plans to deal with this emergency at all?
Yet we regularly hear about bioterrorism threats… Should I conclude that there is not really such a massive threat – no, not really – because if there was, there would have been plans in place? Was it only used to gain votes by scaring voters?
I am ASTONISHED that there seems to have been zero preparedness for dealing with events like this new corona virus.
Not only do too many politicians appear to have assumed that the Chinese (and the people in other Asian countries) were being stupid… They had no scripts and had no information on the shelves to tell the public about what was going on.
While corona viruses don’t all behave the exact same way and some facts only become clear after a while, governments could have given clear general information about how corona viruses tend to spread.
Instead we heard:
- “Wash your hands.” So these viruses are excreted by hands, perhaps from fingertips or from sweaty hands? (No!) It’s bound to have made many people assume that as long as they were washing their hands or wearing gloves, they couldn’t get or transmit the virus.
- “I’ve just been to a hospital that had several corona virus patients and I shook hands with all of them.” (Said by Boris Johnson at a press conference on 3 March 2020.) So people are just being silly, there is no real health danger, and the Chinese are overreacting and being stupid?
- “Be wary of people who cough. Or sneeze.” But talking and laughing spread these droplets as well! This is general, very basic knowledge. It was not available??? Really???
- “Stay inside.” This must have caused confusion all over because now it sounds like it’s something in the air, maybe like radioactivity. Or air pollution. (Or maybe something that only posh people who exa-cise get?)
What the hell is the public supposed to think and do on the basis of all this?
Clear general information could have been provided, with a note that more details would be added later.
We didn’t know, for example, whether our pets could become ill as well, whether they could spread the virus too. If so, might it be only dogs? Or cats too, or both? We didn’t have that kind of detail yet.
But we did have the kind of detail that said: IT IS SPREAD FROM HUMAN TO HUMAN because that was clear enough to conclude from what was happening in China. COVID-19 is caused by a corona virus, so it was likely to spread like other corona viruses like the flu and the common cold. We know how they spread among us.
And, with hindsight, I say: It seemed to be highly infectious, so the possibility that asymptomatic people were spreading the virus too should have been identified early on.
(Instead, we in the west must have assumed that Asians were just being really really stupid and coughing and spitting in each other’s faces?)
I was and remain quite flabbergasted to see that my own information which was mostly pulled out of my hat (head) and from the internet has been much more complete and accurate – earlier – than what the western world’s leaders had. How on earth can this be???
A long time ago, I was a member of the American Society for Microbiology (ASM), for about ten years, but I certainly do not consider myself a microbiologist or virologist. I know very little. I consider myself completely out of touch these days.
So how come I – with near-zero financial resources and no staff – appear to know and understand so much more than the western’s world’s top leaders?
Last night, I saw an American governor (Georgia’s Brian Kemp) state that he had no idea – until yesterday – that asymptomatic people can spread the virus. I’ve known that for what feels like weeks. Ten days? Two weeks?
I also note that many Asian countries have actually been doing well relative to the west, in spite of all the blaming that some politicians are doing. China is sending medical teams to help all over the world, also to the UK.
Taiwan continues to be dismissed and excluded (by the WHO; no exchange of information is formally taking place). Taiwan learned a heck of a lot from SARS (also called SARS-CoV or SARS-CoV-1) in 2002-2004 and it remembered and applied those lessons.
In theory, we in the west had access to that information too. We saw what happened in Taiwan back then, didn’t we?
Is it the decision-making that takes too long? But that too would point in the direction of a lack of preparedness.
We need to change a few more things than starting to respect non-human animals more so that we stop making ourselves ill with diseases that come from what is essentially animal abuse.
The lock-down in Wuhan, China started on 23 January 2020… And the west knew about it.
There are lessons to be learned, on all sides.
It seems weird to be saying all that from the sidelines.
But this here, this too, seems to be saying that leadership is “not done”:
“The commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt has been removed after saying the US Navy was not doing enough to halt a coronavirus outbreak on board the aircraft carrier.”
The UK has a particularly extreme form of capitalism, I read this morning. Is this news to you? It wasn’t for me.
These are the views of Colin Mayer, the author of a report on the future of “the corporation”. He is a professor at the University of Oxford’s Saïd Business School.
According to him, various global crises such as the disastrous impact our activities have on our own habitat and the increasing inequality, certainly in the UK, are forcing us to remind ourselves what the purpose of business is.
To make money?
If you go back in history, you will find that business as well as money once began as a way to address our basic needs.
Take the case of Peter, who was great at making boots and Carla, who was very skilled at catching fish, whereas Paul, Jenny and Chris had a wonderful apple orchard.
People particularly needed boots in the winter, but when lakes and rivers are frozen, fish can be harder to catch and you won’t see many apples on trees in mid-winter.
So instead of all these people needing to do all of these things, Peter would give a pair of boots to Carla, Paul, Jenny and Chris who promised to provide Peter with fish and apples.
And instead of all of these people needing to remember who they promised to provide with boots, apples and fish later, they came up with little notes they handed each other and that is part of the story of how money came about.
As a maker of boots I could, for example, exchange a promise of a basket of apples from Jenny for a promise of a catch of fish, if I had my own apple trees, but my neighbour didn’t but my neighbour had a cousin who was an excellent fisherman. So my neighbour could then take the note to Jenny and receive “my” basket of apples.
This is also part of the story of how the concept of business came about.
You began a business because you were good at something and dedicated and you were providing something worthwhile to everyone around you.
At some point in the past, this mechanism became increasingly skewed, particularly in the west, which had this great urge to impose its ways and views on people in other parts of the world as THE way to live, the ONLY way to live.
Many members of indigenous tribes around the world would disagree, I bet.
Capitalism. The accumulation of goods and money for the sake of accumulation, at any cost.
The cost turned out to be that we are slowly but surely making our own habitat unsuitable for human life.
Sure, we have become better at beating old-fashioned infectious diseases, but we have also been boosting an increasing number of new and old afflictions of which the incidence is increasing.
We have a global depression epidemic, which is a major cause of “disability”.
The various kinds of air pollution we unleashed are making an increasing number of people ill in all sorts of ways, and it does not just concern respiratory health.
Bioethics experts who suggest tweaking asthma genes to curb only one aspect of this are hopelessly out of touch with reality, partly as a result of a major flaw in their logic, namely linear thinking. “If I press this button, the ceiling light will go on. If I press this button again, the ceiling light will go off.”
The cost also includes modern slavery. Millions of people and millions of children are slaves. You can find them working at hotels and at universities, among other places. They’re all around you.
We don’t notice them because hey, extreme capitalism is the only right way to live, right? So we have learned to accept these costs as unavoidable collateral damage.
So we are increasingly making more money so that increasingly more money can and has to be spent on dealing with the problems caused by the business of making more money. That is the real circular economy.
But these costs to people, to the planet and to its many other inhabitants are not inevitable.
Is it hard to turn this tsunami of destructive business approaches around? Oh yeah.
But the tiny house and van life movements are proving that extreme capitalist views are crushing people, and are no longer contributing much to our lives.
The tiny house movement and the van life movement are also sparking new businesses that cater to these movements but don’t buy into the dogma of extreme capitalism.
So, if you want to put sanity back into your business, what should you do?
Differentiate yourself. Don’t blindly do what your government tells you to do and consider that enough. Don’t meekly follow everyone else’s example in your industry. Set the standard higher for yourself.
This also goes for local government. City councils and county councils.