Times of crises call for stock-taking. Not just of resources, but also of societal norms, structures and values. When acute inequality between the haves and the have-nots deepens, we call into question authority. And our own fundamental contributions towards building a culture that increasingly makes less sense.
With the sirens of a pandemic, a sleeping giant of 7 questions is finally awake from a long slumber. But the question is, do we have the will to look for answers?
1. Why is our treatment of essential workers so appalling? When it comes to essential workers, kids had it right all along. When asked about future professions, kids want to be firemen, doctors, teachers, police – you know, people who truly build a society. Kids recognize innate value. Its us adults who diminish essential workers by treating them like scum. ‘One becomes a teacher if you can’t do anything else’, ‘Government servants means corruption’, ‘Let’s pay sanitation workers as little as we can get away with’. Let’s introspect on why we treat essential workers as non-essential.
2. Why do we idolize celebrity and wall-street? A society coalesces around carefully crafted demigods. We aspire to and even worship, the rich and famous. Often having unrealistic expectations of these idols. It takes a pandemic to realize that they sit smug in their million dollar homes on an island somewhere singing ‘imagine’, while wall-street honchos scavenge off market fluctuations. But guess who is in the streets cleaning, sanitizing, delivering, treating, donating, teaching, protecting, testing? You guessed it – essential workers. The multi-billion dollar question is – why are we still praying to the wrong gods?
3. Why spend time on the road? Even with all the perceived benefits of co-working, open office spaces and positive collisions, does it really make sense to spend 2-3 hours a day in travel to the work place? Unless a job needs physical human presence, can we leverage technology to reduce the dead-time we spend on the road? After all aren’t machines and technology supposed to increase human leisure? Many corporates are forced to re-think the millions of dollars spent in prime real-estate properties around the world as their employees didn’t entirely mind working from home; in some cases citing increased productivity. So maybe there’s our answer?
4. Can we trust the fourth estate? News and Journalism instead of pursuing a strict code of ethics, which includes fairness, disinterestedness, factuality and non-partisanship, is increasingly polarizing today. Media houses blatantly pick sides, spin dollar-backed narratives, and palm off editorial/opinion in the name of news. Factions along political, cultural, class, economic, and racial lines in print and broadcast journalism have never been more evident than during this pandemic.
5. What ideologies of social in-equality are we willing to tolerate? Societies are precariously stratified to preserve rigid socio-economic, class, racial/ethnic, and gender constructs. Never before has someone’s innate privilege been more indisputable, resulting in extremely widening gaps and systematic social & political exclusion. We spectate migrants walking back hundreds of miles home to their village because there is no home left in the city while we all sit bored in our high-rise shelters. We witness women taking on a disproportionate amount of house hold chores and child/adult care on top of managing a 9-5 career. We observe skewed health effects of the pandemic on lines of race. How much of this are we willing to shrug off as, ‘Thats just the how society is built?’ vs. ‘How might we build a more equal world?’
6. Do our leaders inspire confidence? A great leader builds a circle of trust. Instils a feeling of safety among citizens, employees, and followers. The absence of great leadership at the top, especially during a pandemic, breeds fear, chaos and distrust among the masses. Resulting in toilet paper runs, food shortages, and a self-serving mentality. These are the times we need to choose leaders who inspire confidence, but more importantly, exhibit leadership ourselves bottom up by doing the right thing for our communities.
7. What value do we as a society place in life, irrespective? When some deaths are treated as mere statistics in the headlines and other prominent ones dominate our conversations for days, we know we distinguish. We know that the human brain responds more viscerally to the personal vs. to the whole. We need to ask ourselves this fundamental question about life and value. Do we associate or differentiate?
What other things you would add to this list? What other questions are we posing societies we live in? Share them in the comments. Stay curious my friends.
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