The last days and weeks have brought a lot of very personal and subjective opinions and interpretations of the pandemic dynamic to light, which is totally understandable. Each and every one of us is hit by the effects of the virus and it is no exaggeration that there is probably no line of work, no walk of life that remains unaffacted by COVID-19 and its aftermath.

Again, it would be foolish to to exclude myself- so please read this Gluedrop as yet another personal and subjective opinion and an inviation to discuss.

To pick up from the last Gluedrop on Haltung: I still relate to the need to reframe our perspectives and understand that we are all part of society and depend on each other: Hence I believe, we should help each other out from next-neighbor to individual business to state level.

The Powers of Ten

To make my argument a bit clearer, it might be a good time to rewatch Ray and Charles Eames Powers of Ten. The 1977 short movie features a zoom-out/zoom-in sequence from micro to macro levels. Starting at human scale, on a picnic lawn, emerging to the heights of the universe and back to molecular levels on earth.

Different scales and their change on our perspective. Source: Powers of Ten by Ray and Charles Eames. 

Powers of Ten visualizes different scales and their perspectives. With every zero that is added, the movie points out that there is always more than our very subjective and personal context. Now is really about considering the effects of COVID-19 not only on yourself, your neighbors but basically everyone this pandemic could and will affect. As we can already see emerge, COVID-19 will be a merciless exposure of all the interdependencies of our life: locally, socially, economically, politically and globally.

Surfacing the Dark Matter

Leaderships and societies will be tested, systems will be tested. All the systemic issues, all the dark matter that is usually invisible to the regular consumer or citizen will now be surfaced.

"The only way that dark matter can be perceived is by implication, through its effect on other things. (...) It is organisational culture, policy environments, market mechanisms, legislation, finance models and other incentives, governance structures,  tradition and habits, local culture and national identity, the  habitats, situations and events that decisions are produced within."
– Dan Hill in Dark Matter and Trojan Horses

With the further spread of COVID-19 we will see what works, and we will see what does not work. Which were the bad ideas in the past e.g. around our health-care system, social system, globalization - and which were the good ones. We will see how one community or organization may be more or less resilient than another.  

It also means that the diverse cultural and value systems worldwide will be benchmarked against each other and put on global display. Leadership styles will be tested, systems will be tested- not only in healthcare. For example: this town vs. that town, centralistic vs. federalistic, Germany vs. Italy, Nordic countries vs. the rest of Europe, Europe vs. USA, China vs. Europe.

A recent interview with science & health reporter Donald McNeil on MSNBC gives a vivid example: he outlines the Chinese approach that led to a decrease of new infection. Now compare that to the country you live in and judge yourself (6:20 mins video).

Apart from the implications on public health, Germany and the EU claim to help the entire economy. These bold promises are a good indicator and endow confidence to the people. Big corporations including German Lufthansa have already publicly announced to take on this generous offer.

Start Solidarity at the Smallest Scale

But: corporations are used to tap into the system for aids. They are huge, well-organized and know how to play the system. I don't mean to blame them- but what about the regular medium/small businesses, leave alone all the self-employed, freelancers, temp or gig workers? What about all the culture institutions, the clubs and music venues, the restaurants? Who takes care of them?

Hamburg's seasonal fun fair DOM was cancelled during set-up because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 will affect EVERYONE. But it will not only affect the regular employed worker, but all the smallest and small businesses. It will be harder and a more existential threat to them. Think of all the maids, service workers, waiters, hairdressers, flower shop, logistics worker etc. Humans who work in often precarious work situations, used as a flexible asset that can be activated and deactivated by their taskmasters.

The only way to make it through this pandemic is to act with the greatest possible level of solidarity. To help each other on any level- especially those who might not know where to find help. And there are many areas to help with, on any scale: from grocery shopping, to caretaking, funding, improvising etc.

Let us start today.

Thanks for reading!
– Matthias