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Can we come out of the Covid-10 pandemic in better shape than we were before the pandemic began?


The first time I read Richard Henry Dana’s classic work “Two Years before the Mast”, I was struck by his description at the end of his two years at sea.   He wrote: “It is a common notion with landsmen that a ship is in her finest condition when she leaves port to enter upon her voyage and that she comes home, after a long absence “With over-weathered ribs and ragged sails” … But so far from that, unless a ship meets with some accident… she is in her finest order at the end of the voyage…. No merchant vessel looks better than an Indiaman or a Cape-Horn-er, after a long voyage; and many captains and mates will stake their reputation upon the appearance of their ship when she hauls into the dock.”   This happens because the ship is “scraped, varnished and painted” from stem to stern and top to bottom, the “anchors and ring-bolts were blackened with coal-tar and the steward kept at work, polishing the brass of the wheel, bell, capstan etc” and this was complimented by “neat work upon the rigging.”

Today, we are on a journey, - the journey of travelling through the Covid-19 pandemic.   We are scrambling now, in the middle of this pandemic, but our actions and our decisions now can determine whether or not we emerge at the end of our journey in better or worse shape than when we began.  Evan as we struggle with the great difficulties we face day to day, sometimes there is merit in looking ahead to look at the choices we have and how we can weather the storms including the loss of life, as Dana's ship did, and come out in good shape - indeed in better shape at the end.  

When we are quarantined or out of work, we can focus on getting ourselves as healthy as possible – ensuring we get exercise and good nutritious food.   We can get our homes tidy and well looked after and do some repairs.  We can use the opportunity to learn – either, perhaps as a hobby, about subjects we are interested in, or more formally in on-line courses, or even more basically – about how to better use computers and the internet.   We can also spend some time thinking about how we can make the changes needed to improve our economy moving forward to address climate change at the same time.  There are many options, if we can find them, and if others can help us find them.

For those who are on the front lines – it is a time of intense action, and also a time of intense observation and learning.  If we do well at our day to day work and if as part of this we are part of developing and conducting information gathering and doing research in a way that can help us learn and better prepare for the future so that we can be better at the end than at the start of the epidemic.  

For those who are involved in developing and implementing new programs during the pandemic there are opportunities to test these new program ideas and to see if some of them can work better as permanent changes.  An example might be the Canada Emergency Response Benefit which may be the template for either a future updated Employment Insurance program or for a future Minimum Basic income program.  If we do this well, we can, in the future better support those who are unemployed or who are homeless.  Another example might be teachers whether in our K-12 system or in post-secondary education.  It is an incredible opportunity to try out options for distance learning, including on-line learning.   I suspect we will see a new world of learning after the pandemic which has a better balance of on-line and in person options. And the same is true for various organizations from businesses to non-profits to government.  We can all learn how to maximize the benefits from working on-line and in-person in the world after the pandemic. 

In the world after the pandemic, on-line learning, business and the delivery of health care, social and environmental services will be more important than before because we well have learned how to use them better.  It is in this context that an initiative of Angela Taylor with Inspire Communities Outreach fits in with emerging in a better world after the pandemic.   She is helping children get computers and lap tops so that they can learn from home.  These are children who do not have that opportunity now.   With the help of Angela and others who are working on this initiative, these children who could, without help, fall further behind and be further disadvantaged will be able to catch up and do well in the post-covid-19 pandemic world.   We need to support such initiatives so that like the ships of Dana’s time, we will be in better shape after the journey than before.

If you have ideas that will help us get through the current difficult and trying times we are in now and come out in better shape after we are through this period, write me an email at jon.gerrard@leg.gov.mb.ca

Comments

  1. Like your post since it covers a lot of areas. One thing that I feel we should possibly adopt is a Universal Minimum Basic Income Program to replace various other programs. There should be criteria to volunteer from home or outside to either assist or make products in return. That would be a win-win for everyone. Additionally, there must be a simplified way to help businesses. My small business did not fall under any program and I am sure there are many others like me. Also, what happens to family care givers who could not venture out and do any work as they had to take care of kids or help the elderly. Another thought goes out for Seniors - many no longer work but needed some extra assistance at this time. So definitely a lot of lessons learned opportunities.

    I have some other feedback too and will send you an email.

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