Three and a half months of sheltering in place — with the novel Coronavirus just one chance encounter away — have given us time to perfect our strategies for survival during the current government-created public health crisis and to make plans for a safe, more equitable, more enlightened future.
COVID19 turned the spotlight on the glaring disparities in our social and economic systems. The virus smashed open those broken systems and refused to let us turn away from the inequities of who gets sick, who lives, who dies, who goes broke, who loses their home, and who is forced to work in unsafe conditions. Blacks in the US have the highest death rates from COVID19 across all age groups, followed by Latinos, and with whites trailing behind. Your ZipCode, your income, and your race should not determine your healthcare access or your health outcomes.
On top of this outrage within the health care delivery system, we witness the unnecessary deaths of George Floyd (Minneapolis), Dion Johnson (Phoenix), Rayshard Brooks (Atlanta), Carlos Ingram Lopez (in Tucson) and others at the hands of law enforcement officers and the out-sized police response to the George Floyd/Black Lives Matter protests around the country. Also, don’t get me started about my fears for the widening achievement gap between K-12 students whose parents have a reliable Internet connection and adequate computing power for online learning and the students who don’t.
All of these systems were broken before COVID19. The pandemic and related system failures tell us we can no longer ignore and enable the structural racism, sexism, and widespread discrimination in our systems and laws. Excuse my language, but this sh*t’s gotta change. Now is the time to strategize for a better, more equitable, more inclusive future. Where are the wizards to help us re-imagine our country and create the vision?
Why We Need Wizards
In his book, Survival Is Not Enough, business guru Seth Godin puts employees into four categories: serfs (who do what they are told), farmers (who tend the soil, know the systems, and innovate within the systems by making tweaks), hunters (who are looking for new deals or opportunities), and wizards (who create new paradigms, new ways of working, new businesses, and new industries.)
In the Covid19 world, the serfs are essential workers who are forced to go to work — safe or not — or risk getting fired. They have the most risk for infection, the least pay, and little free will at work.
The farmers are the business folks who wanted to Open Up AZ. They are very familiar with the pre-COVID-19 system and want to go back to “normalcy.” They are willing to make some tweaks like freedom-of-choice mask wearing, plastic shields, outdoor services, and social distancing floor striping or table spacing, but they really want to get back to business as usual if at all possible.
The teachers, students, parents and office workers are also farmers. They knew the old in-person systems and did their best to digitize them overnight. Long before the CDC recommended face masks, crafters, quilters, fabric artists, and just people who own sewing machines began making fabric face masks. They set up local supply chains for elastic, needles, and strapping material within volunteer groups to keep the sewing machines humming and the mask distribution going. Bravo!
Hunters are always on the lookout for new businesses ventures that, once developed, can be passed off to employee farmers and serfs for implementation. The hunters are the people who are seeking opportunities in our new normal and not dwelling on the past. Earlier this spring, we saw businesses switch their manufacturing to personal protective equipment since it was so gravely needed. The universities jumped in on data analysis. The universities, drug companies, and start-ups began working on testing protocols, testing kits, and vaccine ideas. Restaurants heavily promoted carry out. Meetings and parties moved online and usage of online meeting tools and collaborative apps skyrocketed.
We should pat ourselves on the backs for a lot of quick innovation, adaptation, and resilience. Unfortunately, the rush to open up state economies too quickly has caused COVID19 crises in Arizona, Florida, Texas, and other Republican-controlled states. The suggested but not enforced tweaks on business as usual that Arizona implemented when it opened up in mid-May have backfired. Arizona’s COVID19 outbreak is not only the worst in the country, it is worse than any European country and worse than Brazil. Arizona opened up without meeting even the Trump Administration’s lax guidelines on when to open up. Now the state is paying the price with a high infection rate.This means more weeks of social distancing, social isolation, sheltering in place — particularly those of us who are over age 60 or who have pre-existing conditions – and it means crowded hospital and dangerous working conditions for all essential workers.
Where are the wizards of the COVID19 era? Who will help us imagine and create new, more equitable paradigms for healthcare, education, work life, housing, and commerce in the future? Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is a good example of a modern day wizard. Like it or not, Facebook has changed the way we live.
Who are the COVID19 wizards? I’m ready for change. Let’s figure this out.