Throughout the COVID 19 pandemic hope has been hard to come by as fear, fatigue and frustration have taken hold.
COVID-19 has revealed the shaky foundations on which much of what we take for granted is built on intricately interwoven nature of globalised supply chains, manufacturing infrastructures, and the ‘just in time’ deliveries to supermarkets.
Erich Fromm, known for developing the concept that freedom was a fundamental part of human nature , believed “We have, in the same way, relegated our own responsibility in what happens to our country to the specialists, who are supposed to take care of it, and the individual citizen does not feel that he can judge, and even that he should judge, and take any responsibility. “
Throughout the pandemic governments increasingly deferred to their ‘experts’, judging that following their advice provided them with insurance against controversial calls.
In a way, Royal Commissions became the ultimate experts – especially those with a focus on the quality of Early Childhood and Aged and Community Care – advised on and determined the services they thought we required, and often left untapped abilities of individuals, families and communities.
It is extremely unfortunate that these specialist advisors made little mention of the fact that Grandparents are positioned as the most popular form of childcare in Australia. The Australian Bureau of Statistic notes that “grandparents have become the social glue in modern family life” that “approximately one-fifth of Australian children aged 12 and under receive grandparent care”, and that “grandparents are contributing in excess of $3.94 billion to the Australian economy in unpaid childcare.” These important and necessary contributions of grandparents have certainly been ignored by the extremely well-paid, and often anonymous, specialist advisors.
Konrad Lorenz, an Austrian Nobel Prize winner, zoologist, ethologist, and ornithologist, considered that “Every man gets a narrower and narrower field of knowledge in which he must be an expert in order to compete with other people. The specialist knows more and more about less and less and finally knows everything about nothing.”
To survive the Covid 19 pandemic we have certainly had to make changes – both big and small – in our everyday lives. A major change that individuals, families and communities have not yet made is to take more control life in our homes and communities, and encourage and empower others to do the same.
John Dewey, an educational reformer who designed the classification system used in libraries throughout the world, observed many years ago that “No government by experts in which the masses do not have the chance to inform the experts as to their needs can be anything but an oligarchy managed in the interest of the few. And the enlightenment must proceed in ways which force the administrative specialists to take account of the needs. The world has suffered more from leaders and authorities than from the masses. The essential need … is the improvement of the methods and conditions of debate, discussion and persuasion. That is the problem of the public.”
There is no possibility of us returning to a pre-COVID world, but rather than lament this loss please consider that we now have some genuine personal and social opportunities. Do we wish for a society that is fair, truthful and merciful; prosperous and generous; democratic and transparent? Do we want communities that is anxious and argumentative; uncivil and individualistic; competitive and selfish? What is the world we want to build? Will every life matter? What are our new priorities?
Wendell Berry, a novelist, essayist, environmental activist, cultural critic, and farmer wrote “We are going to have to gather up the fragments of knowledge and responsibilities that have been turned over to governments, corporations, and specialists, and put those fragments back together again in our own minds and in our families and household and neighborhoods. “
Families, who have had to work, live and learn at the kitchen table for months, have had to rediscover the best and the worst of themselves. The family – in all its nuances and challenges, griefs and joys – remains the fundamental pillar and source of order in human society. We neglect the family at our peril.
Rachel Carson, an ecologist who questioned the scope and direction of modern science, promoted the idea that “This is an era of specialists, each of whom sees his own problem and is unaware of or intolerant of the larger frame into which it fits.”
Our new challenge is not how to keep families at home, but how to encourage them to interact fruitfully in our new communities. We need to restore social contact and connection, especially for the elderly and vulnerable.
In today’s VUCA world we need to restore the sense of harmony, health, hope and happiness in everyday life.
VUCA has been defined as a combination of individual and community responses to increasing uncertainties, constantly-changing improvisations, an overload of information-rich but often ambiguous communications, and the previously unimagined rate of technological changes that generate volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity in our lives.
- Volatility – Volatility refers to the speed of change in an industry, market or the world in general. It is associated with fluctuations in demand, turbulence and short time to markets and it is well-documented in the literature on industry dynamism. The more volatile the world is, the more and faster things change.
- Uncertainty – Uncertainty refers to the extent to which we can confidently predict the future. Part of uncertainty is perceived and associated with people’s inability to understand what is going on. Uncertainty, though, is also a more objective characteristic of an environment. Truly uncertain environments are those that don’t allow any prediction, also not on a statistical basis. The more uncertain the world is, the harder it is to predict.
- Complexity – Complexity refers to the number of factors that we need to take into account, their variety and the relationships between them. The more factors, the greater their variety and the more they are interconnected, the more complex an environment is. Under high complexity, it is impossible to fully analyse the environment and come to rational conclusions. The more complex the world is, the harder it is to analyse.
- Ambiguity – Ambiguity refers to a lack of clarity about how to interpret something. A situation is ambiguous, for example, when information is incomplete, contradicting or too inaccurate to draw clear conclusions. More generally it refers to fuzziness and vagueness in ideas and terminology. The more ambiguous the world is, the harder it is to interpret.
Erwin Schrodinger, a Nobel Prize-winning Austrian-Irish physicist thought “It seems plain and self-evident, yet it needs to be said: the isolated knowledge obtained by a group of specialists in a narrow field has in itself no value whatsoever.”
Developing our new ‘COVID-normal’ must mean reaching for the common good, where no one is left behind and a place is found for everyone.
Roger Smith, an American television and film actor, producer, and screenwriter, summed up our current situations with “The world needs specialists and highly trained people with advanced degrees, no question about it. But the world also needs diversity and versatility. It needs people who know as much about our value system as they do about our solar system.”
Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevsky, may have summed up the world’s current situation when he wrote “I tell you, the old-fashioned doctor who treated all diseases has completely disappeared, now there are only specialists, and they advertise all the time in the newspapers. If your nose hurts, they send you to Paris: there’s a European specialist there, he treats noses. You go to Paris, he examines your nose: I can treat only your right nostril, he says, I don’t treat left nostrils, it’s not my specialty, but after me, go to Vienna, there’s a separate specialist there who will finish treating your left nostril.”
Recovering from the COVID 19 crisis is an opportunity to start afresh, tackling new public health risks as well as rebuilding that lost sense of community.
The Education Professionals has developed individual, family and community print-based and electronic resources that provide reliable, user-friendly information together with easy to use suggestions and activities.
The resources revisit Robert Palmer’s proven “THOUGHTFULLS” concept used for the professional development of teachers and home educators approximately three decades ago.
These resources are also endorsed by the Australian icon ‘Life. Be in it.’ – now operating as a registered charity.
The Education Professionals and ‘Life. Be in it.’ promote philosophies and practices based on inclusion, tolerance, human dignity, learning, compassion, justice, truth, honesty, respect, integrity, transparency and ethical community relationships.