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These Times Are Not Normal. Don't Make The Mistake Of Acting As If They Are

  • by Kaila Colbin , co-founder, Boma Global, July 17, 2020

I’m watching the number of new cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. accelerate: a new daily high of 75,000 this week, with no signs of leveling off.

I’m watching the unemployment figures climb: over 32 million Americans claimed jobless benefits for the week ending June 27, and the unemployment rate is the highest it’s been since World War II.

I’m watching the ongoing righteous fury about systemic racism meet an increasingly draconian clampdown: federal officers are using unmarked vehicles to detain protestors in Portland, Oregon, despite both the mayor, Ted Wheeler, and the governor of Oregon, Kate Brown, calling for those officers to leave.

I’m watching the battles over masks and schools. I’m watching the CDC get muzzled, with coronavirus data from hospitals now being sent directly to the White House.

I watch it all, and I think: How can anyone focus on ordinary, everyday business?

I know the answer, of course. The answer is you do it because you have no choice.

As an individual, how do you keep the lights on, pay the mortgage, feed the kids? As a company, well, what else are you supposed to do? Shut the doors?

I get it, and I’m not judging. But we must understand that what’s happening right now is not normal -- and we shouldn’t make the mistake of believing that it is.

We should not be conducting our forward planning as if all of these things are merely fleeting: brief glitches in the matrix that will shortly resolve back the way they were.

In our businesses, we have to be paying attention, not least so that we can anticipate what’s coming and make sure we’re prepared.

But as individuals, we have to ask ourselves some hard questions: What do I care about? What is important to me? What kind of world do I want, and -- most importantly -- what can I do to help bring that world about?

The answers to those questions will vary wildly, but know this: We all have more power than we think we do. The power to vote, to organize, to donate, to protest. At a minimum, each one of us has the power to learn more about the issues that affect us, and to discuss those issues with the people close to us.

Amid the despair, we may yet find hope. Perhaps what’s happening now is a necessary precursor to profound structural transformation. Perhaps, as Nicholas Kristof wrote this week, “We may be so desperate, our failures so manifest, our grief so raw, that the United States can once more, as during the Great Depression, embrace long-needed changes that would have been impossible in cheerier times.”

It’s possible. The EU’s euro recovery fund could support more than 1,000 green projects, creating over 2 million jobs and accelerating the transition away from fossil fuels.

We don’t know what the future holds. But we do know one thing: It’s not “normal.”