More Black Swans.
Darwin’s concept of the survival of the fittest had nothing to do with working out, with being fit – it related to adaptability, the capacity to change to “fit” changing circumstances as they took place.
We are now experiencing the process of change, disruption to our former habits, and threats to both our political way of life and some of our fondly held, but no longer so tenable, convictions. To start with the black swans. Not one, but three at least are circling overhead.
The corona-virus dominates the media at the moment. Corona has moved from being seen as a local threat, to one that has become national, then economic and now a fully fledged multi dimensional and global threat. The time scales are very unlikely to be two weeks, or two months. Finding a vaccine could take at least 18 months. Until we have world wide testing and expert follow through this disease will continue to do harm. The role of protagonist in this new world has rightly moved from the politician to the expert, the researchers and men and women on the ground. Already the case for strategic planning has been made as strongly as “going with one’s gut” has been dismissed. So expect a recession that lasts 12 months. Plan for that and you might get lucky. And keep pushing for global responses to global issues.
But don’t ignore the other swans. First the ongoing and dangerous three hand squabble over oil prices between Saudi Arabia, Russia and the US – can three internationally minded nations not create a playing field for oil pricing that supports each country, and at the same time encourages growth in the rest of the world. Then there is Climate Change. this is surely the greatest global challenge any of us will face, it insists on a global response. And thirdly there is the increasingly nationalistic and cruel reaction to the inevitable waves of migrants escaping climate change and war in North Africa and South America. The coming summer is going to be one of challenge, polarized and extreme politics – short term brutality in the absence of a consideration of suitably long term solutions.
To cap it all, we are still in the midst of trade wars with China, Iran, Europe and our neighbors born largely out of our xenophobic inability to understand the shifting and frustrating time scales of international treaties or to act diplomatically in the longer as well as the immediate term.
The US response in all this has been nationalistic, exclusive and ultimately counter productive. So in Europe and America borders are being closed, other nations are being blamed for the virus, we are seeking to take the credit for any success. Left to itself this has been a futile, counterproductive and, for a nation so concerned with religion, deeply unchristian response to these large challenges.
But the US Administration has not been left to itself. There is emerging gradually a new collaboration involving leadership from the experts and the on the ground deliverers . There is a message of hope here. The scientists working against the clock to find a vaccine do not respect nationalistic frontiers, indeed they have been working globally for a long time now – “made in america” is just not a rational concept – it is a platitude for the unthinking. So the N.Y.T on Thursday explained how the University of Pittsburgh is collaborating with the Pasteur Institute in Paris, the Austrian drug company Themis Biosciences, the Norwegian based Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness, a group of governments, the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation and The Serum Institute of India.
This is a collaboration that is already building on the experience of the Chinese rather than on denigrating their being the unfortunate starting point for the disease. The real practitioners at the real sharp end are collaborating, climbing on each other’s shoulders to produce a result for themselves and for the world. Is it possible that out leaders could perhaps take notice and break from the stifling cul de sac of current self centred political thinking?
We are living in changing and special times – we must adapt. There are other Black swans on the horizon. They too are uniquely global, they too will demand a global response.
Have a good day, James.