Coronavirus. Under a microscope, it looks like a crown. On a map, it looks like a ruthless dictator, conquering country after country, ruling by fear. COVID-19 is a lethal disease that collapses economies as it destroys lives. Militaries and governments are powerless against this threat. We as a society must solve this crisis, the people together.
The dread disease is also a mirror of ourselves if we choose to accept the gift of perspective. This time of lockdown is a pause. It is a time for people to look inside, to see society from outside our normal daily lives. How long do we keep our economy closed to protect from disease? How long can we stay closed and maintain the modern system? Or is the constant work and busyness what we need? What we want? Is it time for a new system in this new world? As a society, we must seek the answers in this pause.
Going forward, we are entering a new world. Jobs have disappeared, never to return. Small businesses could not survive the storm. Large businesses have replaced many jobs with automation. Although automation has been happening for years, the process will accelerate after COVID-19.
Automation. A strange word. Auto means “self.” -Ation means “action or process.” Automation, processed by self. Automation of the workforce means he robots do the work by themselves, without human workers.
The machines of the Industrial Revolution birthed the robots of today. During the Industrial Revolution, many people left the farms of our ancestors and went to work in the factories. This led to many inventions, including the automobile. In a self-propelled engine, people could journey far beyond the constraints of the horse and buggy. Automation. The Industrial Revolution changed our work and changed our lives. Now we are post-Industrial, and the robots have taken many of our jobs. Factories, flying, industrial farming, automobiles, all have changed us and changed our planet in dark ways. We must grapple with climate change and the extinction of species.
Yet the coronavirus is a pause. The environment is becoming cleaner and wilder as we shut down. Animals come out as we stay inside. Should we be so quick to open the factories? If robots make our goods, how can we have enough jobs for everyone? Now that we are living without all this stuff, do we need it back in our life?
In this pause, we must care. We must care for the environment. We must care for those vulnerable to the virus, the elderly, the immunocompromised. We must care for those vulnerable to the economy, those already struggling to pay for rent and food, those who now face the abyss of unemployment. How will we take care of the least of these, as Jesus said? This is especially true in the United States. We proclaim ourselves a nation under God, yet we have some of the weakest social safety nets in the world. The pandemic pause is a call to heal, starting one person at a time. We must heal ourselves, then our neighbors, then our community. Together, we can then heal our countries and the world.
I pray for healing and peace over our country and our world in this time of fear and change. I hope that we use the perspective of the pandemic to create a more just society where everyone can contribute without fear of hunger or homelessness, where medical care is easy to access, where there is a true balance of work and leisure, and where the environment is loved and treasured. Together, we can defeat the terror and create beauty and healing from the tragedy.