The upside of a disastrous year
At the inflection point Australian government planners were scouting every cold store and ice rink, to plan for a possible 150,000 pandemic deaths in 2020. Police chiefs were meeting with defence planners to strategise the breakdown of society. It looked like an apocalypse. I planned for the worst, bulk purchased 3 months supplies across February in daily runs so as not to spark alarm or be seen as a 'prepper'. I reinforced my home security.
Once locked down, I noticed a dude stalking houses, wearing a mask and gloves. Perfect cover, plain daylight. I wondered if this was the start of something but he was a lone rogue, an opportunist. Aside from some skirmishes in a few armpit suburbs over toilet paper, people cooperated. Order was maintained.
"Why don't we cut through the servo on the corner", Jack asked me one day as we sat at the lights. "Because if we all do it, we have a breakdown of order", I replied. It would be like we all become shoplifters to overwhelm the system, or we all cheat on tax. A guy at the pub put his hand over my tip money when I had my head turned but wasn't quick enough. He was then just a scumbag. We got through 2020 with a few bastards exposing their true selves. Kate and I had a client take our company to court for a refund, despite holding a credit-note for the future. One out of one hundred, one wealthy landlord with 25 rental properties squeezing us. Because he could, so we paid out of our pockets.
A lot has changed and a lot more will. After the GFC we felt the effects for several years as stretched businesses fell and incomes stagnated. But aside from the financial sinkhole, some things are measurably better.
Kids now wash hands a lot. They are less inclined to flu. We all 'get' social distance even if we aren't doing it enough. We don't cough or sneeze on people. The world has a massive pandemic data set and lived lessons, a blue print for the next one which will come sooner as populations increase and as ancient viruses defrost in global warming.
Cash is on the way out, great for many, terrible for the guys on the street needing some coins. Puts a hole in tax evasion, crime, drugs and money laundering. Less cuckoo smurfing at casinos.
Local businesses are booming while city centres are quiet. Hospitals have more equipment. Doctors can tele-treat. My dentist hand scales instead of blasting me. We're all cooking at home, or trying to. Working from home is now more likely for more people. We have mastered Zoom and fixed our tech.
Every business everywhere has been stress tested. Old assumptions are out, new resilience is in.
I know our industry - music and theatre - has been smashed worse than most, but I see the upside as well.