tl;dr: The narrative still suggests that there is a time when this is “over.” But it may not be.
We’ve all heard the term “unprecedented” at a rate far above the previous average.
Yet, we still hear daily conversations that refer to “when we get back” or “get the economy working again.”
I certainly understand this desire for a “return to normalcy.”
At the same time, if this moment in time is actually “unprecedented,” then is a return really possible?
When I lived in Japan, I took a day flight from Tokyo to Hiroshima with my friend, Steve.
We walked around town, solemnly contemplating what had occurred there.
Trying to get your head around the magnitude of the event was overwhelming.
All we knew was that we were standing in a place where the course of world history had changed forever.
It was “unprecedented.”
Now, imagine going to Hiroshima in late 1945, a few months after the bomb was dropped and saying, “so, when do you think things will get back to normal?”
“Uh,” someone might say, “did you see the mushroom cloud a few months ago?”
A Cultural Nuclear Bomb
The “perfect storm” of Covid, the Economic Collapse of 1920, and the George Floyd protest movement are the equivalent.
Even if/when (hopefully) there’s a vaccine, there’s no going back.
- Some non-zero number of social distancing behaviors will persist.
- the economy has shifted from a “place-based” economy to a “cloud-based” economy.
- 56% of Americans think the country is racist
Those are all “hard forks” in our culture. There’s no backwards compatibility for them.
Volatility and Acceptance
For me, recognizing this new reality is the first step. Accepting that the world we knew, in so many respects, will be different than the world in which we are living.
Many of the changes will be barely noticeable over time…until one day we realize that no one shakes hands anymore (or whatever).
Some will be far more dramatic.
The volatility, the VUCA really, is the constant. The unknown unknowns.
Acceptance of the volatility feels like the right path.
Maybe it’s always been that way. Life is volatile and fragile.
Maybe now we’re just more aware of it?
Perhaps it’s not so unprecedented after all?