Six months after the first official covid 19 case in Italy, this is how Venice looked like:
It is weird and unsettling to see the famous Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) almost deserted, a place that used to be crowded on almost any day of the year. These pictures would suggest that the world population was decimated by a catastrophe. But, this was not the set of a post-apocalyptic movie, although it turned out to be an unintentional, perfect location for a photo shoot. Unfortunately, this is the raw reality, the new normal in the Covid-19 era. I took these photos at the beginning of October. They picture a relatively lighthearted country, which has slipped back into a dramatic situation — again — just a few weeks afterwards. Despite this situation, I wonder if the new coronavirus has brought only negative, tragic effects. Maybe not. Of course, what we are living is an overwhelmingly tough and painful scenario. We should never forget there aren’t any bombs dropping on our heads, killing people and destroying everything, however.
That said, this pandemic is seriously testing our limits without a doubt. And as always, such challenges get the best and the worst out of us. Yet, I will not mention any of the disgraceful behaviours (still occurring) of my opportunistic, unscrupulous compatriots that make me ashamed of belonging to the human race. Daily news depresses us enough, so I would rather focus on positive consequences of the pandemic. If you are wondering, yes, I think there are some.
I start by recalling what Annalisa Malara did, the anesthesiologist who spotted the first official coronavirus case in Italy. Long story short, once she realized that traditional treatments were ineffective for the patient, she brilliantly thought outside of the box and guessed they were probably in front of a Covid-19 case, even though no Italian doctor had ever seen one until then. She had to fight persistently to get this patient tested for coronavirus because nobody endorsed her. Neither did her superior who also warned her about the professional risks she would have taken, given that all the other doctors in her staff had a different opinion. This is an extreme example, but I am confident that many people went through similar situations. How many of them realized they have qualities and capabilities they did not even suspect, which surfaced because of this pandemic? In spite of all the suffering this virus has brought, aren’t these individuals more self-confident and more aware of their means today?
Another interesting aftermath of this crisis is at the generational level. In most countries, the generations who were born after the end of the last world war have never experienced a major conflict. They have been so lucky to always live in peaceful times. Of course, they have lived through troubled moments too — the subprime mortgage crisis, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the protests of 1968, etc. — but nothing of the same magnitude of a real war. That is an event that makes everyday life a mix of privation, sorrow, and desperation, and it destroys people’s bodies and souls. Above all, it is an event that forces people to look death in the face on a daily basis, relentlessly. In most of the Western world, generations prior to Baby Boomers are the last who lived such a tremendous experience. And I suspect that the following generations have felt a sort of inferiority complex because of that, as much as this may sound absurd at first glance. I refer to this as “generational gap.” Living through a war must be devastating, but it can also be a powerful and even exciting experience as outlined, for instance, by Leo Tolstoy in War and Peace when describing Prince Andrei‘s feelings during the Battle of Schöngrabern. People who survived such an ultimate experience developed a full awareness of the value of life — it is no coincidence that suicide rates drop during wars. But, I also think they achieved a total personal fulfillment — such is the magnitude of the challenge they managed to win by surviving. Although their names were not put in the books, they felt they were protagonists of something momentous. They felt they made History. That having been said, what about us? Can our generations mention a comparable, all-encompassing experience? I would say no, given that most of us generally spend our lives striving to be “successful”, whatever this means. At the bottom of our heart, we know that no professional achievement or sports success compares to that. For sure, this has been true until the Covid-19 outbreak. And now? Has the virus changed something in this regard? To some extent, this pandemic resembles wartime, although the majority of people luckily do not risk their lives: we are all affected by this invisible enemy, which has changed our lifestyle so drastically and which we are supposed to fight jointly. Hopefully, we will leave this emergency behind soon. Will winning this battle be enough to fill our generational gap, finally? Maybe or maybe not. In any case, I believe we will have this answer in a few years.
Last but not least, I’ll mention what I consider to be the most important potential consequence of this pandemic as it could affect youngsters. In previous blogs (see for example Apathy and Millennials and Liquid Leadership), I mentioned some negative consequences of the information age on recent generations. One of the most devastating is that kids don’t realize and appreciate the value of the things around them, which they often take for granted. This is due to the fact that they have been used to getting immediate gratifications since they were born. Suddenly, because of Covid-19, they were deprived of many things that were part of their everyday life. Overnight, they were not allowed any longer to meet their friends, play soccer or volleyball with them, or go to the cinema. Even small things like entering a shop or cycling in a park have become invaluable because they are prohibited. Unfortunately, young people had to learn this precious lesson in a traumatic fashion, but I’m confident it will make them better adults. A lot of them have been so uncaring that they haven’t been able to momentarily forgo then-usual, dispensable behaviors, which have been discouraged by our government to contain the outbreak. On the other hand, we have also witnessed unheard facts to the contrary, such as teenagers protesting to get back to school as soon as possible! Personally, I can’t wait to be allowed to play basketball with my friends at the park and bike in our lovely mountains again. I promise I won’t complain any more if it is too cold, and I’ll enjoy every second even more.