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What the Pandemic Reveals–the First of Four Conversations

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

What questions or concerns about our society have come to light for you during the coronavirus pandemic?

This question prompted the first community conversation in our four-part Virtual Spring Concert and Conversation Series. The next is on April 16, from 12:30 – 2:00 pm edt (registration is here). We begin our Virtual Concert and Conversation events with a live-streamed musical performance. We then break into small-group facilitated conversations. The series, conducted via Zoom, is a collaboration of Culture Saves, the DC Office on Aging, IONA, and the Interactivity Foundation. Below is a quick summary of the conversations.

Policy Frameworks and Political Leadership

  • Our policy frameworks and our political leadership directly affect the impacts of the pandemic
  • Lack of a strong societal safety net, especially for public health, has made the impact of the pandemic worse
  • Poor governmental leadership and a lack of governmental coordination has made the impact of the pandemic worse
  • Government has shown failures of imagination and planning to anticipate and meet the demands of the situation
  • These failures raise concerns about the sustainability of our society and of our political system
  • Crisis atmosphere means less tolerance of political criticism or finger pointing

Our Social Fabric

  • The pandemic has exposed divisions in our country
  • Social and class divides are intensified—those most vulnerable face the greatest risks to their health and to their economic survival
  • The pandemic is bringing out the worst in some people—enhancing selfish behavior
  • The pandemic is bringing out the best in some people with new heroes everyday risking themselves to help others: doctors, nurses, fellow citizens making grocery runs, etc.
  • Social distancing has made us realize how much we need other people and how interconnected we all are
  • We are social animals and need to find ways to connect and stay in touch with each other
  • Finding online platforms to re-establish social connections in a time of physical separation
  • The pandemic makes us realize that we need to cooperate to make society better
  • Tensions of social solidarity and national borders—a sense that there should be international cooperation but also needing to shut down national borders

Health and Economics

  • The pandemic shows how interconnected health and economics are—as public health plummets, so does the economy
  • Concerns about economic collapse with expanding unemployment

Personal or Psychological Dimensions

  • Feeling a general sense of constant anxiety
  • Feeling angry about governmental incompetence
  • Feeling isolated from others
  • Feeling hemmed in with housemates underfoot
  • Concerns about how the pandemic will affect our personal lives
  • Finding space for personal growth, time for picking up a new skill

Cultural Impacts

  • The pandemic has been devastating for the performing arts
  • The pandemic may highlight the importance of the arts for conveying information to the public, with better storytelling and connecting (the importance of “STEAM” and not just “STEM”)
  • Perhaps a stronger public role for the arts will emerge from this crisis

Emerging from the Pandemic

  • What comes after—what will be the “new normal” and will we want it?
  • Focus on positive things coming from the experience of the pandemic:
    • Pollution is down
    • Increase of social solidarity—we realize how interconnected we all are and how we need each other

What would you add?

In our next conversation we’ll build on these ideas and continue to help each other explore different dimensions of the pandemic and our society. What are we missing? What other issues or concerns have come to light for you about our society during the pandemic? What other dimensions should we explore?