Yes, things are bleak, but there are many silver linings of the clouds that hang over our heads. Here’s a list of five silver linings.
There is a saying that is attributed to Confucius that might be helpful at the moment: “Don’t curse the darkness, light a candle.” Or, as Ian Dury would say: “Reasons to be cheerful: Part 1.” Moping around feeling sorry for ourselves isn’t going to do it anymore.
This will take a while, so we might as well get used to it and count our blessings. To help you with that, here are several shades of silver lining.
Number One: Crises tend to open up all manner of possibilities. Suddenly things can happen that were totally off-limits before. One of those is the Universal Basic Income.
You know about this, because I’ve written about it many times before. And so have others, but so far a lot of countries have put it in the too-hard basket. Not anymore. At the start of the month, the Spanish government announced that it would introduce the UBI “as soon as possible”. And more to the point, that it was planning to keep it “forever.” Now a measure to help kickstart the economy after COVID-19, it is part of “a battery of actions,” but will remain and become part of the country’s normal way of functioning even after the pandemic.
Number Two: Talking about things that were never possible, but now suddenly are: free childcare, more money to expand unemployment benefits, free mental health services. And my favorite, although I am biased, more focus on inequities in education.
Now, most schools are closed, children are learning online. If they have laptops and the internet, that is. Many tens of thousands of students don’t, though. And although teachers and parents have been telling governments for years that this is widening the gap between rich and poor, their message has fallen on deaf ears.
Now, people are listening. In every country.
In Holland, my fantastic daughter, who was making a documentary on educational inequity at the time, has taken the opportunity to make some phone calls and put some pressure on people. As a consequence, there is now a new television channel, full of educational tools and the lessons that are available online. Because most people have television, this has broadened the amount of kids that can access learning. Maybe an idea for the rest of the world too?
Number Three: Talking about migrants. One of the silver linings is that now more people understand what it is like to live at a distance from your loved ones.
Of course, hundreds of thousands of migrants have been talking to their families online for years. Until now, nobody has wanted to listen to our stories, because they couldn’t feel the pain. But now they do, and they even want to learn. I show them how my granddaughter and I make things together, although we are 12,500 miles apart and her day starts when mine ends. She is building a creche, because that is what she misses most. And I show her how to construct furniture out of cardboard and straws: tables, beds, shelving units, swimming pools, toys, books. This way we are together, sort of. Even though I am on an island and there are no planes.
Number Four: The rich and famous have found a way to make a whole lot of money and become humanity’s heroes at the same time.
Bill and Melinda Gates, for instance, are putting up billions of dollars now (to make even more if their venture succeeds, of course) to come up with a vaccine against COVID-19. They are building seven factories, to trial seven different vaccines, so no time is lost.
At the same time, the weirdo who runs Tesla is engaging his engineers to build ventilators out of car parts. I think it is called lateral thinking, something we suddenly see a lot of.
Number Five: For a sports hater like me, it is fantastic that it has now gone online as well.
Andy Murray signing up for the virtual Madrid Open, using a games controller instead of his racket. And the hilarious spectacle of the racing drivers in the Supercars E-series. Much less noisy, stinky, and dangerous. A keeper, I’d say.
Although, I wish we could. Nevertheless, let’s focus on the silver lining.