opinion

5 ways 2020 will change us for the better.

2020 will be a year we remember with a pang of pain. Courtesy of the COVID-19 pandemic, there will be memories of lives radically changed and others lost, of isolation and hardship.

But, while it may be hard to believe now, buried deep within this crisis there is good that will spring from it.

That might sound all a bit ‘hopepunk’ — you know, strength through adversity, phoenixes rising from ashes, and all that other clichéd, Pollyannaish stuff. Still, there’s a fundamental truth to it.

The Quicky’s Claire Murphy delivers the facts on COVID-19. Post continues after video. 

Video by Mamamia

It’s happening already as we respond to this emergency and adapt to our chaotic new lives.

If we look, this is how we might see 2020 changing us for the better.

We’ll better appreciate the importance of human connection.

As we self-isolate and retreat to our homes, many of us are getting a glimpse at what life is like for the one in 10 Australians who lack social support. It’s in craving cuddles with family, a morning tea break with a colleague, or drinks or dinner with friends.

Of course, we know this is temporary, and we’re finding our own little ways to bridge the gap that this virus has forced us to keep.

People are looking up from their phones and smiling at strangers in the streets, video-calling friends they would normally just text, organising virtual hangouts and parties, checking-in with people more often, and checking up on those that may need help.

In traffic recently, my dad and another motorist caught each other’s eye as they sanitised their hands. They laughed through the glass and wound down their windows for a quick chat about our strange new world.

We’ll have more empathy for people on social security.

It’s been estimated that the number of unemployed Australians will rise by more than 800,000 in the coming months, as large swathes of our workforce close down to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

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We’ve read the headlines and seen the images about people queuing for hours outside Centrelink offices, and the myGov website buckling beneath the hundreds of thousands attempting to apply online.

Many have never been in this position before, and many assumed they never would (some of my nearest and dearest are among them).

Wondering if you qualify to get some financial relief in these uncertain times? A finance expert explains. Post continues after podcast. 

Through all this, our community may finally begin to appreciate what it means to survive on $565.70 a fortnight — cries we’ve chosen to ignore from welfare recipients and advocates for so long. And we may finally begin to shrug off the stigma about leaning on welfare. Because no one is looking down on those people in the queues this week; they are innocent victims of circumstance, people who need support to get through.

And aren’t we fortunate to live in a country where that support is possible?

We’ll have more respect for teachers, and how damn hard their job is.

We figured teaching mustn’t be easy. But did we really understand?

Parents around the country are now supervising their children’s remote learning as they chose to isolate their families. There’ll be cries of, “But that’s not what Mr. Howland taught us” and “I don’t GET IT” and “When’s lunch?” There’ll be different learning needs and aptitudes to contend with, routines to set. There’ll be issues with attention span and behaviour and fatigue, as their own work piles up.

(As a popular meme circulating right now goes, “A whole lot of parents are about to realise it’s actually not the teacher’s fault”.)

Meanwhile, teachers are still working.

In fact, they’re working twice as hard to make this arrangement possible. They’re recording their lessons, preparing home-learning material and teaching the children still in class because their parents can’t work from home. They’re figuring out ways to cause as little disruption as possible to their students’ learning, they’re fielding queries from stressed parents, and contemplating how to keep it all going next term.

When all this is over and parents can drop their children off at the school gate again, there’s no doubt many will be doing it with a newfound appreciation for the man or woman waiting to greet them.

We’ll have a new appreciation for doctors, nurses and scientists.

We’re seeing doctors and nurses on social media and the nightly news, their faces bruised from wearing protective goggles and their eyes ringed by dark circles. They’re the masked heroes on the frontlines of this crisis, testing, triaging, treating; risking their own health for the sake of preserving ours.

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Tucked away in labs, researchers are dedicating their waking hours to finding a solution that could save lives and ease the burden on their healthcare colleagues. Others are facing outward, through the media, helping us all understand this complicated, fast-moving emergency. Who would have thought that words like ‘epidemiologist’, ‘virologist’ and ‘infectious disease specialist’ would be a staple of news bulletins?

It’s all of them we’re all turning to right now.

They deserve a god damn parade when all this is over.

We’ll see the potential of uniting as a global community against a crisis.

Tackling this thing will take — is taking — a concerted, coordinated effort of governments, researchers, businesses, organisations and individuals around the world.

The global community is united by a common enemy; one having the same impact on human movement, industries, economies, policy and resources everywhere. We’re listening to science’s pleas to make these sacrifices for our own sakes and for that of those more vulnerable.

There are lessons here in how we tackle other urgent global crises, whether they are health-related, matters of conflict or even climate change. The bizarre upside of the latter is that we know what’s ahead, and we know exactly how to avoid it — as individuals, nations and as a global community. And now, we know first-hand that we can mobilise them all.

This pandemic is a generation-defining event, certainly; it’s impacted billions of lives in ways we could previously barely imagine. But it will also be a generation-bonding one.

Let’s not let go.

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To protect yourself and the community from COVID-19, keep at least 1.5 metres away from other people, regularly wash your hands and avoid touching your face.

If you are sick and believe you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your GP ahead of time to book an appointment. Or call the national Coronavirus Health Information Line for advice on 1800 020 080. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

To keep up to date with the latest information, please visit the Department of Health website.

Feature image: Getty.

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