The coronavirus is the most widespread and global problem we have faced as a society in generations.
While a global problem, the pandemic has brought the process of globalization, or the integration among people and businesses worldwide, to a screeching halt.
Globalization has been on the rise thanks to technology and a need for international trade to manufacture goods around the world. Countries exchange culture through social media, music, television and literature, making the divide between groups of people smaller and smaller.
President Trump has regularly scorned globalization as a way for countries like China to take advantage of the U.S. in trade deals, but globalization has had some positive effects throughout history like bringing education and healthcare to developing countries.
Well, Trump’s hopes to thwart globalization have come true. Thanks to the coronavirus, not only are countries isolated, but people are too.
This is going to have some interesting effects on our society.
Now, the local aspects of our society that are regularly eclipsed by the larger aspects, are in the spotlight for the first time in a while.
Local businesses, such as barber shops and restaurants, are far more appreciated as the places that sustain our economy, and we certainly miss them when they are closed.
Local news outlets have quickly become our main source for news because we crave information about what is happening in the neighborhoods around us as we are forced to stay home.
Our neighbors are now the go-to source for hand-sewn masks and spare elastic so we can craft our own.
The local food pantry became a place for people who are hungry, even if they had never been hungry before.
Our state and town governments have been constantly communicating reliable and local information as trust in the federal government’s ability to handle this crisis has dwindled.
The coronavirus is big, but it has reminded us that the things that matter are small.
I do not think that post-coronavirus, or even now, we should turn away from globalization entirely. We need to exchange ideas about medical treatments and vaccines with other nations. That is how we will mend after this crisis. We must not entirely recede into an America-shaped cave and instead accept our place at the table of international organizations. We must honor our commitment to treaties that will help keep us safe from future tragedies.
But there are some aspects of globalization that this virus should force us to rethink.
Globalization has arguably made the rich richer and the poor poorer. The coronavirus has altered our economy so drastically that families who never faced poverty are struggling financially. For these reasons, we may have to restructure certain aspects of our economy. Businesses have closed for good. Global industries like tourism may take a long time to recover.
As unemployment is surging and international travel is uncertain, this is a time for American companies to figure out how to keep workers in America rather than outsourcing jobs to other countries and hiring low wage workers who operate in dangerous conditions.
Governments may have to look to find new forms of employment for Americans and restructure the economy. One option could be a program similar to the New Deal in the 1930s in which the government created jobs for unemployed Americans that helped improve local infrastructure and other community staples. In this current moment, these jobs could be related to contact tracing and planning for future pandemics.
America’s constant need to spread its tentacles into other countries perceived as helpless has had some unfortunate effects. This is another downside to globalization. By imposing our ideals about democracy onto nations like Iraq, we have created unnecessary conflict. America has always been a country to perceive itself as having all of the answers.
The coronavirus taught us that we do not have all the answers, and we have work to do right here at home before we start trying to improve other nations. We were clearly not prepared for this pandemic, and that probably isn’t the only thing we aren’t prepared for. Again, the virus reminds us to be humble and look inward, rather than out.
If we do look outward again it should be to look for new answers and learn from other nations who successfully flattened the curve, not to provide our own misguided answers.
Coronavirus is a big, ugly virus. But it also reminded us to appreciate the beauty in small things — hometown newspapers, local government, neighbors and the town barber. When we return to the big, global world again, we should carry the lessons we learned during the coronavirus with us. We need to think big, but remember that the best things are small.