Beyond Our Current Problems

I woke up one morning as many surely do with a heavy heart—the persistence of racial injustice, a mismanaged pandemic and an administration which systematically depreciates and debases democratic institutions. Then as I do every day, I looked at my email and the newsletters it contains. I learned that 81% of people in Malawi are more concerned about hunger than they are about getting the virus. In Venezuela, hearses with coffins had to stop in the middle of streets, having run out of gas which is now in very short supply. There too fear of being infected is second to hunger. In Yemen and Syria to name but two, the ruination of the countries economically and politically makes it near impossible to be able to have any kind of normalcy.  And then I realized that not since the civil rights movement has there been so much commitment and awareness to resolve racial injustice, that a vaccine, at least one, will be found and we shall be able to live more safely again, that we will eventually be rid of this administration and even if the country is in tatters by then (as it surely will) we shall still be standing. And I realized one more thing that the problems of the US will end up far more easily resolved than those of Malawi, Venezuela, Yemen or Syria.  That said, my heart is still heavy for those millions suffering unjustly.

Christian Cooper’s Compassion

Surely you remember what happened recently in Central Park? Christian Cooper, a black man was bird watching in a remote region of the park early one morning and encountered a white young woman with a dog who was unleashed in a section where dogs are particularly to be leached. He mentioned that to her, they had words and he took a video. She replied by calling 911 saying “An African American man is threatening my life.” Fortunately his sister was there and took a video of the incident thus sparing him arrest. The video of the incident including her call went viral and Amy Cooper (no relation) ended up losing her job at a big Manhattan financial firm and the organization through which she had adopted her dog took him back. The NYT interviewed Christian Cooper a couple of days afterwards and his reaction is so noteworthy, it merits mention.

“I’m not excusing the racism. But I don’t know if her life needed to be torn apart,” he said. And then he added, “If this painful process…helps to correct, or takes us a step further towards addressing the underlying racial, horrible assumptions that we African –Americans have to deal with, and have dealt with for centuries, that this woman tapped into, then it’s worth it.”  He also added. “Sadly it had to come at her expense.”

Looks like we can consider ourselves inspired by compassion and wisdom!

Advocating for the WHO

Somewhere in my years of study and work experience I realized that there are today problems and tomorrow problems. At the outset let me say yes, the WHO can use reforms. For example, it is too much under the control of the donor countries, and big donor politics can sway it sometimes to suit their purposes. As a result it cannot always do what is best to fulfill its own agenda. But that is a tomorrow problem.

The WHO created in 1948 has 192 member countries and works to serve them all. Its agenda is global and it has been instrumental in eradicating smallpox and just about eradicating polio, which a century ago devastated many young lives and families when it was an epidemic.  Here’s the today problem. The idea proposed by the current administration to withdraw its funding will hurt the organization and its work. In an era where pandemics are likely that is far from wise, because germs and viruses don’t recognize borders, and in future we may need the organization and its resources more than we may presently anticipate. To be fair WHO warned the administration in January of the coming pandemic, and while some say it could have done it sooner, had it been tougher on the country of origin, China, fact is its warnings were ignored. Yes the US is the biggest donor, and China the second biggest. At the same time that the US has threatened to cut off all funds, China has pledged $2 billion. So if the US leaves, the organization will continue and will continue  with China having an even bigger voice. If the administration carries out its threat China will be better off, the US worse off, and a needed global organization weakened and made that much more in need of reform.

Robots and the Pandemic

For those wanting to know how the pandemic will change the world, faster use of automation looks to be one way it will. Robots are looking particularly attractive to businesses, manufacturers and investors. That’s not new because robots don’t have to be paid, demand benefits or take sick leave. The virus is increasing interest because robots don’t require protective gear and can’t sneeze on their co workers, Many believe the pandemic is accelerating automation, but it has implications. It won’t happen all at once, and each sector and each company will have to review their needs because some jobs lend themselves better to automation better than others. While it is believed that automation will create some jobs, because that is the pattern of former new innovations, experts also think that in developed countries automation is likely to exacerbate economic inequality. That is because the jobs created will be digital age jobs for a digital age economy, while the large part of the economy is  likely to be based on service economy jobs which do not pay as well as they used to and include as well all those who will be left out.

Of course it’s not all smooth sailing for those who will use robots. Robots get their own kind of viruses and can be hacked, so manufacturers and businesses will have to invest in security. Nevertheless the projection points to a rocky road for too many.