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Ten Lessons For a Post-Pandemic World foresees the nature of a post-pandemic world. It considers the political, social, technological, and economic consequences that may take years to unfold. In ten ‘lessons,’ Fareed Zakaria invites us to think about how we are truly social animals with community embedded in our nature. Plus, he concludes by considering the degree to which nothing is written, and the future is truly in our own hands.
About Fareed Zakaria
Fareed Zakaria is an Indian-American journalist, political commentator, and author. He is the host of CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS and writes a weekly paid column for The Washington Post. He has been a columnist for Newsweek, editor of Newsweek International, and an editor at large of Time.
Lesson No. 1 – Buckle Up
Technology has advanced considerably over the last few decades. However, instead of stopping and considering how we can keep ourselves safe, we have just continued to expand. Zakaria uses the analogy of us having built the fastest sports car ever imaginable. Yet, we are driving it into the unknown with no seatbelt on. We haven’t equipped any airbags, and we haven’t purchased any insurance. Driving this sports car makes us feel innovative, modern, and powerful. However, we do experience crashes along the way. Crucially, these crashes are getting worse with time.
Despite these crashes, we are still yet to stop and consider the safety precautions we require. Instead, we simply stop the vehicle, tune-up the suspension, and fix the engine. We continue to make our cars faster and faster, yet we allow ourselves to be left in more profound danger. Hence, Zakaria believes the pandemic is a massive crash. We should avoid continuing our unsustainable expansion after the pandemic. Instead, we should use this as a time to contemplate the safety precautions we need to implement. We need to buckle up.
Lesson No. 2 – Improve the Quality of Government
America wrongly believed it was too powerful to ever collapse financially and politically. However, the pandemic has proven us all wrong. Coronavirus has been associated with political polarization and economic dysfunction. America may still remain the most powerful nation for military personnel. However, this all means nothing if the lives of America’s average citizens are in danger. America is becoming more inward-looking and obsessed with being patriotic. In doing so, America is missing out on the opportunity to influence world politics and be at the forefront of innovation. Zakaria highlights that America has been regarded as a beacon of knowledge for the rest of the world for many years. However, post-pandemic, America now needs to learn from the rest of the world. Specifically, America needs to improve the quality of its government and incorporate political stability.
Lesson No. 3 – Markets Do Not Dictate Happiness
Zakaria accepts that markets with appropriate regulations ensure a relatively level playing field. However, the market performing well does not mean society is performing well. At the moment, science, technology, and education are all lacking crucial funding. Therefore, Zakaria suggests America needs to take a leaf out of the Nordic countries’ economic policies. This is the only way that America can continue to compete with the technological innovation and economic development witnessed worldwide. Specifically, America should continue to accept the importance of markets and understand that specific fields require more support, buffers, and supplements. This does not mean we should adopt a carbon copy of Denmark’s economic policies. Instead, America needs to adapt some of these foundations and apply them to America’s reality.
Lesson No. 4 – Experts and People Need to Develop Mutual Respect
The pandemic and recent American elections have highlighted that people are starting to trust experts less. Part of the problem is experts have become an elite group who develop power and authority based on their knowledge. This eliteness has been pushed back by certain countries, including America and Brazil. The result is governments that are built on celebrations of ignorance rather than knowledge. America and Brazil’s tragic COVID-19 responses show that rejecting experts does not work. However, the responsibility also lies with the experts. Experts must learn to connect with people and avoid remaining in an elitist bubble. The most destructive thinking is the belief that your success makes you superior in your society. After all, in democracies, at least, the wishes of the population are the ultimate source of authority.
Lesson No. 5 – The Digital World Is Here to Stay
“The movement to digital is fast and broad and real. But perhaps one of its deepest consequences will be to make us cherish the things in us that are most humans.” – Fareed Zakaria
The pandemic pushed us closer to our technology and has encouraged people to consider the potential of us becoming completely reliant on artificial intelligence. However, Zakaria argues the truth is we are practically already at this point. A phone in our pocket has greater access to information than any person could possess and can solve complex tasks in nanoseconds. Despite this, Zakaria doesn’t believe we are at a stage where we mistake our technology for our friends. Instead, technology has the potential to make us value our human companions even more. The pandemic has highlighted that humans are more than problem solvers. Humans are brave, loyal, generous, faithful, and loving. At the moment, technology is none of these things.
Lesson No. 6 – We Are Social Animals
“COVID-19 reminds the human race the simple yet profound insight that by nature, we’re social animals.” – Fareed Zakaria
Aristotle famously described humans as social animals. As humans, we built cities so that we could socialize with each other. However, even though our cities have reached a standstill, the human hard-wiring to socialize will always remain. The lockdown has brought out many people’s tendencies to participate in and collaborate with something bigger than themselves. We need this to remain after the pandemic.
Lesson No. 7 – Inequality Will Get Worse
“COVID-19 is forcing us to live up to a piece of wisdom that in the most fundamental and moral sense, human beings are all equal.” – Fareed Zakaria
The pandemic has highlighted inequality within our society. The most obvious inequality narrowed is between the healthy and the ill. Many who are used to being healthy all the time have crossed the divide and experienced severe illness. Subsequently, many people have changed their views of individuals who are often ill. However, pandemics generally make other inequalities more significant. For example, the pandemic has highlighted and reinforced the disparity between the rich and poor. It is highly likely we will have another pandemic in our lifetimes. Therefore, we need to learn how to keep everyone safe, including those who are poor, during a future pandemic.
Lesson No. 8 – Globalization Is Not Dead
The new age of technology has connected all the world. With it comes globalization. However, Zakaria highlights that hard-edged realpolitik is still lurking. With the rise of China and growing tensions with America, a conflict could be around the corner. Therefore, although globalization has offered fantastic opportunities, it has the potential to create conflict based on economics.
Lesson No. 9 – The World Is Becoming Bipolar
The US-China battle is a form of bipolarity. The two countries are different in many ways. This same bipolarity can be seen across large parts of the world. For example, the political divide between the right and left is becoming larger in America and parts of Europe. Zakaria believes this bipolarity is inevitable. However, we can decide whether these differences in opinion lead to violence.
Lesson No. 10 – Liberalism is Idealist
The movement worldwide towards liberalism has improved the lives of more people than any previous system. Zakaria believes the success of liberalism is not due to the expectation that the world will one day be perfect. Instead, liberalism is underpinned by idealism. Liberalism is simple and practical. If people cooperate, then they will achieve better outcomes and more durable solutions than acting alone. If nations could avoid war, their citizens will live longer, richer, and more secure lives. If they become intertwined economically, everyone’s lives are better off.
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