My best-case scenario for what’s going on now is—assuming that within the next half year, we do deal successfully with the COVID crisis—that it will become a model for people all around the world recognizing common problems, rallying together to deal with a common problem. My best-case scenario is that, having defeated COVID, we will go on to attempt to defeat and succeed in defeating climate change. For that reason, I see a potential silver lining, and that’s my best-case scenario for what’s going on now.
Each of these men, like all Black father figures, fights against the still pervasive stereotype of the absent Black father. It’s a notion that gained currency in the 1960s as the political advancements of the civil rights movement failed to translate into economic and social progress for everyday Black Americans, and social science research turned away from structural explanations for inequality toward a search for behavioral causes. In 1965, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then an assistant secretary of labor, delivered a report to the Johnson White House, The Negro Family: The Case for National Action, arguing that the plight of Black American communities was in decline due to a simple factor: the crumbling of the family unit and, in particular, children being raised in fatherless homes.
What Snapchat unlocked was a desperate desire for users to not have their digital actions follow them around. Whether it was shitposts or thirst traps, the idea was that it didn’t need to live in your, or anyone’s, feed forever. That ephemerality, combined with the lack of gratification that typically comes with a main feed post, gave users the opportunity to have more fun and enjoy the internet without any of its traditional consequences. Why should we have to cling on to the minutiae of what we were posting? It treated the internet like a tool, not a catalogue. And through this it unlocked a new era: the Snapchat-cum-Stories framework of disappearing content that now exists on most mainstream platforms.
There are several reasons for that. People still seem to see the pandemic purely as a natural disaster, not as one worsened by policy failures. And natural disasters—like wars—tend to boost incumbent support. Many Americans have no point of comparison for such a global crisis, and even those who do are largely looking to European countries that, as their second wave hits, have failed nearly as much as the United States. The numerous examples of successful control of the virus, from Australia to China to Nigeria, are almost all in the Asia-Pacific region and Africa, and simply aren’t on the radar of Western voters.
Those pushing herd immunity want people to think that it could be the route out of the Covid crisis, when, in fact, it’s more likely to prolong the nightmare. Just think for a second what such a strategy would actually look like. We would end up in a situation like that currently being faced in parts of Belgium — hospitals are under such pressure that drugs are being rationed and doctors have been issued with guidance on who is eligible for treatment. All this is before we consider what effect it would have on NHS staff who would also become unwell and unable to tend to the sick.
But what of the losers? It turns out they have clever strategies for feeling good, too. The first stage of coping with a loss is often CORFing—Cutting Off Reflected Failure. Here Cialdini’s research revealed that pronoun choice was highly subjective. BIRGers will say, “We crushed them,” while CORFers invariably distance themselves from the failure: “They blew it.” Losers may then continue with a suite of mnemonically-termed coping mechanisms, including: BIRFing—Basking In Reflected Failure, the underdog mentality; CORSing— Cutting Off Reflected Success, as in the nostalgic fan who rejects success gained through deceit (i.e. doping) and opines for the more pure glory of times past; and COFFing—Cutting Off Future Failure, a strategy of not getting too excited when a team with a historically poor record starts to do well (lest their success prove to be short-lived).
Sad things that we humans do.
I stand at the traffic lights waiting to cross. A young man beside me holds a lead – at the end of it is a puppy standing patiently between us. In the moments before the crossing signal, I listen to the dog breathe. The sound is old and bronchitic, a dissonant issuing from this neat little body, the laboured wheezing of a young dog’s breath. The man is fashionably dressed, and the dog most probably loved and precious. I’m not sure if the dog is a French bulldog or a pug, but he’s one of those that now form a widespread, snuffling, breathless band of canine respiratory distress. The lights change, and man and dog walk off, the dog carrying his possibly malign genetic destiny, his future skin-fold pyoderma, the corneal ulceration that may affect his protruding eyes, the upper airway obstruction that is probably already causing him to wheeze. It’s not the first time I’ve wondered – what made this man and others seek out and pay for creatures who may live shortened, suffering lives?
For many, the pandemic is merely an annoyance. But some groups face a particular risk of post-traumatic stress disorder (ptsd), the symptoms of which include nightmares, flashbacks and feelings of guilt, anxiety or isolation. The most vulnerable are those who have been very ill, or lost relatives, as well as victims of previous traumas (such as refugees), and those with front-line jobs, such as doctors and nurses. In Spain nearly a sixth of those infected are health-care workers, and most of them show signs of ptsd. In Bangladesh, where the incomes of poor people briefly fell by 80% when lockdowns were tight, 86% of people in one poll reported covid-19-related stress.
“The skyscrapers and office buildings in the city centers that used to be our most valued real estate have become places people avoid out of fear of infection,” Bloom said. “I don’t see people growing comfortable with packed subway trains and elevators, and firms aren’t going to want to open and close every time there’s a wave.” “It’s the fear of the virus that keeps people at home,” said Sven Smit, senior partner at McKinsey & Company and co-chair of the McKinsey Global Institute. He added that while it was too early to be certain the shift would stick, “the tendency [for longer-term change] is there.”
Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat, says Petriglieri. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. “Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally,” he says.