Alison Gerzina

As the novel Coronavirus spreads across the world, we are reminded of the fundamental nature of our existence, of human interdependence, connection, and community. Individuals in Rome, Seoul, New Delhi, and New York are experiencing the same upheavals to daily life brought on by this global pandemic. We all feel the anxiety about the future, discomfort of isolation, fear for the safety of our loved ones. But, amidst chaos, comfort is found knowing we are in this together.

While scientists and medical professionals rush to understand COVID-19, develop vaccines, and find ways to mitigate the contagion, individuals and businesses are working tirelessly to bring us together. Inspiring stories of charity are popping up everywhere: small businesses offering free meals to food-insecure students out of school; neighborhood children playing concerts on their front porches for those in quarantine; young adults delivering groceries to those unable to venture out to buy them; local breweries and distilleries shifting production to make hand sanitizer; and individuals and companies using 3D printers to make face masks for healthcare professionals.

Governments are doing their part as well. Innovative bipartisan legislation has been passed in the U.S. Congress in response to the pandemic, and more is likely to follow. Here, the fundamental principles of patriotism, duty, and perseverance of the enduring American spirit shine brightest. Our governments and institutions are providing the stability we need to maintain a functioning society.

COVID-19 has already touched us all. Presently, in some devastating ways. However, it has the potential to benefit the future in terms of our human community. In recent years, society has seen an increase in the “us vs. them” dichotomy, paralyzing polarization, social division, and stringent individualism. But these seem hollow and less appropriate now. Individuals everywhere are rallying to lend moral support and are finding ingenious ways to help get society through this unprecedented time. Editorials in newspapers, independent blog posts, and social media platforms are featuring content on how to survive and thrive in isolation, providing advice on things like how to exercise from home, activities to fend off boredom, new recipes to try, books to read, shows and movies to watch, and how to stay connected while observing social-distancing rules.

COVID-19 has sparked our innate tendencies and fundamental inclinations of human relationality. It has forced us to rethink how we live our lives and reflect on what is truly important. Humans are social beings. What may have seemed like mundane interactions before now feel vital. We had to be physically separated in order to feel connected. We are reminded of our mutual obligations to others; reminded of our humanity and the dignity inherent in our existence. No one is happy about being ordered to stay inside, but we realize the necessity of such regulations and obey them–not for individual reasons, but because it is beneficial to the whole. That is what social solidarity is all about: commitment to the common good.

What is needed is for all sectors of the world – businesses, governments, and civil society – to join forces. Standing together is the only path forward. Businesses can strengthen community ties by continuing to support their workforce. Governments can mitigate the damage by expanding services. Civil society can combat this collective threat by continuing to support friends, families, and neighbors. This collaborative effort is evident in big tech companies joining forces to combat misinformation, doctors in the U.S. collaborating with healthcare professionals in China for information and advice, and corporate foundations and charitable organizations raising money to protect the hardest hit and most vulnerable in society.

Businesses must cultivate their international connections and utilize their technology and resources. Governments should remain accessible and transparent, providing vital information and fighting to protect its citizens. Social organizations must continue communicating with governments, businesses, and the general public of new developments, community needs, as well as sharing inspirational human stories to boost morale. We are facing a long and tough road ahead. In spite of upcoming challenges, the human spirit will prevail. We will rise to the occasion, working together for the common good. We may be physically separated but remain inherently connected. When the power and influence of business, government, and society unite, great things will happen.

 

Alison is from Tallahassee, Florida. She played two years of collegiate volleyball at Pensacola State College and finished her Undergraduate career at Florida State University where she graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Media/Communications with a Minor in English. She will be graduating May 2020 with an M.A. in Ethics, Peace, and Human Rights from American University. During her time at the Washington Institute, Alison has been involved in market and grant research, as well as drafting marketing materials and graphic design.