Lessons we’re learning (hopefully) quickly because of the coronavirus…

Lessons we’re learning (hopefully) quickly because of the coronavirus…

The speed of the spread of the coronavirus, Covid19, or Wuhan virus, referring to the region of China where the pandemic started, within 24 hours makes the decisions of the authorities responsible for fighting off its effects obsolete.

Together with the virus, a more than understandable fear, even panic at times, spreads. The culture of electronic communication, in which we have been immersed for more than half a century – accelerated by the digital technological revolution – has simply multiplied the reactive instantaneousness of the "human crowd" with all its paradoxes. Many essayists, commentators, and writers have suggested reading Manzoni's account of the plague (in The Betrothed) of Milan during the seventeenth century as a purifying catharsis of feelings we are now experiencing–something that good literature has always done for the human soul.

We at Family and Media want to start a conversation together to understand some lessons to be learned by observing the effects that Covid19 has on the community level. A family mother (Cecilia Galatolo), a jurist, legal historian and professor of Global Law (Rafael Domingo Oslè), and a professor of public communication (Norberto González Gaitano) began to reflect on what the suffering of so many people tells us: the "inconvenience" caused by the many – though necessary – restrictions in life with others, the inability of the communication system to inform us of what was coming, and also – and no less serious – how we individuals and communities were unable to perceive reality. So there are three levels on which to reflect, to begin with: human relations, the gigantic information flop of the most advanced technological communication system in history (or so we thought), and the role of technology in this collective blunder and how to personally get out of it.

Every daily report of people tested, infected, dead, and cured is like a war report that changes the current scenario. What has not changed is our rationality, our ability to observe, watch, reflect, think, and try to understand.

We want to start with a bare, brutal fact that very few are showing us, because it is almost impossible to tell it – despite all our means. The columnist of a well-known Italian newspaper calls the fact the number of the “clandestine infected.” It is the dead who die without any visibility, reduced to a statistical figure. Ezio Mauro writes:

So you die clandestinely. No relatives are at your bedside in the hospital, no goodbyes are permitted, no funeral is allowed. It is true that one always dies alone; but, in this case, it is different. For the first time death is so singular that it becomes pure news without rite, statistics, communication from elsewhere – a simple disappearance. Abandoning the tragic grandeur of the passing, restricting mourning to an individual event, stripping death of its social effects, of its collective meaning, of cultural symbologies, it is finally reduced to a simple biological fact.

Where's the fact finding? Ezio Mauro, a long-time journalist, knows well. As we all know. You don't need a camera, an image, or the testimony from a primary source. Perhaps, like the columnist, there is a step missing in that sharing of knowledge, which requires a subsequent act of courage in "looking" at the invisible: after removing the social effects, the cultural symbologies (and why not also mention the religious ones?), what remains? Only a biological fact or a major question about the meaning of each individual life? Maybe our hyper-connected, hyper-technological, hyper-developed, hyper-educated, “hyper” society has become hyper-ignorant. Maybe we need to go back to the school of humanity. We seek to do so on these three nodes: personal relationships, information about the common world, and the human skills required of citizens of the post-coronavirus future. Stay tuned and send us your thoughts. We are truly interested. The three of us have talked to each other (obviously through digital communication because it's still not possible to converse over a pizza or coffee) and with many other people, and we find ourselves with similar thoughts. Do we really need to be told what to think about and how to think by powerful agents of communication? Or rather, do we just need to find out what we already knew about a piece of news that makes us think, which we simply ignored because we were stunned by millions of equally trivial “pieces of information”? Shall we try to find out together? Thank you for listening and for your collaboration.