The virus, fear and our conscience

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I was having a conversation with Rudá Iandê about the coronavirus pandemic sweeping the world. He translated a story he read recently in Portuguese by Gustavo Tanaka into English.

As Rudá tells it, three friends were sailing together, each on his own sailboat. An optimist, a pessimist, and a realist.

At one point, the wind stopped, halting the boats in their tracks on the high seas.

The pessimist immediately stopped and cried out to himself: “I’m done for. I’ll die out here.” Little by little, he turned himself in.

The optimist, without worrying even for a moment, said to herself: “Everything is alright. There’s no need to be afraid. Soon the wind will come back and we’ll be out of here.”

The realist, however, stopped and observed the situation, thinking to himself: “Well, in fact, it’s not windy. If it takes too long without wind, we’re going to run out of supplies and we’re not going to make it to the coast in time.” He took a few moments to meditate and reflect. Upon silencing his thoughts and he observed that while it was not windy, there was a sea current passing through. He slowly directed his boat into the current. Using the weight of the boat and the slight movement of the waves, he managed to get his boat back to shore.

I don’t know the end of the story, but I imagine it was not satisfying for the pessimist nor the optimist.

Evaluating risks and acting with conscience

The lesson of the story for me is that every situation has potential risks, and potential benefits should be evaluated with conscience, responsibility and purpose.

We have a responsibility for how we take care of ourselves and each other.

This means practicing self-care and social distancing, doing what we can to halt the spread of the disease and also being careful with the way we communicate our thoughts and plans with each other.

Fear spreads faster than the virus itself.

Yet we don’t want to ignore the fears we face as the optimist does. We also don’t want to succumb to the fear and let it take away our agency as happens to the pessimist.

We can be realists, embracing our fears head-on with full consciousness.

We can keep each other informed by sharing practical advice grounded in reality to better prepare our community for the challenges ahead.

We can inspire each other with stories of people supporting those in our communities who are most at risk. Most importantly, we can be the people supporting those that need our help the most.

You have a choice

You have the choice to actively seek out information online that helps you to understand the situation better so you can make clear decisions. The internet is full of sensationalist reporting and social media platforms designed to ignite fear so we keep on clicking to support the revenue models of publishers and platforms.

But I don’t believe an appropriate response is to avoid the media altogether. Our global communication grid is also one of the most empowering technologies for humanity. There are really important articles to read that bring awareness to what’s going on. As of today, there have been less than 6,000 deaths worldwide attributed to coronavirus. It is a real achievement of humanity that the world has been called to attention at this relatively early stage. We can thank the global communications grid at least in part for this and use it to unite and support each other.

Therefore, please do your best to be a responsible consumer and sharer of information online. Let’s help each other to be fully informed realists, embracing the challenges we face head-on.

Most importantly, please keep on sharing inspiring stories of the people in our communities who are taking action to help the people in our communities who need us the most. Many of us are able-bodied and healthy individuals. People who are vulnerable need our support now more than ever.

Embracing fear with full consciousness

Bertrand Russell once wrote, “Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.”​ He also wrote, “Fear is the main source of superstition, and one of the main sources of cruelty. To conquer fear is the beginning of wisdom.”

The reality is that we are all part of the same global herd. The virus doesn’t understand national boundaries, ethnicity or political perspectives. It cares not …

Therefore, we must respond to the fear of a pandemic in the same way as the virus responds to us. By uniting together without discrimination and looking after every one on this earth.

We can do this by facing up to our fears with consciousness, responsibility and purpose.

We can act in service to others by distancing ourselves while also reaching out to the people we love to show that we care.

We can make sure the older and more vulnerable people in our communities are being looked after.

We can make Facebook and other social media platforms the revolutionary platforms they are designed to be by sharing information that prepares people to confront their fears, embrace reality and take responsible action in preventing the spread of the coronavirus to the very best of our ability.


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Justin Brown

Justin Brown

I'm Justin Brown, the founder of Ideapod. I've overseen the evolution of Ideapod from a social network for ideas into a publishing and education platform with millions of monthly readers and multiple products helping people to think critically, see issues clearly and engage with the world responsibly.

Notable replies

  1. A great, balanced, rational article. What our communication network could be and in many ways what Ideapod strives to be is a place to sound out ideas, amplify the most promising and connect people and resources to bring those ideas to fruition. This is a fast-moving situation, but in the UK and probably most other places, there is a shortage of ventilators. Manufacturers have been asked to deliver them and the government here has promised to pay for them. Sensible stuff. But how about open-sourcing the designs, employing 3D printing, co-ordinating manufacturing resources, supplies, logistics and Q&A and empowering people who, like myself, have lost all their work due to the pandemic to contribute to this or countless other initiatives we will need to employ in the next few months? There is an opportunity, if we can see past the blinkered assumptions of the way we think a financial system should work, to evolve a system that works in the interests of people, of us. Clickbait fear-mongering is one challenge to overcome. Lack of imagination is another.

  2. Thanks @phileastabrook and nice to see you back here :slight_smile: Sorry to hear you’ve lost your work due to the pandemic.

    I was having a conversation with my friend Rhea Mehta the other day about open-sourcing designs to 3D print respirators. It’s such a great idea. She knows some people working on it.

    As for clickbait fear-mongering, I’m part of a group of people launching a new platform that cuts through the noise of sensationalist reporting to find the quality articles bringing people together. Really excited to launch this in the next few weeks. It’s desperately needed right now.

    If you have some ideas to publish here on Ideapod, you’re most welcome.

  3. Thank you @justinbrown. It’s good to hear you have found a way to bring your experience and expertise to help deal with this. I look forward to seeing the new platform and good luck with it.

    I guess one quick way to open-source them is that the WHO or whoever pay the owners of the most promising designs. Hopefully they’re not Texan patent trolls. There are more altruistic approaches. Ensuring quality of the finished devices will be a big but not insurmountable hurdle. Can you use your connections and platform to promote the work Rhea’s friends are doing and consequently help lift the initiative in the public consciousness?

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