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Born to Run

Updated: Nov 18, 2020

We have to live more ethically

The Corona Virus really has been rattling the whole inner and outer system of our planet since March. Despite some promising vaccines, we still have a long way to go. It also has shaken my writing rhythm, and made me reflect several months on where this Covid 19-situation would lead us. Personally, with family and friends based in different countries around at the world map, I have a natural interest in the impact the virus has had on the “Global Citizen”. Of course, I am not alone in this matter. Our whole set-up of global trade, global education, back-packing and travelling and moving, people seeking new pastures and expats working abroad, the globalized world is tied together like never before.

As a consequence, you no longer go, run, escape to whatever destination you had plans to go to just half a year ago, no matter how rich or fortunate you are. This is a new and very unlikely situation for our co-existence, and it pushes norms taken for granted, raise questions of how to handle and more existentially, how to live together in the future. There is definitely a need of a plan.

Born to Run

Last year Bruce Springsteen turned 70 and was heralded around the world. One small contribution that flew a bit under the radar was the movie “Blinded by the Light” offering a lot of re-reflection to the original lyrics of the Boss and what it actually means to be on the run in a cultural way.

Despite the director chose Blinded by the Light as title, I actually saw the light in terms of how important and vital our manners and cultural behaviour have become, when we speak of moving around. So, it was merely Born to Run that was running in my head when watching the film. It depicts a young teenager with Pakistani roots in a small provincial town north of London in the 80’s. He gets introduced to Bruce Springsteen’s universe of rock ballads of not fitting in the American society. My interpretation of the film was that we all from Jersey City in the US to Luton, UK in the 80’s was and are born to run.

If we take a step back, since the very first days of human history our ancestors dressed as foragers and hunters have entertained us with stories of people on the run from one place to another. Either if this was part of a nomad culture and/or a result of scarce resources and lack of food, we fled. From the ice age to the Europeans looking for a new life in the 19th century in the Americas to the 21st century’s migrants fleeing Africa or Asia in hope of a better life. Or like me, living as expat, we are a result of a globalized world where options are to seek and explore, no matter if you are forced to do it or see an opportunity.

We need a change

But, The Covid epidemic has made all decision making, planning linked to this moving and travelling a very difficult task. We are living more or less day by day, waiting and hoping for the virus slowly to vanish, so we can get back to life again. Well, this is exactly what we are learning now; we are probably doomed, at least for a period to stay put where we are. We don’t have any new place to run to but have to live with the virus. Therefore, we have to rethink future ways of how to interact, if or when a similar Covid-situation occurs next time. The Covid-19 is the fourth major epidemic in this century; all of which probably can be traced back to contact with infected animals.

We need to talk, and we need to act. And we need to think and do things together. And we need to follow some basic rules and understand how nature and science work. Unfortunately, basic steps introduced by scientists have been more than difficult for some leaders around the world to either understand or accept. Some followers might be excused of their ignorant behaviour due to poverty, lack of access to trustworthy news or simply because they have been forced physically go to work to pay the bills. But, for the majority there is and has been no excuse to keep distance, mouth covering, washing hands and stay at home to fight the virus.

The next step of concern is how to get ready and prepare for new ways of living together. The main problem, besides the actual virus and people getting sick, has been our organization of society to which we belong. It has been obvious that we are not capable or schooled in how to manage and plan the unforeseen.

When daily chores of school, work and leisure right now cause so many problems due to the logistical part of transporting people and sanitizing we can’t expect future solutions of how to live in new ways to be ready. But we have to. We have to work harder on future solutions. We have to come together to challenge the basic elements of how to share goods and to solve the huge employment/unemployment issue that keeps coming back at us, and also is part of the disorder and unwillingness to comply with the rules. And we need to look at how to handle Nature and our consumption and treatment of animals.

Back to normal

The employment element is not a totally unknown or subject of surprise. Even before the Covid-19 arrived, experts predicted that both smaller, but also traditional “brick and mortar” giants, to go out of business. We have seen it coming. The main villain and source behind laying off people is not surprisingly to be found from the competition of online sale and robots taking over many traditional jobs. So, epidemic or not, this was about to happen anyway. The task is therefore to really educate and prepare for future jobs and careers in alternative ways. We need to think deeply of how we would like to create our society, skewing to employment, technology, sustainability and health. It has to be done in running mode with agility and willingness to change.

Change, including climate change, unfortunately has never been humanity’s best friend. We tend to be reluctant to too many changes. And despite we all agree on “there is not going to be a getting back to normal”, we tend to think on nothing else of going back to what we knew. Whenever we speak with family and friends, it is about when we can get back to normal. We may be aware of a need of change and perhaps we are discussing the issue at zoom meetings or with 6 feet distance at an outdoor dinner party. But reality shows we are stuck with our current lifestyle and way of thinking. We are not very ready for changes after all. And why aren’t we?

Born to stay?

I don’t know if the author Yuval Noah Harari is a Bruce Springsteen fan, but in his book, simply called Sapiens, one central claim is that one of humanity’s biggest frauds during history, has been the glorification of our step from hunters and foragers to farmers. In his attempt to cover the history of humankind in 400 paperback pages, his main thesis is that mankind lost in exchanging the free role as hunter and forager to an enslaved position as farmer and later industrial worker. We were born to run and became born to stay. Critics have pointed out this as a simplification of history. However, we might take the essential part of such a discussion seriously and look at how bound are we to our way of living and how much are we willing to change it.

Mother Earth

An issue we definitely love to not do much about has been our treatment of Nature. We talk a lot about our natural sources, but we neither run nor even walk the talk, when it comes to treat our natural resources in respectful ways. The last couple of centuries have been extremely harsh to Nature from our side. A traditional view is we always have felt superior and greedy, both economically and related to power, and this explains why we explored nature recklessly. But we might also include our inherited ways of how to handle problems and see that our solving of these have been through simple acts and a linear understanding of how the world is connected.

System thinking and how to look at complex situations includes a more holistic and broad understanding of the different components of a problem. This is no different with Covid-19 or when to understand a natural phenomenon.

Many of us are brought up, and still think and work from the same recipe, when it comes to work, education, but also what we eat, how we consume. All our acts have over time had a brutal impact on Mother Earth, but since nature does not necessarily works in linear ways, we need to address the attention of every issue differently.

So, despite alarming climate forecasts caused mainly by high CO2 emission numbers, we keep cutting down forests, changing habitats and exploiting minerals, so we can get our beef, our electronical devices and our dream house. This needs to change. This can only be fixed if we respect all the fine vowed threads and different elements nature consists of.

So, what is there to be done?

The author, Jonathan Safran Foer, released last year a contribution to the climate debate, with his book How to save the weather. He questions, if the climate and life on Earth is so much in danger why has no one tried to save it? With examples of heroic fighters in WWII who sacrificed their lives for others his aim is to challenge and to speak to our inner urge of change. Why isn’t it released and why don’t we act?

We need not only to think out of the box, but also out of ourselves if to save this planet. We have to begin a new kind of ethical behaviour. And it is not enough that only some of us stop eating meat, buy ethical produced clothes and reduce our air travelling. It is also important, but we all need to do and excel, and more importantly: do more than is expected of us.

The subtitle of the book is The climate change begins at breakfast, to stress the effort begins right now and right here.

The Meating is over

One of the initial discussions due to Covid-19 was naturally where the virus originated from. One theory is the virus spread from a meat market of wild animals in Wuhan; a very similar scenario to the scary and extremely well depicted movie “Contagion” from 2011. We still don’t know for sure and neither can we draw a conclusion of stop eating animals will directly put a stop to deadly spread viruses.

But what we can do, is to work on how to mitigate our general meat consumption for other reasons. Mass meat production is a huge CO2 polluter due to a whole chain of production costs. The meat consumption has increased massively since the 70’s despite the wave of healthy living also saw its daylight here. Too much meat and processed products may also be harmful for your cardiovascular system, cause diabetes and cancer to mention a few well-known risks. And finally, the production of meat itself seems to easily cause contagious Covid-19 cases somehow. It could be a coincidence that meat plants in countries all over the world since March have reported so many of their plant workers to be infected with the virus that they have been closed. Not only in the USA, also in Poland, Germany, Denmark you see the same pattern. But our general handling of meat and poultry, especially at huge plants has repeatedly resulted in grave and deadly diseases over the last decades.

So, despite there is no direct link from meat to Covid-19, there are so many obvious problems with massive meat production and consumption that we would definitely benefit from turning down our appetite for eating animals. It is an obvious and necessary area of action to take place.

Final Cut

We face a very unlikely, but clearly self-made epidemic, that has brought misery, distrust and a highly unstable situation almost anywhere on Earth. We have made it very difficult to maintain an open free flowing life of which, however this current epidemic may end, will have an impact on our lives for many years to come. Hopefully, this reminds us of how small and limited we all are after all, compared to the universe and the natural sphere. We therefore need to step down from our pedestal and fight harder and exchange our bad manners with better ethical and sustainable decisions.

The linear and “easy and unchallenged” way of understanding life, needs to be addressed. We can’t continue living like we do and expect to come back to normal. We need to act and ask more of ourselves, and do this more ethically and consciously, both to serve Nature and our climate, but also cut down on e.g. meat and other CO2 emissioners, so we sustainably can run or occasionally fly to other destinations again.

‘Cause tramps like us, baby, we were born to run….. (Bruce Sprongsteen, Born to Run)

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