The Times of Israel published my new article “Reopening the Economy? First, We Have to Change”
There are debates all over the world about how and to what extent countries should reopen their economies in order to prevent a complete collapse. But opening it without first dealing with the cause of the coronavirus outbreak is likely to have horrific consequences that will dwarf the ordeal of the current pandemic.
We think we are at war with nature, that we must fight against it and subdue it. We forget that we ourselves are nature’s creation. Each of our thoughts, plans, words and actions is engendered in nature before it manifests in us. This is true even of the aspiration to subdue nature. But trying to conquer the very thing that planted the thought of conquering in our minds makes even less sense than chasing our own tails.
Just as we don’t understand why nature sends us the thoughts it does, we don’t understand why it has sent us the coronavirus. Yet it, too, had a process that led to its emergence. If we want to overcome the virus, we must know where it came from and why. When we identify the process that engendered the virus, we will see what we must do in order to curb it, and why there are many more in store where that little bug came from, and far more sinister.
Many scientists have already pointed to human behavior as the cause of the appearance of the virus. They explained that the destruction of natural habitats of many wild animals has forced them to migrate closer to humans. This makes what virologists call a “spillover” of viruses from animals to humans easier and more frequent. All the coronaviruses that caused respiratory syndromes in this century have resulted from such “spillovers.” SARS, MERS and COVID-19 were all caused by viruses that migrated from the animal kingdom and caused life-threatening illnesses in humans. So, too, by the way, is the case with the Ebola virus.
But human behavior did not only cause spillovers of viruses. Human behavior has polluted the oceans, lakes and rivers, polluted the air and polluted the earth. It depleted the oceans of fish, the sky of birds and the earth of animals. Human behavior starves and sickens millions of men, women and children the world over, enslaves them, rapes them and exploits them in countless ways. Human behavior inflicts death and torment on millions through war, deportation and destruction of communities and entire countries. Even the affluent and fortunate are so afflicted by human behavior that they find refuge in drugs, suicide, excessive eating and depression. In short, human behavior is the cause of all that is bad and wrong in the world.
Yet, what causes us to be so injurious to everything and everyone around us? And if our behavior is so fundamentally flawed, can we even mend it? And if so, where do we start?
We Start at Home
All animals behave according to their nature. Man is a part of nature; therefore, man behaves according to human nature. If human behavior is flawed, it is because so is human nature.
Hugging trees won’t change human nature, but hugging people will. The change should start at home, with the people meant to be closest to us. We must use the COVID-19 hiatus from baleful capitalism to reconnect with our families, reestablish the bond that made us a family in the first place, but which so many of us have lost along the way.
Afterwards, we should look at our communities and begin to reconstruct them. To paraphrase the words of JFK, ask not what your community can do for you; ask what you can do for your community. It will take mutual commitment to succeed, but if people understand the importance and urgency of rebuilding our communities, they will respond.
Before we take action, we must be aware. We must let the idea of human nature being the root of all problems sink into our minds and the minds of the people in our family and community, and then pull together and change it. We can do it. All we have to do is set a good example and let others inspire us through their example. We can use the added free time we have been given to learn about human nature and then go out and do something about it with our friends and neighbors.
From the community level, we must spread the spirit of friendship everywhere else. Just as singing from porches spread from Italy to porches all over the world, so can good deeds. Don’t be afraid to shoot a video of yourself helping others and post it on social media. Tell the viewers that you’re doing it because you want to be a better person, and the idea will catch on. It’s as easy as that: I help others because it makes me a better person. That’s all that people need to know. You will win people’s hearts and they will want to follow in your footsteps.
If we realize who we are and want to change, we only need to change our actions. This will change our mindsets, which will change our hearts.