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What we trained for

And didn’t know it

The coronavirus crisis is a classic example of how global matters have personal impacts. Even though it may not always be clear, that is why, in each blog, I try to interpret the personal implications of broader national and international policy issues that seem remote, yet affect us, by providing sound principles on which to base personal decisions and actions.

Disruptive times tend to show up how we’ve been training. It seems many of us have spent a life time training in panic and self-interest, if behaviour in the supermarkets and pharmacies is any guide. Yet the facts are that Australia produces enough food for everyone with production and delivery logistics reliable and well established. What’s to be concerned about, even if we don’t have a Mormon cupboard stocked for two years of famine?

Learn from history – use initiative

Whatever happened to Australian initiative and enterprise? Or sense of history? Or the military tenet to improvise, adapt, overcome?

It seems we’ve trained a bunch of unresilient selfish sooks who panic first.

For the like of me I can’t get my head around the dunny paper fixation and whatever it has to do with Coronavirus. I’m old enough to remember Lord Mayor Clem Jones’ commitment to sewer Brisbane City, then subject to weekly collection from the outside dunnies by Hunter Brothers; on the farm digging a hole to bury human waste from the can; cutting newspaper into squares to hang on a wire hook for essential services; gathering apple paper wrappings (much softer) for the same purpose. And what’s wrong with using water, a cloth and sanitised bucket like parents once did with cloth nappies?

Hoarding toilet paper is not new: in my youth there was an elderly miser neighbour named Bill who used to steal that awful shiny toilet paper from government buildings. His home was piled high with toilet rolls along with newspapers reaching the ceiling, with just a narrow aisle to walk through. Back then his behaviour was considered eccentric: today it is sufficiently commonplace to warrant a TV reality show.

Yet by training ourselves to take the time to glean the facts on delivery of goods from the manufacturers and shops rather than from Twitter, to understand the context and show tolerance, we can feel confident the shelves will be stocked again. In this land of plenty there will be enough for all.

The Mormons have the situation covered. Under an edict from the Prophets, Mormons are encouraged to build a store of goods to last for two years, so that they will be self-reliant during hard times. Furthermore, it is incumbent upon them to care for themselves, their family, their neighbour and their community. Something to be learned from everyone!

Olds in isolation

 “Stay at home!” is the main message to limit contagion. For many elderly, this will not be a new experience. In keeping with demographic changes where many more of us are living longer, we have been in training for this moment for some time. Busy adult children and grandchildren, sometimes separated by distance or attitude, have become consumed with work, business, sport and other activities, with little time or inclination to engage with the olds.

Where family disruption has further isolated grandparents, the olds have drawn on long-developed resilience, built their own networks and refreshed a sense of humour to maintain perspective. Digital grandchildren have become the norm, a situation which disallows latent love, wisdom and support, but what can we do? Go with what you’ve got! Having trained for this situation (however unwittingly), we are able to put obligatory isolation into practice without too much difficulty.

Furthermore, Olds have long training in being frugal from weathering wars, depression and recessions, raising children when credit was not readily available, so tightening the financial belt will be relatively easy.

Still, it was heartening to receive calls from a family member who delivered a food parcel and offered of assistance with essential errands, and to hear from a bright young colleague who was interested in my welfare. Regular communications with the outside world will keep connected olds who are abiding by the isolation edict, so that they do not monopolise life-saving equipment that might be needed by workers.

Positive training

Not all aspects of the COVID crisis are bad, though we feel for those whose livelihood, income, health and routines are being severely disrupted, as well as for the front line health professionals who daily face risks to their own health. We pray that they remain safe and feel the depth of our gratitude.

Firstly, the immediate crisis has put other putative longer term crises in perspective: the global warming/climate change catastrophe has been put on the back burner, along with Greta Thunberg, Extension Rebellion and other rabid proponents; the gender industry has faded from the headlines; colonisation and indigenous victimhood give way to the imperative of immediate survival.

Secondly, woke business leaders have to earn their huge salaries and bonuses by turning their training and talents to help the country survive economically. Paying SME suppliers on time would be a great help.

Thirdly, Public servants from key departments are being stirred into action in response to government initiatives supporting public health and incomes. Unconscious bias, gender equity, diversity and female advancement have been subsumed by overwhelming demands just to do the job – what they have been trained to do and paid for.

Relationships with key trading partners and failing global organisations like WHO and the UN taken over by China and other rogue nations will have to be reset, providing western democratic leadership is up to the challenge. And it has been a wake-up call to Australia to ensure that essential supplies are produced locally, with stocks conserved for local use.

This global pause in normal activities can be turned into positive at a personal level if we are prepared to use the time wisely to review what we have been training for. Where improvement would be beneficial (in attitude, mind or body), set our minds and our plans towards achieving just that. Make sound decisions based on facts and context and perhaps use my Maturity Model as a guide.

3 thoughts on “What we trained for

  1. Lyn Ambrose

    Australia used to manufacture so much of what it needed locally. Then the unions called for higher wages for all. The outcome was that much of our manufacturing was too expensive for companies and we suddenly found ourselves with many manufacturing companies closing down because the manufacturing was procured off-shore. Hopefully in the midst of this crisis, our union leaders will look at themselves honestly in the mirror and blame themselves for this ludicrous situation. We need to be self sufficient instead of relying on other countries.

  2. paulacollinsblog

    Agree Lyn, that we need to re-shore manufacturing, especially of essential items, as well as look at conservation of local resources, businesses and supplies. Despite the crisis, I don’t hold out much hope that the unions will take a good hard look at how their practices may advance members’ interest in the short term, yet damage the national economy ultimately. Certainly during WWII they were quite treasonous in undermining the national war effort – see Hal Colbatch’s book “Australia’s Secret War”. I have a copy.

  3. Kay Fuller

    Using initiative is a dying art – good points in this blog Paula – time for all countries to take charge of the manufacture of their own essential items like medical supplies and ventilators as Canada has discovered. It will be challenging for countries when crisis passes and economies deal with fallout so creative minds will be a huge asset in what the new world order will look like. We are thankful to all the people providing service during this time despite risking their own health ..

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