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Here’s a welcome optimistic construal of the effects off the Coronavirus
--Marvin Zonis

Corona Isn’t Just A Beer

By Miles Morland

Oh no! Not another flatulent idiot blowing off about the virus. How many “I know someone whose brother-in-law knows a doctor and he says . .” posts have you read? Forget about social distancing and shutting down restaurants. The single best thing governments could do is to shut down Facebook and Twitter.

This is the first global crisis of the internet age. SARS and 9/11 pre-dated the ubiquity of Twitter. After 9/11, America was in a state of numbed shock. I was in New York when it happened. If Facebook and Twitter had been in existence at the time there would have been a firestorm of panic and possibly persecution of people with ethnicities different to the mainstream.

Suddenly everyone is an instant expert. Have you noticed that no-one ever goes on social media to say what a good job people in authority are doing? It is always to criticise and to pass on half-digested theories. This creates panic, panic being the fear of the dark unknown, and that puts pressure on authorities to introduce hasty and ill-thought out measures in response.

I know nothing about coronavirus that others don’t know and certainly a fraction of what the UK government’s brilliant and highly competent scientific and medical advisers, one of whom is a personal friend, know. I am no great admirer of Boris Johnson, a flawed personality, although he is a lot better than the narcissistic megalomaniac in the White House, but he is doing his best to be thoughtful and take a measured response to things as they change. Those things are moving fast and to criticise the government, as people like Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s thug-in-chief, have been doing on Twitter, where else, for not having thought out every last detail of school closures or financial support for restaurants and hotels at the time they announce them is vicious and unhelpful. Every European government has to calculate a middle way between doing what is necessary and panic. As my friend Bryan Appleyard said, yes, on Twitter but Bryan’s Twitter-safe, Campbell’s not, “There’s a hot place in hell for people who persist in politicising this crisis.”

I, as a know-nothing, believe that this too shall pass and that in a couple of months’ time much of Europe will be returning to near-normality, with open pubs and schools and with people back on the trains and planes. The human being is infinitely resourceful both at finding ways of killing people, Stalin, Mao, the holocaust, and, when attacked by the unknown, of finding ways of not getting killed. I have confidence that scientists and governments advised by them, will find a way of dealing with this but, no, I am not going to pass on charts or the views of my nephew’s doctor.

The reason for this essay is to make an entirely different point, The corona crisis will permanently affect the way we live. Half the people who work at my firm are Muslims. During Ramadan non-Muslims often say, “How difficult Ramadan must be. Can you imagine not eating or drinking during the day? No thanks.” Then I talk to my Muslim friends and for most of them Ramadan is a treasured time. They slow down, they stop going out late, they spend less time in the office, they play with their families, they eat meals together, they recharge their batteries, they reflect, they become more thoughtful, and they make acts of charity, a special and magic time.

What is the effect of the measures being taken to deal with coronavirus? To make people slow down, to spend less time in the office, to be with their families, eat meals together, recharge their batteries, become more thoughtful and to keep an eye on less fortunate neighbours.

The coronavirus crisis is like a global Ramadan. We will come out of the crisis different people and a different society. We were not in a good place going into the corona crisis. As Wordsworth, appalled by the materialism bred by the first Industrial Revolution which took place in England at the beginning of the 19th century, wrote, “The world is too much with us, late and soon, Getting and spending we lay waste our powers”. A perfect description of Trump’s world and indeed the European and Asian world as a whole in recent years, “late and soon, getting and spending, we lay waste our powers”.

The world is not going to come out of the corona crisis and rush back into leveraged buy- outs, sixteen-hour-days in the office, never see your children, let’s go to St Barth’s tomorrow. No, more people will work from home; that will be a permanent change. More people will keep up contact with the neighbour they helped during the crisis. People will keep up the ways they discovered during the crisis of spending time with the family and the kids. People will be more thoughtful. The world may be a slower place.

That’s a good thing.

Stay well, go for a walk in the park, make sure your neighbour is OK, and enjoy being at home,d


Miles Morland is the Co-Founding Partner and Chairman of Development Partners International. He spent 22 years in money management and investment banking as Head of First Boston. After leaving Wall Street and before starting Blakeney, he wrote “The Man Who Broke out Of the Bank,” published in 1992 by Bloomsbury, who described him in the publicity for the book as “a middle aged wreck”. In 2015 he published “Cobra in the Bath: Adventures in Less Traveled Lands.” He studied Law at Oxford University in 1965.

Posted March 19th 2020 at mqm@milesmorland.com