“It’s ironic that as the pandemic forces us into our separate corners, it’s also showing us how intricately we are all connected. It’s revealing the many ways that our lives intersect almost without our noticing. And it’s showing us just how tenuous our existence becomes when we try to abandon those connections and distance from one another. Health care, housing, race, inequality, the climate — we’re all in the same leaky boat,” writes Byrne in the essay, titled ‘The World Is Changing — So Can We’.
“Viruses don’t respect borders. They get in even with extra screening and travel restrictions. Maybe less, but some slips in,” continues the former Talking Heads bandleader.
“And until there is a vaccine, no one is immune. What that means is that we have to put aside some of our suspicions and animosities towards others and see how much we can limit or even halt the damage.”
Byrne points to countries like Taiwan, South Korea and Singapore that have managed to contain the virus, saying we can learn from their lack of hesitation in testing as many people as possible as the virus began to appear – acknowledging that this process required freedoms to be curtailed and make personal sacrifices for the greater good.
“Some might find the measures taken to halt the spread of the infection to be intrusive. But the outcome they led to — THAT is freedom. To be able to return to one’s life, with a job, healthy and safe — THAT is national security,” offers Byrne.
Finally, the musician suggests that the current crisis is a chance to learn how we can change our behaviour for the better, to come together and believe in the value of collective good.
“In emergencies, citizens can suddenly cooperate and collaborate. Change can happen. We’re going to need to work together as the effects of climate change ramp up. In order for capitalism to survive in any form, we will have to be a little more socialist. Here is an opportunity for us to see things differently — to see that we really are all connected — and adjust our behavior accordingly.”
Read the full essay over on Byrne’s website, here.