The Virtual Existence Conundrum – Part 1: Shall We Level-set?

Disclaimer: This is intended to be a series. I tend to be opinionated and make propositions, suggestions, half in jest and some not so much in jest. Therefore, proceed at your own risk! Hopefully at the end of the series I may have covered several pertinent aspects of what we as Humans are dealing with, what businesses are dealing with, what Governments are dealing with and that should just about cover the Social, Family, Personal, Economic & Financial impact of something unprecedented hitherto.

Let’s say we begin with the initial rehtoric when the Pandemic was recognized as one and reality began to set it. Essentially, popular opinions gravitated towards a series of abstractions driven by the usual sets of people. The naysayers, the yesayers, those in the know, those in denial (arguably the optimists), the optimists (myself included) and the ones that are usually swayed by popular opinion that suits their pshyche best.

  • The Virus is man made and originated in China at some reasearch or bio-weapons facility in Wuhan. Whatever, but we’re up the creek and no paddle.
  • The world has changed. Yay!!!
  • The Pandemic is a way to tell mankind that it has abused the planet and the planet is now healing. Right, we’re all stone deaf or soon will be.
  • The oceans, rivers, air are less polluted, say the very people who polluted them in the first place. Go figure!
  • People have adopted healthier lifestyles. Not much else to do in the first place, so no pat on the back here, but perhaps I should be kinder.
  • It will take us years to recover and be back to normal. We really have no way of knowing what that “normal” may end up as.
The Virus is man made: Not even getting into that despite my own convications on the subject and a lot in the public and not so public domains.

The World has changed: No extra points for that astute observation.

Note to Mankind - "You've abused Mother Nature": Note taken but will be ignored shortly after things ease up. You see, we have short memories and its always SEP - Sombody Elses Problem, what can I do anyway?

Less Pollution is a Fact: Reality IS less polluted, but ONLY because the smokestacks have stopped spewing temporarily, planes aren't really flying as much, cars arent out that much. So unless we expect to move all polluting means of transport and production to non-polluting ones immediately, its going to be BAU - Business As Usual right after. Alternatively we go back to animals moving us and things around (here come the PETA - Prevention of Cruelty To Animals activists). Let's go back to ships with sails, or take up Cycling to Work en masse (I did it for years in Bombay - 18 km each day each way), so I've done my bit and until this day don't own a car. So let's do snail mail, the bullock-cart, the horse-drawn carriage, the mule train, oxen and bulls to till fields (still widely prevalent in India) A rapid slowing down of trade, provision of services.

The ONLY thing that will actually be spared is this whole Digital thingy (deserving, demanding and crying out for a seperate chapter in this serices).

Healthier Lifestyles: Would that be because bars, clubs, pubs, restaurants and all our usual watering holes are shut? Is it a choice or is it just because we’re all sitting around with limited mobility and naught else to occupy our time? Sustainable? Theoretically - yes, Hopefully - BIG YES, Practically - I’m not so sure. What happened in Bombay, the day the lockdown was lifted? Thousands of people took to the Marine Drive Promenade. Social distancing be damned! So I can’t possibly be blamed for being a bit of a sceptic.
Wai, Wai, Wai or well, well, well (Turkish, influenced by a recently devoured Netflix series). We do have a rather interesting and intimidating set of dilemmas, so perhaps you get why Conundrum?

All said and done what we have at hand is a radically changed on-ground reality and a scratching of heads to figure out how the Digital will co-exist with the Physical going forward and the cognoscenti are calling it "Phygital". The ever expanding English language, you see.

People are figuring out what the long term impact of limited or no mobility will be, as are Organizations, Governments and NGO's.

Our very concept of growth is in question. Growth means expanding beyond borders and everyone is cosing ranks as we speak. Buy Made in USA, Make in India are but two inititives that threaten the Global Economy by encouraging local businesses.

The Pandemic has taken that a few steps further and now we have "Hyper-local", or buisness in the immediate hinterland. Maybe we should even look at good ole barter-trade once again.
The initial reactions, at least in my mind, was, “Storm in a Teacup”. Was I way off the mark! That was one bad prediction!

The initial numbers weren’t alarming and then it all came down like a pack of cards, the Domino chips fell, Italy and petty soon it was all over. India started slowly but in a couple of months, the spate and acceleration got scary as heck. That seems to be the state across the globe, with some countries seemingly locked in a downward spiral.

When this all began, I for one, never imagined that it would span these many months. I brushed it away and indeed underestimated the extent of the chaos Covid would end up causing. It took time to sink in. This was a full blown Pandemic of global proportions and the way it seems we haven’t really seen the bottom of the pit yet.


Reactions at organizations and by Governments, when the magnitude or real threat perceptions were borne out by the sheer numbers? Concern, mild panic, followed by disbelief, followed by acute panic, followed by seemingly draconian measures and all the troubles and woes that accompany such measures real and perceived.

In the absence of a cure or a vaccicine, Social Distancing seemed to be the only viable alternative. Let infected people stay put and not expose ones not infected and so it all began. Did it really help? Arguably yes, but with the whole Community Spread angle, I’m not so sure.

Heads – I Win Tails – You Loose

From absolute lockdown to a gradual lifting of the lockdown, from closing offices and workplaces to gradually reopening offices and workplaces, from absolute mobility restrictions, closing of international and even local borders, mandatory and voluntary quarantine, Governments and Organizations have been challenged like never before and no matter what measures are contemplated, no matter what the narratives are and no matter what steps they take, they will never be truly appreciated.

Healthcare is another area that’s been caught totally off balance! No healthcare system or processes were ever designed to deal with the kind of testing that’s needed, nor were they designed to quarantine the numbers needing it. Then there’s the whole vaccine issue. Speeding up trials yes, coming up with a vaccine that does the trick yes, but what about distribution and administering the vaccine? How about monitoring post vaccination? Surely a vaccine that’s thrown together and taken the fast-track route to administration with minimal clinical trials will need to be monitored closely? What about side effects. That’s another conundrum right there! A lot of questions and few answers.

Communication and tools used to communicate have suddenly come to the forefront like never before to overcome the setbacks on travel and

There has been no calamity quite like this, no challenge encountered like this, so there are no reference points or any precedents to follow. The wise old men can’t really add value by way of advise and its just trial and error.

How long should we lockdown for? How long is long or what is too short? At what point will be be choking the economy and affecting ability to earn a wage. What will be the impact on the general populace? No easy decisons, certainly no popular decisions. The “greater common good” despite being in the best interests of all, aren’t seen as such and the view tends to be very myopic.

Humans, by nature forget easily the good thats done and instead tend to focus on the measures taken, the ones that restrict freedoms of movement, speech and actions. Political considerations, profit and economic motivations of Governments and Organizations have an impact on their decisions. These decisions tend to be unpopular.

In my opinion, it is a big ask to expect people who at the bottom end of the food chain to think about the planet, when their very existence and that of their families are at stake. No bailout plan is quite sufficient to address this group of people. A bailout plan or support plan or stimulus package, whatever label we end up giving such plans, devoid of fundamental principles is tantamount to deficit financing and deficit financing at a global level is tantamount to disaster of epic proportions.

If we’re able to recall macroeconomics from when we were students back in the day? M1, M2, M3 and the concept of Money Supply? Pretty simple this equation, no rocket science here.

I would love to be proved wrong and all fronts, BUT am I holding my breath? Heck, the air is cleaner, why should I?

Speaking of predictions, I don’t seem to have seen people quote Nostradamous quartrains, as they often do whenever there is some sort of a calamity. Unless I’ve altogether missed any references to them on the usual channels.

The “New Normal” is such an understatement! Perhaps the Understatement of the century, almost like a falsehood along the lines of “The Earth is Flat” changing to “The Earth is Curved” to “Hell no, the Earth is Round”. A falsehood not by design, but restricted by what we can observe and experience and learn as we continue our battle against the virus. As we understand more about COVID and diseases in general, these falsehoods will be turned on their heads. Look at what we were told and what really happened. The “New Normal” deserves, demands and warrants special mention and therefore one piece in this series is dedicated to “The New Normal”.

But for now let’s deal with some falsehoods that were quickly turned on their heads and then look at some published facts.

  • That the virus would affect only people over a certain age.
  • That the Virus is unlikely to survive warm and hot climates and surfaces.

So here are the facts from the WHO and as you see this list, if you’re anything like me, you’re bound to be rolling your eyes with the stuff they need to put out! One in particular really cracked me up, “Fact: Drinking Ethanol, Methanol or Bleach DOES NOT cure Covid19 and can be dangerous”.

Covid 19 – Facts from WHO

In ending this piece, YES the World has changed and even though we can’t really fathom where this will all end up, what our lives will be like going forward, when this will all go away, will it all go away and so on….one thing is pretty darn clear, the World suffered a scare, its still afraid, precautions must and can be taken. YES, people have adopted better lifestyles, if only out of sheer boredom, but I’d hope people do adopt the healther lifestyles as a way of life and make conscious choices, be the choices be about diet, fitness, pollution, work life balance, live not just for the moment but bear in mind that nothing can be taken for granted. Not your paycheck, your source of income, not even your ability to be mobile as we were accustomed to in the very recent past.

The way we conduct ourselves and indeed expect and demand how those around us conduct themselves is all different now. Let’s be safe, take all precautions and keep others safe and urge them to take precautions.

It is then time to be more considerate, more compassionate, look kindly and help those not as fortunate as some of us. When you spend frivolously, think of the people struggling and in despair.

On pain of death or worse yet, a life accursed by the ones who are suffering, DO NOT go out and buy the USD 100/- odd Louis Vuitton facemask!!!

Business Models are polarizing, moving from physical to digital, online is thriving, travel, leisure and entertainment is reeling. And yet whereas the digital is the first mile, in more cases than not, digital alone cannot complete the circle, the last mile must be physical. “Future Proof” has taken on new meaning, those who didn’t envision the future have fallen by the wayside, whilst others are morphing and new models emerging, sustainable ones. Some big names are gone, some others are struggling. People are being let go, employers are being mercenary whereas others are being fair and considerate.

Our People skills are under the severest test we’ve every experienced. Isolation, WFH – Work From Hone, Confinement, Solitary or with loved or not so loved ones, all present their own set of challenges. Shaking hands – NO, Coughing – NO, Feel a Sneeze Coming up – NO!!! People are showing their true colors, fear of the unknown and uncertainity is driving less than desirable behaviour, yet, there are people who rise to the occasion, above all odds and got out of their way to help. YES, humankind is being subjected to its harshest test yet.

The next couple of pieces (may end up more than just a couple) in the series will cover People, Society, Economy & Finance, Organizations, the Frontline Workers. Everything about COVID 19 is interconnected , everything is relevant and everything is a big mystery.

From The Outlaw Josie Wales:

Lone Watie:
“I wore this frock coat in Washington, before the war. We wore them because we belonged to the five civilized tribes. We dressed ourselves up like Abraham Lincoln. We only got to see the Secretary of the Interior, and he said: “Boy! You boys sure look civilized.!” he congratulated us and gave us medals for looking so civilized. We told him about how our land had been stolen and our people were dying. When we finished he shook our hands and said, “endeavor to persevere!” They stood us in a line: John Jumper, Chili McIntosh, Buffalo Hump, Jim Buckmark, and me — I am Lone Watie. They took our pictures. And the newspapers said, “Indians vow to endeavor to persevere.
“We thought about it for a long time, “Endeavor to persevere.” And when we had thought about it long enough, we declared war on the Union.”

We are in a war, it is a World War and yet not a single bullet has been fired.

Stay Safe in the War on Covid and help those frontline fighters, by ourselves fighting it, leading from the front.

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