On COVID-19, let’s lose the language of war

While words born from conflict seem to fly in headlines and internal memos, there might be a better way to frame the challenges we all face together.

In a parallel, COVID-free universe, May 9, 2020, is a day of color and celebration, street parties, concerts, parades and events. World leaders are coming together in a spirit of friendship and cooperation. The media is replete with reminiscences — some joyous, some somber — about the end of WWII, as commemorations of the 75th anniversary of the end of the war in Europe dominate the news agenda.

It’s a long way from today’s reality of empty streets, shuttered businesses, closed venues and daily press briefings with their rolling statistics of infections and death. The new language on everyone’s tongues: lockdown, social distancing, PPE and ICU.

Nevertheless, leaders all over the world have still been reaching for the language of war.

It was at the beginning of the crisis that President Trump described himself as a “war president.” France’s President Macron declared repeatedly in a public address that “we are at war,” while U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested we are fighting “a second battle of Britain.”

Meanwhile, headline writers have been evoking images of doctors “on the front line” desperate for “ammunition;” of patients “losing the battle” against the “enemy.”

The temptation for journalists and politicians alike to characterize COVID-19 in terms of national conflict seems almost irresistible. In the case of politicians, it allows them to paint themselves in heroic colors and lay the groundwork for extreme, expensive and potentially unpopular measures. For journalists, it provides them with the simple scaffolding for a straightforward, attention-grabbing story of good vs. evil, rather than the more nuanced and complex reality.

For everybody else, living with the practical challenges of arranging home-schooling around home-working, anxiety for loved ones, financial worries and the rest, this kind of escalation in rhetoric is far from helpful.

At best, by presenting the epidemic as a hostile outside force rather than a public health emergency that can be managed and mitigated, it absolves those in charge of responsibility. At worst, it actively makes things worse by releasing individuals from a sense of personal responsibility and stigmatizing those who don’t recover from the virus as “losers.”

Sadly, fewer than ever of those who remember the Second World War are around to describe it. But those who do seldom talk in terms of battles and heroism. For many—especially women—the abiding memory is one of an ordinary life lived in the face of continual anxiety, of making do with less, of boredom interrupted by fear.

One such account belongs to the universally-loved Julie Andrews who, interviewed in the Guardian this week about her new children’s story podcast, (released early because of the COVID-19 crisis), draws a parallel between now and the 1940s in much more human terms:

“Then, I was very concerned and worried and frightened and anxious, and one didn’t know where the next wave would come. But one thing I did recognize as a child was the amount of bonding that happened in England because of the war, and I feel the same feelings in America here at this moment.”

It’s heartening to hear, from the world’s nanny-in-chief, about the strength and importance of human connection amid the storm of daily bombast. And it suggests that while leaders and commentators might be misguided in their language, their instinct that what people are experiencing today has some parallels with wartime isn’t entirely misplaced.

Of course, there is no comparison between what is happening now and the scale of bloodshed and suffering during an armed conflict. But on an individual level, the loss of life is felt just as deeply, the fear is just as acute, and the sense of dislocation and uncertainty about the future, global in scale and unprecedented in most of our lifetimes, reaches in vain for its analogue outside of war.

This is perhaps why, despite the challenges, many people are welcoming a new sense of community and connection with their neighbors. They are describing how former divisions feel less important or acute. Many—if they are fortunate enough to be spared direct encounters with the pandemic’s effects—are embracing the new perspective the virus has given us.

Nowhere is this new perspective felt more acutely than in the world of work. All the small stuff that we used to sweat over seems laughably insignificant. As businesses move from growth to survival mode, there is a new sense of solidarity and kinship. Where once there was competition, there is cooperation.

In our industry, we’re in the business of helping our clients be the best version of themselves. Our argument always goes that the best version is always the truest, most authentic one. For some, that has been hard in the past because to be authentic makes us vulnerable.

The experience of the last few weeks should make that prospect a lot less scary, because it is less unfamiliar. We’ve seen each other outside the “safe spaces” of our offices, without the armor of our work wardrobes and our “game face.” We’ve seen inside each other’s homes, we’ve heard about each other’s challenges. We’ve shared each other’s fears and anxieties.

It feels as if a boundary has been crossed. We know each other better. There is a greater sense of community, of empathy and of bonding—within families, within organisations, between companies and their clients.

There is an understandable appetite among many for “things to get back to normal,” but it’s worth remembering that there was much about what used to be “normal” that we shouldn’t be too eager to welcome back: a focus on individual success over community cohesion. a devil-may-care attitude to the future, a lack of solidarity.

Whatever kind of world, and what kind of industry, emerges after this crisis will be down to all of us. We need not look any further for inspiration than Julie Andrews and her peers, who picked themselves up and proceeded to build the longest period of growth and prosperity the world has ever seen. The most important lesson: They did it together.

Nick Bailey is the creative partner and CEO at futurefactor.

The post On COVID-19, let’s lose the language of war appeared first on Ragan Communications.

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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