Winners and losers
There is no doubt that some winners will emerge from this crisis. The dark side of victory is that, in its vast majority, the triumphs of some are the defeats of many others. History, as we know, is written by the victors.
Historically disabled people have always been on the side of the vanquished. Until today, throughout the history of humanity, I have not known any society where people with disabilities occupy a relevant place. This era of corona virus should not be the exception, because among the vulnerable groups that will be most affected (the poor, the elderly, the sick ...) people with disabilities, for the most part, we will be there, front row experiencing inequity once again.
The thread breaks at the thinnest
The oxygen of people with disabilities is made up of values such as inclusion, empathy, patience, respect and some others. In other words, to live fully, disabled people need society to thrive on these substances. In short, to live fully, people with disabilities need to live in a full society. Inclusion is a systemic value. However, these values are delicate and subtle materials, microscopic and delicate as a small insect or a small bacteria, which if we are not careful, we can easily destroy.
The aforementioned values, if not well grounded in our actions, will be the first victims of stormy moments like those we are experiencing today. Unfortunately, empathy, inclusion and understanding are the thinnest part of the rope, which, when tightened, tends to break there.
In times of stress, the first things we overlook, on many occasions, are inclusive acts. When the crisis was just beginning, an Uber driver told me: "Sorry to say this, but when we see Asians on the street or in the supermarket, we do look at them suspiciously, maybe they have the virus."
We have seen days where people from some cities, from their balconies, applaud health personnel, police and other people who are outside, keeping the system on its feet. However, we see headlines like these every day in the newspaper: “Discrimination by Covid-19 is growing”, published in Mexican newspaper Excelsior on April 7, 2020. Or this article in the same newspaper called: “Discrimination, the other pandemic”.
A few days ago a coworker from Germany told me: “It is incredible how my mentality was transformed in a few days. I went out to the store with my mask, and I almost wanted to die when I arrived and saw the crowds of people, some even hugging each other and nobody was wearing a mask, just me.“ My colleague is a sensible and calm person, but I would not be surprised if someone else had begun to curse the crowd for trying to kill him by going out without a mask and hugging, because both sides could accuse the other of discrimination.
In times of stress, it becomes easier, almost automatic, to think about our individual and short-term well-being, so, it is easy not to include, it is easy to take refuge in the so-called natural selection, and for the strongest to survive and for the most extinct. It sounds very crude, I know, but if you think about it, it is the maxim that has shaped our predatory and exclusive society.
Unfortunately for some people, the present crisis of the Covid-19 will indeed be a battle of life and death, since the fatalities already number in the tens of thousands. However, as Harari points out in his article "the post-Corona virus world ", the storm is going to pass, and the vast majority of us are going to survive, and are going to continue with our lives and rebuild our world. The question is: Where will the world lean?
The almost golden age of inclusion
In the pre-Covid-19 era, inclusion and its daughter diversity were going through a period of unprecedented fame and success. The most important companies launched programs worth millions of inclusion and diversity, different groups such as women or the LGBTQ community were raising their voices, and many campaigns requesting inclusion at all levels traveled the world trying to build more equitable societies.
I am not sure what the achievements of the inclusive wave would be in the world, because although I get on that train, I am somewhat pessimistic about it. As I shared with my boss a few months ago, neither inclusion nor empathy have been the main pillars of any society in the world. Yes, I think they are values that have been present, sometimes in the shadows, rescuing us from the extinction of the human species. However, it can be said that inclusion and empathy are values which structure we have recently understood and which forms of learning and application we are just testing. These are behaviors that have accompanied us throughout our lives, however, until a few years ago we have tried to make them the values that shape new egalitarian societies.
On which side will minorities remain?
The historical trend would indicate that minorities will end up, once again, on the side of the vanquished. Inclusion, empathy and solidarity seem like immature values that we do not yet know how to apply and manage in our lives. However, the good news is that there has always been - despite countless tragedies perpetuated by human beings - a trace of kindness, tolerance and solidarity that has served us as lifeguards and has kept us afloat as society.
Today, in the midst of the pandemic, the role that inclusion will play, and the role it will have in the post-Covid-19 world, remains to be seen. As I said, it is the thinnest part of the rope. It is in our hands to take care of it and erect it in the guiding values of a new way of doing community, or it is also in our hands to let ourselves be carried away by the feeling of threat, provoke a social contraction and break the rope and return to the paradigm where only the strongest survives.
If you can, include those in a disadvantageous position, do not leave behind the slower ones. Share and collaborate. Let's try to stay inclusive and shape a more well-being society during and after the storm.
By Pepe Macías, DSE Master Trainer and Dialogue partner for Mexico