The 'One Planet, One People' coronavirus corrective

The 'One Planet, One People' coronavirus corrective
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From the moment Seals and Crofts sang “One Planet, One People, Please in perfect harmony, I was enamored by the Bahai Faith’s declaration that we’re members of the same family. The survival of Earth’s inhabitants is, in large part, based on our ability and willingness to realize that we’re living on the same anthill, so showing one another kindness and compassion, we make the most of being interconnected, and our better angels prevail.

Thankfully, there have been epic times in human history when our better angels did prevail. We evolved into better versions of ourselves as individuals, families, communities, nations, and stewards of our planet. However, these advances were sometimes offset by catastrophic times when we allowed our differences to evoke our worst fears, divide and even destroy us. Allowing our highest values, sense of decency, morality, compassion, and social justice to be overridden by hatred, violence, poverty, savagery, atrocities, indifference, and injustices of every kind, we became the lesser versions of ourselves.

Looking back across the landscape of my lifetime, I realize that something unexpected and larger than life seems to happen every once in a while, that acts as a corrective measure. Besieged by a fictitious extraterrestrial invasion like the 1938 radio broadcast of “War of the Worlds,” or a deadly coronavirus pandemic erupting at a time of unprecedented division in our nation and world, chilling threats from a new enemy have helped us see “the big picture.” These newfound threats have either startled us awake and inspired us to consider alternative perspectives for how we live together — or they’ve terrified us into profiling, protecting, and barricading ourselves against each another.

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One way or another, the threat-turned-reality of a coronavirus pandemic is affecting people in every corner of the world. We are all understandably scared as we try to embrace a new normal for how to protect ourselves, our loved ones, our neighbors, our co-workers, and our community. Similar to what we experienced during the fires, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and natural disasters of recent years, living under threat shows us how truly vulnerable and socially interconnected we are, how fragile life can be, and how dangerous it is to live in denial rather than accept reality.

We’re acknowledging how crucial it is to share what we’re experiencing in order to mobilize resources, foster understanding, make informed decisions, and prevent subsequent problems. Information about preventing the spread of the virus, the close monitoring of symptoms, travel restrictions, hand washing, the use of masks and quarantines are, in all likelihood, saving people’s lives.

The secondary losses people are suffering as the result of the coronavirus pandemic, including the financial, have been considerable. Changing our approach to everything from parenting, health practices, going out socially, travel, personal hygiene, and our sense of security has been difficult and confusing, not to mention scary.

Trying our best to cope with these changes, and watching breaking-news reports, it’s often difficult to assess whether we’re becoming the better or lesser versions of ourselves. We try to contain our worst fears and take constructive action.

Times like these are also a reality check on how much our species has evolved in the “Can’t we all just get along” category. Have we and our leaders evolved to the point of taking constructive (and inspired) action — or are we more likely to skate over the coronavirus much as we have mass shootings, global warming, and poverty — and do little or nothing to change once the immediate threat has passed? A great many of us still cannot seem to learn how to live with our differences, overcome the “have/have not” greed that grows out of fear, evoke the compassion that overcomes passive indifference and summon the courage to face down injustice, wrongdoing, and corruption.

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If ever we needed a convincing argument (that is, concrete evidence, hard facts, and an authentically looming threat) to show us we’re deeply connected inhabitants of the same planet, this is the time.

We are a deeply divided family, living in an age of polarization. Having lived through the bitter elements of America’s civil rights movement, and the antiwar and women’s movements, I can say that I can’t recall a time of greater self-righteous arrogance, hatred, discrimination, division, and divisive nationalism, as we have now. New and old strains of fear, greed, and indifference have infected our planet like, yes . . . a virus.

To face down challenges like the coronavirus, we will need to listen to our higher selves and be reminded, once again, that we are One Planet, One People.

Let us rise up and lead with the antivirus of kindness, fairness, patience, compassion, and understanding.

Dr. Ken Druck is an expert on aging and family psychology who has been featured on Oprah and CNN, FOX and PBS as well as in the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. His work over the past four decades has been focused on strengthening families through “courageous living.” He holds a Ph.D. in clinical psychology from Fielding Institute and a bachelor’s degree from Hofstra University. He is the author of numerous books including “The Secrets Men Keep,” “The Real Rules of Life,” “Courageous Aging” and “Raising an Aging Parent.” Learn more at www.kendruck.com.