Flat White

How will history judge our behaviour during COVID-19?

5 July 2020

4:45 PM

5 July 2020

4:45 PM

A local primary school community recently presented to its teachers a framed letter of appreciation for their leadership, initiative and enthusiasm as well as for undertaking the additional workload necessary to steer students through the COVID-19 crisis of 2020.  

Each teacher also received a bottle of wine or sparkling and a collective VISA card containing funds raised by families to spend on a night out together in the future.

The recent significant increases in detected infections in Victoria suggest that the crisis is, however, far from over and any celebratory night out might be premature as yet.  Not knowing what to expect is part of this rollercoaster year that has us, at times, holding on with white-knuckled determination in the face of so many uncertainties.

I imagine that the framed letter to teachers will go up in a prominent place on the wall near reception or perhaps on the stairs leading to classrooms.  

One day, presently unknown, this crisis will be behind us.  “Time and the hour runs through the roughest day” as Shakespeare wrote. Then perhaps current students will see the letter of appreciation up on the wall and remember with a laugh how their parents narrowly avoided appearing in their virtual classroom as they hovered about, making sure the internet was working properly at home.


Hopefully, even further in the future, there will be new generations of children passing through the school to whom the letter of appreciation will be of historical interest only.  Hopefully, they will have difficulty imagining an infection so dangerous that schools actually closed their gates.

In the meantime, though, how do we live day to day with the present uncertainties?

When former Australian rules footballer and coach Neale Daniher who has Motor Neurone Disease addressed the Melbourne Football Club in 2019 he spoke of finding the right way to conduct ourselves during times of hardship.  The right way, he said, was to find the moral courage to take responsibility in the midst of hardship without blaming anyone or regarding oneself as a victim.  

Daniher said that when we take responsibility “what will emerge inside you, is the better side of your character.  That will allow you to prevail. That will allow you to move through it. And it might even allow you to transcend…”

Daniher said that taking responsibility means looking for the opportunity, which will always be present, even amidst seeming disaster.  His opportunity was to fight MND which, he said, had allowed him to prevail, to find purpose and to transcend what was happening to him.  

Each of us will deal with the strange new world in which we live in different ways.  Will we be the fear-filled individual walking by the sea, gesticulating at other walkers to keep away?  Are we stockpiling long-life milk, haunted by the media footage of overseas hospitals full of patients in transparent helmets struggling to breathe?  Are we out of work and sleepless over how to pay our bills?  Are we discovering that the stripped-down version of life under restrictions makes the work-life juggle less frenetic?

Did we accept the restrictions on our movements and use the time at home to improve the house, undertake an online course to enhance qualifications or to paint or read or did we experience a rising tide of anger at the shrinking of our world and horizons such that it threatened to swamp us at the slightest new annoyance?  Or both?

All these responses are human and understandable. At the end of the day, the only thing within our ability to control is how we react to this crisis.  History will determine just how well we did.

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