But there is no doubt that these narratives portraying our times are unprecedented: everyone agrees that we are living in times of a new spirit, times of crisis that will hopefully lead us to better ports so we can all maintain hope through despair.
You only have to read, observe, or listen to the headlines in the news to learn about and watch the riots, protests, violence, anguish, injustice, social outcry, etc., and to see the perplexity that is repeated and expands, minute by minute, in every corner of the earth.
We are not only concerned with this new situation that has come to us all through the pandemic. The pandemic has also deepened the same perceptions we have faced and has exacerbated very serious ongoing problems because it has revealed— in all its brutality—the significant weaknesses, vulnerabilities, shortcomings, and inequities of our leaders, of our societies and, in general, of how we coexist and relate to each other. At the same time, the pandemic has reminded us—with all its harshness—that we all (regardless of ideology, creed, race, economic situation, etc.) inhabit the same house and sail in the same boat because a virus has brought us all to our knees, equally, without distinction.
Today, as in few times in the history of humanity, all our previous conceptual and material constructs are called into question, and we all feel challenged to build a better world than the one we happen to inhabit.
We are seeing that the great problems of all peoples and all society find their origin, their root cause, and also their solution in the human spirit and condition. It is the human spirit that is failing in the structures and institutions that it founds and sustains and, therefore, it is the human spirit, with its values and aspirations, that—in this crisis—must be revised, restored, reinvented and transformed, so that, later, its deeds, actions, and outputs are better and superior to what we have now.
This is not the world’s first crisis, nor will it be the last. But it is in this crisis that it fell to us to live and in which we all have to commit ourselves and act promptly to improve, to turn this crisis into our opportunity, into everyone’s opportunity, to enable a better, more just nation and a world that is more supportive, fraternal, kinder, and livable.
There are many positions, attitudes, and responses to respond to the challenges of this historical juncture: from the wistful nostalgia that people feel for that lost “normality” and their dreams of pre-pandemic times gone by to people who are creating a new reality that they are calling the “new normal.”
As I have said, I believe that we must take advantage of this world crisis to put man, the human spirit, at the center and as the center and protagonist of the “new” future. I prefer to believe that we can build a new “abnormality” that contradicts that “old normality” that led us to this disenchantment, hopelessness, discontent, and present discouragement, to this realization that not everything was fine, not everything was valid, not everything was done well, and we could have done much better.
Specifically, and for our nation, I advocate the commitment of all to build a better society with models and paradigms: men and women leaders, rulers, guides who consider their life and work a service to the good of all. A nation that, proud of its Constitution and Democracy, shows this pride in its actions for the good and progress of all. A nation in which we are capable of establishing new, different, and better relationships among those who live here and with other nations: relationships not built upon discrimination, confrontation, and competition, but instead relationships of equity, solidarity, and cooperation. A nation that builds fewer walls and more bridges. A nation that—in the concert of nations—leads a new style for understanding and resolving conflicts. A nation that leads the construction of hope for humanity. A society that, beyond opportunism, electoral selfishness, and authoritarianism, teaches us a new sense of politics, homeland, and nation.
We must construct new human communities that reaffirm values and reject anti-values. This is the moment to rethink and build relationships and societies in which human life and the person take precedence over any other interest; where ethics prevails over aesthetics and technique; the human being over work, business, and capital; the spirit and the transcendent over materiality, consumerism and everything whose time has passed.
If together we succeed, then this crisis, this time of pandemic, will have been worth it. Otherwise, if we are incapable of peace, as the greatest sum of well-being for all men and peoples, then “we must throw a bottle of sidereal castaways into the oceans of time, so that the universe knows about us what the cockroaches surviving us will not tell: that here was a world where suffering and injustice prevailed, but where we knew love and where we were able to imagine happiness.” (Gabriel García Márquez)
Mario J. Paredes is CEO of SOMOS Community Care, a network of 2,500 independent physicians—most of them primary care providers—serving close to a million of New York City’s most vulnerable Medicaid patients.