Shhhhhh. Listen.

What do you hear? Anything? Anything at all?

That is the sound of COVID19. Breezes. Birds, Distant hum of cars,

Occasionally voices. Occasionally sirens.

Rarely horns.

Sounds of COVID19 are defined more by absence than by presence.

Can you hear me now?” These five words have become the start to our now daily routine of virtual meetings, virtual summits, virtual sundowners. An acceptable tech-check to ensure that the speaker, visible, is also audible. Prelude to something important about to be said.

Yet remarkably, as our world now passes the 150 day mark of COVID19 shutdown of 2020 with global case count crossing 6 million and lives taken 365,000, there is one voice that has not asked ‘Can you hear me now?’ It is the voice of someone known worldwide, recognised worldwide, respected worldwide….yet not heard worldwide when he had something important to say – 5 yrs ago in a TED Talk – . It took 5 years for the world to stop the daily noise of life and listen, really listen, to the message he had to share – the next, greatest threat to our shared world is a pandemic.

Who is he? Bill Gates.

But we didn’t listen….until 5 yrs later.

His global warning became a link shared wildly in early 2020 as our shared world saw this new, wild virus travel, terrifyingly because of its invisibility and merciless nature. COVID19 is known yet not fully understood, it is everywhere yet unable to be seen, it is directly challenging systems and priorities of government, it is redefining words such as essential, leadership, community and responsibility

Speaking recently to CNN’s Fareed Zakaria, exploring what exactly is happening in terms of vaccine development, how many avenues are being explored, how many may deem to be successful, and how quickly and thoroughly can this be rolled out, worldwide conversation naturally leads to what did we know? What could we have done? What could the analysis have been in terms of how could we have been better prepared?

It’s an easy conversation to have, understandably because we’re at a much more comfortable place in terms of our own sense of self and sense of security, as surreal as these social distancing and WFH days may be. Now we can look at the world around us and, in our bubbles, form a point of view, to create an opinion and often to judge.

Who is to blame? Who will find a cure? Who has demonstrated leadership? Who has failed? Who is the ‘who’? And what is the responsibility of the WHO?

All of these questions, all of these debates, are examples of what is interesting about Bill Gates. He desires to share, to support, to separate news from noise. He does not demand to be heard.

Not once, not once since the 2015 pandemic TED Talk, not once since China first sounded the alarm around a dangerous wave of illness, not once since a pandemic was declared by the WHO, not once since the map was covered from East to West with confirmations of cases, not once since there has been questions around funding of global support to address this as a global issue, not once has Bill Gates stopped to say: “I told you so“.

Not once has he questioned: “Can you hear me now?”

There is something heroic about this truism, something incredibly classy about his silence when so many would seek recognition for having called it first.

This is especially true as we are seeing people becoming more comfortable in the discomfort zones of COVID19 – being stuck at home, gaining access to internet intelligence, forming opinions, finding platforms for personal positioning, voicing judgment.

These opinions can become incredibly hurtful. And hasty. We may be 150 days into 2020, but we still have many days / weeks / months to go. There may be stirs of activity visible around us new sounds starting to full our streets, there may be hope of when homes can reconnect, hugs hopefully not too far off. But we are not there yet – we are nowhere near the finish line. We still have many frontliners to support. We still have much to learn as we face risks of further spikes as restrictions ease, second waves as social exposure restarts, impact of curves, inroads of vaccine quests. We are a case study being examined in real-time.

The 20-20 hindsight assessments, assumptions and analysis can wait.

This is the greatest opportunity for us as a global community to act as a community, focusing on the solution, not fighting over the problem. This is the call to action for our generation. Why? Because unless we all win, we all lose.

Shhhhh. Keep listening. x


Copyright: ANITA MENDIRATTA 2020