Mapping Effective Covid-19 Engagement: Four Responses to the Challenge
These might also be the criteria we use (via the Amygdala) in identifying an enemy. The enemy is someone or something that is bad (evil, ill-intentioned, aligned against us) and is also strong and active. While another organization or nation can be in opposition to us, it will probably not be very threatening if it is weak or if it is inactive. A weak enemy can readily be defeated. A passive enemy remains non-threatening as long as it is itself not provoked.
By contrast, I propose that the COVID-19 virus meets all three of the Amygdala-triggering criteria. In certain ways, the virus is a “perfect” enemy. It is certainly indifferent to our welfare. By all measures the virus is an evil force that is intent on invading and killing us (or at least living for an extended period of time inside and at the expense of our body). We are now fully aware that COVID-19 is very powerful and very active. We have certainly identified a “worthy” enemy—and can only hope that future actions on our part will make the virus weaker and less active.
There is more to the story about the COVID_19 virus being a worthy enemy. The story gets more complex. In some ways, the virus is not a perfect enemy. It is a very private foe. There are no battle fields or armaments. Rather, there are bedpans and pills. Illness and potential death are intimate and often isolating experiences. Pain and sickness are not heroic. They are burdens to bear. They are agonies to be endured and shared, ultimately, with no one else. This may be the reason why major virus infections in the past (such as the Spanish Flu) have received little long-term attention. No monuments have been erected to honor those who died from the Spanish flu (even though this pandemic took more lives than were taken by World War I and World War II combined). Very few novels, paintings or musical compositions have been prepared regarding this pandemic of 1918. The First World War got the headlines and the history – not the flu.
The second phase of the Courageous/Ruby Red strategy addresses a second key question: If an enemy is identified, what do we do about it? Once again, the neurosciences offer an important clue. Most neurosciences for many years have suggested that human beings (like other primates) tend to react in one of three ways to threat—and the Amygdala helps to prepare the body for these three responses, through activation of the arousal/stress system. The first response is fight. Here is where the Courageous/Ruby Red leader obviously enters the picture. We mount an attack against the enemy and are led by the courageous leader.
The second response is flight. While the courageous leader would not initially seem to play an appropriate role regarding this second response, we find that courageous leaders often do play an important (if somewhat indirect) role in assisting another person, group or even entire society to escape from a very powerful enemy. At the global scale we see the emergence of great leaders who have led their tribe into exile. Moses comes immediately to mind, as do the leaders of many Native American tribes who were driven into exile.
In addressing our contemporary pandemic challenge, some “out-of-the box” flight leaders have envisioned an escape to Mars (or at least moving to a different region of the globe). In somewhat less dramatic fashion, opportunistic realtors have marketed homes with major acreage or promote the advantage of living in less populated parts of one’s current country. Other opportunists are hustling a vacation plan that enables us to “get away from it all!” for at least a week or two (though often this means risking infection by traveling and staying in facilities that are not adequately protected).