David Byrne has published a new essay on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, which was published to his online publication, Reasons To Be Cheerful, and adapted as a feature in the Wall Street Journal. In it, the Talking Heads frontman reflects on the realities of ongoing social distancing tactics, examines the ways different places are curbing the spread of the virus, and ponders the loss of certain freedoms—and the true meaning of “freedom” itself—in his ever-wondrous tone.
Related: David Byrne Launches ‘Reasons To Be Cheerful’ Online Publication
The essay begins with some reflections Byrne had during a recent bike ride he took to clear his head:
It’s ironic that as the pandemic forces us into our separate corners, it’s also showing us how intricately we are all connected. It’s revealing the many ways that our lives intersect almost without our noticing. And it’s showing us just how tenuous our existence becomes when we try to abandon those connections and distance from one another. Health care, housing, race, inequality, the climate — we’re all in the same leaky boat.
Viruses don’t respect borders. They get in even with extra screening and travel restrictions. Maybe less, but some slips in. And until there is a vaccine, no one is immune. What that means is that we have to put aside some of our suspicions and animosities towards others and see how much we can limit or even halt the damage.
He goes on to explain the temporary change in routine and usual personal liberties some countries have undergone to successfully flatten the curve. In Bryne’s view, we all need to learn to accept a change in our usual behavior and learn to work together to beat this thing:
What is happening now is an opportunity to learn how to change our behavior. For many of us, our belief in the value of the collective good has eroded in recent decades. But in an emergency that can change quickly. During the Great Depression, new policies to protect the public were introduced. It was accepted that these were necessary to stabilize society and get life back on track.
In emergencies, citizens can suddenly cooperate and collaborate. Change can happen. We’re going to need to work together as the effects of climate change ramp up. In order for capitalism to survive in any form, we will have to be a little more socialist. Here is an opportunity for us to see things differently — to see that we really are all connected — and adjust our behavior accordingly.
Are we willing to do this? Is this moment an opportunity to see how truly interdependent we all are? To live in a world that is different and better than the one we live in now? We might be too far down the road to test every asymptomatic person, but a change in our mindsets, in how we view our neighbors, could lay the groundwork for the collective action we’ll need to deal with other global crises. The time to see how connected we all are is now.
You can read the full David Byrne essay on the Reasons To Be Cheerful website here.