The COVID-19 Arrow: Striking at the Heart of American Life and Culture
How do humans in the twenty-first century respond, personally and collectively, to this reappearance? The challenges and responses, both good and bad, are timeless. Plagues reshape our familiar social order, require us to disperse and live apart, wreck economies, replace trust with fear and suspicion, invite some to blame others for their predicament, embolden liars, and cause grief. But plagues also elicit kindness, cooperation, sacrifice, and ingenuity. Nicholas Christakis, Apollo’s Arrow (2020), Pg. 30
In this essay, I offer both some general thoughts and concepts regarding the psychological ramifications of COVID-19 and more specific reflections regarding the impact of COVID-19 on psychological perspectives and practices in the United States (as compared to those in Israel). I first wish to offer my apologies to my colleagues in other North American and South American countries in my occasional use of the term “American” when referring to citizens of the United States—for they can also call themselves “Americans.” [We citizens of the United States are arrogant in our use of this term for our own use.] I also wish to note the important contribution being made in my analysis by the work of Nicholas Christakis (2020). I rely in part on the observations (both general and specific to the United States) he offers in Apollo’s Arrow. The title I have given this essay is meant to acknowledge Christakis’ contribution.
The VUCA-Plus Environment
I begin my analysis by establishing a broad conceptual framework having to do with the more general environment in which Americans (and many other people around the world) now live in the midst of the 21 Century. As many other people have suggested, we are now living in a world that is filled with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. The acronym VUCA has been engaged to describe the presence of these four conditions. Complexity (C) concerns the many elements and dynamic interaction among elements that must be taken into account, while Volatility (V) refers to the rate and shifting rate of change among these elements. The other two terms have to do with epistemology (the way in which knowledge is acquired and reality is defined). Ambiguity (A) concerns the assessment of both the evidence available regarding reality and the meaning assigned to this reality. The fourth term, Uncertainty (U), is about the stability of any assessment being made regarding reality. Does reality change over a short period of time? Why do an extensive assessment if our world is constantly shifting?