A quick review of ‘Ten Lessons for a Post-Pandemic World’ by Fareed Zakaria.

I didn’t imagine 2020 to shape out the way that it did. And my guess is – you didn’t, either. ‘The most well laid out schemes of mice and men often go awry’. The Pandemic brought life and all fancy plans to a grinding halt and compelled us to think, and meditate.

“There are decades when nothing happens and then there are weeks when decades happen.” Lenin said. In the weeks following March, decades really happened in a matter of few days. It was almost as if one slept in one’s own comfortable bed but woke up in an almost unrecognisable world. This led to musings such as, ‘Is the pandemic a portal to a better world, or would it destroy to bits – the already precarious economics and politics of the world?’ 

I am not an expert, and therefore, wanted help in interpreting this ‘post-pandemic world’ and understand what it means for us. I wanted to understand, first, the gravity of the problem, state of the world’s preparedness, and the adequacy of response. I wanted to understand the the short and the long term impact that this would have on economies and lives – worlwide.

This book turned out to be a good lens to look at the world with. Written in simple, engaging and conversational style, it tells us about the state of healthcare worldwide, the kind of government systems which are best equipped to deal with situations such as this, the countries which performed the best and the worst, historical analogies, approaches to expert advice and cultivation of a scientific/evidence based reasoning/temper.

The author tells us as to why and how we need to listen to the experts (scientific temper) and the experts need to listen to us (and not be ivory-tower elitists). It discusses how some regressive forces have pulled us back in our response to the crisis.

It also puts a spotlight on how situations such as this may push the already precarious democracies – off the cliff into the arms of dictatorships and juntas.

How it will increase income inequalities and push the world further to the right and inward. It shines some light on how a pandemic disproportionately affects certain sections – who are already vulnerable, pushing them deeper into the arms of greater poverty, and how government support – most often – is concentrated in a few hands further exacerbating income inequality.

The transition to everything digital (even lives!) and the benefits and the seen and the unseen costs associated with it. Author also talks about how AI is helping crunching big data and coming up with better outcomes and predictions in terms of treatment and the way ahead.

To cut the long story short, a great book to interpret the post-pandemic world. Just to give you a quick peek, the ten lessons that the author pivots the book on are:

  1. Buckle up : In times of crisis, nations stand alone. Awareness against the world’s instinctive response to turn parochial and inwards when faced with crisis. On how purely local solutions don’t work against global problems. 
  2. What matters is not the quantity of government but the quality of government. A analysis of how different nations dealt with the pandemic and key takeaways.
  3. Markets are not enough. Need direction and regulation. 
  4. People should listen to the Experts – and the Experts should listen to the People.
  5. Life is digital; most solutions are – too. 
  6. Aristotle was right; we are social animals. When togetherness turns fatal. The rise of the countryside. 
  7. Inequality will get worse. Author demonstrates as to how much of the gains made to reduce inequality during 1990 to 2018 may be reversed due to COVID – if governments don’t act fast. How bail-outs and stimulus may lead to a situation of ‘socialism for the rich and capitalism for the poor’ and the need to ensure equitable distribution. The Author argues that we should watch out for the risk of becoming a market society (Where everything is looked at through the prism of price), rather than a market economy, as Sandel puts it. 
  8. Globalisation is injured but not dead. 
  9. The world is becoming bipolar. 
  10. Sometimes – the greatest realists are the idealists. 

Despite the enormity of challenges that await us, the book ends on a positive note by telling us not to be fatalists and that, “Nothing really is written!”. It beckons us to recognise that this ugly pandemic has created this possibility for change and reform. (It is impossible to change wheels on a moving car, right?) It has opened up a portal to a new world. A better world – hopefully!

A 4/5 for me. 

Happy reading! 

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