IS A POWERFUL COMBINATION
BY AL ETMANSKI
I’ve noticed three different states of mind related to COVID-19.
- OMG this is a disaster. Somebody, anybody, please do something.
- The people in authority are best positioned to tell us what to do.
- The situation is unprecedented. No one is completely sure what to do. We are all in the same boat.
It’s easy to spend too much time inside the first mindset, to get stuck in the bog of fear, panic and desperation and to spin one’s wheels. Rationing your media is a good idea.
The second is both true and not true. It’s important to pay attention to what the experts and scientists say. Their advice is indispensable. However they,
like everyone, are in a state of active learning. The ground is constantly shifting. New discoveries are emerging daily.
The third response requires us to keep our thinking caps on, to exercise our own good judgement, to spot the gaps, to pay attention to who and what is being ignored, to join with like-minded others; and to act. To act with confidence and courage. Even though we are not completely certain we are doing the right thing. It’s risky. That’s why acting alongside caring for others is critical. It makes us smarter.
Here is a key finding from those involved in previous outbreaks, and crises (ebola, SARS and forest fires). Every encouragement should be given to local, creative, adaptive problem solving. Authorities should listen carefully to information from below about what would help to make a difference. Love and adversity is a powerful combination.
To illustrate, here is an excerpt from my new book, The Power of Disability. I titled it, Breathing Love into Zika: In the lead-up to Brazil’s 2016 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, the world’s gaze was fixated on what the media described as the horror and tragedy of congenital Zika syndrome (CZS). They portrayed Brazilian parents and their babies as grieving victims. They used the images as a backdrop to discuss the herculean challenge that Western science has to over- come to eradicate the virus. In doing so, the journalists missed another gaze—the look of love in these same parents as they fussed over their babies.
They also missed the determination of Brazilian parents, particularly moms, to rise to the occasion. These parents consider their children a blessing even though they face tough challenges and strains, including the demonization of their babies. They know that science and technology can’t solve every problem, and that they distract attention and deflect resources that should be available to support these families.
Brazilians with disabilities and their families receive limited government support. So a group of mothers who have had babies with CZS created United Mothers of Angels (UMA) to share information, referrals, and treatment, and to make sure their children are not forgotten. They call each other guerreiras (warriors). Germana Soares is their leader.
“We are protesting so that this generation of special needs children will not be rendered invisible. Our babies are citizens, they have rights, and while they cannot speak we are their voice,” she said in an interview. Germana’s son Guilherme has already exceeded the predictions of doctors. He is starting to speak. “He has a really strong personality, he is very strong-willed,” said Soares. “He knows what he wants and when it’s a no, it’s a no. Debora Diniz, a Brazilian anthropologist and lawyer, and author of Zika: From the Brazilian Backlands to Global Threat, described these mothers in an interview as “the domestic scientists who have been key in advancing our understanding of CZS.” She said they are guiding the “white coats and
Stay Home. Stay Connected. Stay Cheerful. And if you are looking for something to read…
Al Etmanski is the co-chair of Minister Qualtrough’s Advisory Group, a writer, community organizer and social entrepreneur.